Pokemon Rumble Blast
Having starteed out as a WiiWare title, Pokemon Rumble has been promoted to a full retail release in its latest iteration, Pokemon Rumble Blast on 3DS. However, can the promotion offer the high production values and improvements this relatively obscure WiiWare title needed?
The Pokemon Rumble titles are one of the many spin-offs from the primary Pokemon series, giving the developers the opportunity to try something unique with the theme. The innovation comes in the form of, not only it's gameplay but its visual design. The Pokemon are all windup toy versions of their main series counterparts, sporting a charming and unique visual identity that's easy to appreciate.
Gameplay wise you must battle gangs of Pokemon in a variety of open locations that feel like arenas, brawling in real-time with a top-down perspective. Defeating foes will earn you money, items and other Pokemon to join your cause as you adventure through a paper thin plot. It's an interesting take on the familiar theme that initially proves to be fun and engaging. However, the limitations and sheer shallowness of the experience soon sap the fun out of it.
It soon becomes apparent just how repetitive Pokemon Rumble Blast is. Whilst you visit locations such as forests, caves, towers and beaches, the fundamentals of getting through each area are always the same: fight off the group of Pokemon in each arena before taking on a boss. Other than a palette swap each location is practically the same and nothing new, mechanically, is introduced.
The combat is also a monotonous affair. The A button activates your primary attack whilst the B button activates your secondary - if your Pokemon even has a secondary attack, which many don't. There are no special moves and only the bare minimum of strategy involved, which consists of using opposite elemental attackers against your foes and swapping out Pokemon to prevent KO. It lack nuisance, as such battles turn into mindless button mashing. Boss encounters also suffer from tedium. Whilst the bosses are large, towering Pokemon and initially a visual treat their attack patterns are identical to each other: charge super attack then use it. It's simply a matter of avoiding the super attack and then retaliating. Rinse and repeat.
Additionally, a fundamental part of the traditional Pokemon experience is absent: levelling your Pokemon. Instead the Pokemon who join you have set stats, and as you progress and battles get harder you'll abandon previous Pokemon for your latest and strongest recruits. Money can be spent to teach Pokemon new abilities but as you'll inevitable have to abandon them anyway so this option feels superfluous.
Fortunately the other fundamental aspect of traditional Pokemon titles is very much intact; collecting them all. There are 600 Pokemon to recruit from all generations of titles including Pokemon Back and White. Despite the simplistic gameplay the compulsion to collect them all is just as strong as ever, and does a great job of maintaining your interest. Bringing a friend along for cooperative multiplayer is also a pleasant option and collecting Pokemon with someone else helps relieve some of the monotony.
Indeed Pokemon Rumble Blast doesn't do enough to capture the same magic as the majority of other Pokemon titles do. There's no denying that the concept is great. The charming aesthetic and open arenas for real-time brawling to take place is initially fun and held so much promise. However, in the end the simplicity drained the innovation of all its potential.