Pokémon Rumble U Review
Pokémon Rumble U Box Art
System: Wii U
Dev: Ambrella
Pub: Nintendo
Release: August 29, 2013
Players: 1-4
Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p Comic Mischief, Mild Fantasy Violence
This Pokémon Needs More Meat on Its Bones
by Sean Engemann

Nintendo has been rather ambitious this summer, openly announcing a ton of first-party titles slated for the rest of the year. Without a doubt, Nintendo intends for this boon of releases to spur sales of the Wii U, and fans of the venerable game maker are giddy with the prospect of so many of their favorite series coming soon to the newest home console.

However, the push for game releases happens often in the industry, with publishers cracking the deadline whip at developers to get something out the door. I can't help but think that such is the case with Pokémon Rumble U, a beat 'em up, button-mashing game starring the wildly popular characters as your combatants. I'm puzzled because Nintendo typically maintains a credo of ensuring its products are complete before sending them off to retail, yet this eShop offering seems drastically unfinished. Whatever the case may be, Pokémon Rumble U is severely lacking in content and gameplay variety. It has plenty of potential, yet despite heavy criticisms of past games in the spin-off series of being too shallow, Rumble U strips the design even further. You may find small spurts of cooperative and competitive enjoyment when playing alongside friends and family, but with a lacking reward system, there's little incentive to come back for more.

The story is a trivial aspect of a game that is basically arena battles against various Pokémon. Yet there is still an attempt to tie a linear progression in between bouts. In Rumble U, you play as toy versions of Pokémon, where disaster has struck during a massive shipment of the shiny, new toys. Boxes of Toy Pokémon are launched everywhere, and your initial squad of four Pokémon are swept down a river. The objective is to round up the stray Pokémon and make your way back to the toy store. The snag is that many Pokémon are reluctant to lose their freedom and will resist your attempts to play the Pied Piper of Hamelin.

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After choosing a squad of four Pokémon, you are cast into an arena where waves of Pokémon attempt to beat you into submission. The action is frenetic to the point where you'll oftentimes lose your bearings on the one Pokémon you are controlling. But since combat is limited to only one or two attack moves, simply button-mashing your way through a wall of enemies is a viable tactic. Actually, there is very little strategy to be found in Pokémon Rumble U. Choosing a team of Pokémon with element types that are strong against the final boss is a simple way to emerge victorious. Defeating Pokémon will sometimes return them to Pokéballs, thus befriending and adding them to your battalion to choose during subsequent matches. Each Pokémon also has a set Attack Power score–the higher the number, the stronger the Pokémon.

Pokémon Rumble U Screenshot

To add some challenge and replayability, matches have optional objectives that, when met, can unlock rare and Legendary Pokémon. Sometimes, Master Pokéballs will be dropped during a match, which can be picked up and thrown at Pokémon to instantly capture them (although tougher Pokémon may have to be defeated first). Also, yellow gems can be collected that fill a Super Attack bar. When fully charged, you can repeatedly tap the touch screen on the GamePad to attack every enemy on the battlefield. You will amass plenty coins (called Points in the game), which are used to purchase continues should you fall in battle.

The entire package is missing many simple features that should be included. For instance, you can collect all 649 known Pokémon, but your holding area can only store 400, after which the weakest members vanish when stronger Pokémon are befriended. You cannot dismiss or sell useless Pokémon manually, nor can you sort your roster. It is set from the highest Power Attack score to the lowest, so forget any ideas of grouping Pokémon types together. In single-player, though there are four Pokémon on your team, you only control the Player 1 slot; a rather tactically unintelligent AI controls the rest. You cannot switch between Pokémon during the match, which would have been a nice inclusion. Finally, the Pokémon cannot level up, learn new skills, or evolve, so don't get comfortable with any favorites because they'll quickly become useless.

Pokémon Rumble U Screenshot

The game does make use of a few cool features, though. The Near Field Communicator (NFC), found on the GamePad, constitutes one of these. The implementation of this Wii U function makes Pokémon Rumble U the first game on the system to utilize it. A small selection of Pokémon figurines can be purchased at GameStop stores, and when placed on the NFC, a marker will be uploaded into the game. These (and only these) Pokémon can be leveled up by spending coins to raise stats and purchase new skills. Additionally, the information is stored directly in the figurines, so you can bring your collection to a friend’s house and have all of your purchased abilities available.

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