The Toys Are Back in Town
With every new Nintendo portable comes a new generation of Pokemon games. While we wait for Pokemon Granite and Brick or whatever Nintendo decides to call the next generation of Pokemon titles, we, the gaming masses, are subjected to countless spin-offs featuring everyone's favorite pocket monsters. It is no different with the Nintendo 3DS. Instead of going with a puzzler or racing game like the DS had, the 3DS gets a $40 sequel to the WiiWare service's Pokemon Rumble. Is there enough content in Pokemon Rumble Blast to justify the premium cost, or are you better off continuing to grind your Pokemon in Pokemon Black and White while waiting for the next generation of games?
The world of Pokemon Rumble Blast does not use real life Pokemon. Instead they are replaced with toys that are wound up and let loose. Pokemon here do not evolve, they do not gain levels, and they do not learn moves in the traditional sense. Each town in the game has a Glowdrop fountain, the lifeblood of the world. When a mysterious and seemingly sinister force begins stealing the drops from each town for their own unknown gain, the world starts to lose its luster and balance. Commanding an armada of Pokemon toys, it is your job to stop the army of Pokemon led by Cobalion and restore order to the world of toy Pokemon. Rumble Blast is divided up between five unique chapters. Cutscenes mostly display the story, and these are relatively quick. Unfortunately, these cannot be skipped, but they are so short most of the time so it is not a huge problem.
There are four types of gameplay in Pokemon Rumble Blast. The first has players selecting a Pokemon and going to one of many zones. These zones have multiple linear areas full of Pokemon to defeat. Most of the time you'll gather PP, the currency of the game, from defeating Pokemon, but if you're lucky you'll defeat and befriend a Pokemon, adding them to your collection of usable pocket monsters. Each zone has its own set of Pokemon to collect, but some won't appear unless you're really lucky. There are over 600 individual Pokemon that become a part of your collection, so you'll be spending a lot of time with this game if you so choose to do so. However, the repetitiveness of combat may make some players grow tired of the game long before they beat the game. This takes anywhere between 9-12 hours. There are more zones than in the WiiWare installment with such areas as forests, glaciers, volcanoes, factories, graveyards, and lakes. At the conclusion of each zone, you face off against a boss Pokemon, a bigger version than normal of a pocket monster. With good luck (perhaps by using a Pokemon with a certain lucky trait...) you will befriend that Pokemon after knocking it out of commission.
Each Pokemon you befriend has its own attack power. The stronger the power, the more damage it does. Each Pokemon can also use up to two moves. Most Pokemon come with two already learned, but you can purchase new moves from a vendor in one of the many towns the game has to offer. There is some strategy involved in choosing a Pokemon. Sure, your monster might have powerful moves, but if they take too much time to unleash, then you're vulnerable to being attacked. Quick offensive abilities might be swift in unleashing, but they don't take off as much damage. Additionally, some Pokemon are faster movers than others. Then there's types of Pokemon to take into consideration. For example, a fire type will make short work of a grass type, but it will also be harmed exponentially by a water type. Furthermore, some moves can create a status effect such as paralysis, confusion, poison, and burn. These wear off after a short while, but they can pop up at the most inopportune moments.
You only have three keys to work with. A key is lost when one of your toy monsters is downed. Lose three monsters in a zone, and it is game over. Switch wounded Pokemon out before they are defeated, but remember that switching out takes some time. If the toy you are switching out is attacked, the switch will fail.
After all of the zones in a world map area are completed, players will be able to participate in a battle royale. This is the second type of gameplay in Pokemon Rumble Blast. This has you picking a Pokemon and battling in a WWE Royal Rumble styled match. Of course, there is no over the top rope rule. Instead, the ring is lined with an electrified fence. The goal here is to take out all of the opposing Pokemon within the time limit. Downed Pokemon that you take out will drop clocks that add more time to the clock. Special boss Pokemon (these are the same size as normal Pokemon unlike zone bosses) will have more HP and do more damage. Successfully be the last toy standing to become victorious. Some battle royales specify a specific type of Pokemon needed, so some royales might require you to use a fighting type or a ground type, for instance.
The third form of gameplay is a team battle where you select three Pokemon to launch into multiple battle arenas. You control one Pokemon while the AI controls the other two. After each round, the boss Pokemon drops health that will partially restore everyone's HP. Downed allies can be revived a sliver of the way by standing over their frail bodies. If all three Pokemon fall, then you lose. Team battles can be incredibly frustrating as sometimes it just seems like using the same strategy one time does well while using it again does a different result. It feels like a crap shoot most of the time.
Finally, there are charge battles where you take a group of Pokemon into battle and rush several targets. The combined attack power of your brigade of toy creatures must outnumber the power of your opponents. Meanwhile you must mash the A button to get your rushing power up to max in order to obliterate the opposition.
Pokemon Rumble Blast is not the best looking 3DS game. The toy models are crude, the backgrounds are static, and the presentation values just aren't there. The 3D effect is pleasant, but there are so many other titles on Nintendo's latest handheld that show the effect much better and much more impressively. The soundtrack borrows selected pieces from the WiiWare game while also sporting several new tracks. These are memorable tunes that had me humming while playing occasionally. The toy Pokemon utilize the sounds they speak from the games, and these can come across as grating to some. This isn't the Pokemon Company's best effort presentation-wise.
Overall, if you don't mind the repetitive combat and low budget, then you might find something to enjoy in Pokemon Rumble Blast. Collecting the over 600 different Pokemon is an enjoyable task, and befriending new, more powerful Pokemon is addicting. It is a rush, really. Still, at forty dollars MSRP, I'm hesitant to fully recommend this game. It might have been better as a downloadable eShop title. Sure, there is plenty of content to be found, but will most players stick around until the very end and beyond? Poke-fanatics will discover a lot to love about Rumble Blast, but the shallow combat might put off everyone else.
[SuperPhillip Says: 7.0/10]