|Release: November 18, 2011|
|Players: 1 (2+ Online)|
|Screen Resolution: N/A||Mild Cartoon Violence|
by Angelo M. D’Argenio
Did you ever play Pokémon Rumble on WiiWare? No? Me neither, but apparently it was a pretty cool game. Imagine a combination of Diablo and Dynasty Warriors—a top-down hack-and-slash, beat 'em up/RPG—staring everyone's favorite Pokémon. Well, I'm no stranger to Pokéaddiction, so when I heard I missed the boat on this one, I was a bit depressed. Luckily, it appears as if Pokémon Rumble is getting a sequel, called Pokémon Rumble Blast, and got a chance to demo it at this year's New York Comic Con.
Pokémon Rumble Blast doesn't stray too far from the formula of its predecessor. You control a single Pokémon, or, more specifically, a single Pokémon wind-up toy. You have two moves to choose from, and you use these two moves to wander around the game's many stages in order to beat other wind-up toys. The game uses the same plot conventions as Super Smash Bros.; in reality, you are just a kid playing with his toys.
Now, as you wander through the Pokémon Rumble Blast universe defeating other Poké-toys, you will have a chance to increase the size of your Pokémon army. Most defeated opponents simply turn into cash or other rewards, but a choice few will faint, allowing you to "capture" them and add them to your stampede. Of course, then you can take control of those more powerful Pokémon and use their two unique moves to defeat your enemies. Much like any other Pokémon game, this pattern repeats itself ad-infinitum until the end of the game.
Now the whole "rumble" thing refers to the Battle Royale sequences, in which you are locked up with a powerful enemy and tasked with defeating it before a time limit runs out. Other minor enemies defeated at this point drop time bonuses to allow your army a few more seconds to wail on the boss. Defeat the boss and you'll move on to the next area where more powerful enemies await and the whole thing starts over again.
There are a few other interesting side-battle experiences as well. Team Battles are basically three-on-three button-mashing fests, and Charge Battles are interludes where your entire Pokémon army starts running down a corridor, blasting through enemies and obstacles in their way. The way you keep them going is by mashing buttons and wiggling the circle pad.
Obviously this game is trying to sell itself on its multiplayer component, as linking together your portable handhelds is way easier than getting everyone together in the same room for a Wii party (or using the Wii's internet capabilities, for that matter). It's very simple to boot up the game's co-op mode and start beating up on Poké-toys with your favorite friend, or, even better, beating up your favorite friend's Poké-toys. The game also has StreetPass integration, which allows you to add Poké-toys to your army. I wasn't able to experience this in an area where the Nintendo DSes weren't all tied to demo booths, but a Nintendo rep told me gamers would be able to add Poké-toys to their army for each StreetPass encounter that they have.
The big draw of Pokémon Rumble Blast, according to the booth reps, is the selection of Pokémon available. In the original WiiWare game, you could only collect a limited selection of Pokémon. However, in Rumble Blast, you are able to collect all 649, although some are only available after you have completed the game once. In addition, I was assured that it is nigh impossible to actually capture all the Pokémon in Rumble Blast. Doing so would take years, possibly, so the game will have a lot of replay value.
However, I didn't exactly look at it that way. Instead of replay value, I just saw a lot of tedium. Yes, the game was fun for the first few minutes, and I could see the obsessed fans out there having a field day with forming the perfect Poké-army and playing alongside their friends. Still, the gameplay is rather shallow, and it never evolves further than "mash some buttons; beat up some Pokémon." It feels almost like a flash game. While this may have been acceptable for a WiiWare title, it feels a bit lacking for a full-priced portable cart.
So is Pokémon Rumble Blast worth a look? I'm not entirely sure. It's still a while before the game comes to our shores, but apparently it's already been released in Japan. As far as I can tell from import reviews, there's not much more in the full game that wasn't in the demo. If you are just looking to get your beat 'em up fix, I suppose this is as good a title as any other. But if you are looking for a truly deep Pokémon experience, stick with Black and White or wait until Grey (or whatever they decide to call it) comes out.
Angelo M. D’Argenio
CCC Contributing Writer