Inside Pulse 12

Review: Pokemon Rumble (Nintendo Wii)

Pokemon Rumble
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Ambrella
Genre: Beat ‘Em Up
Release Date: 11/16/2009

Back on June 10th of 2009, I received a gift from Ambrella for my Nintendo Wii. It was the yet-to-be-released Melee! Pokemon Scramble for WiiWare. It turned out to be a fun little game that reminded me of a weird mix Dynasty Warriors and the WWE’s Royal Rumble, but with Pokemon. Five months later, we’re set to see the now titled (in North America) Pokemon Rumble hit the WiiWare here. Ambrella’s last foray into WiiWare (and Pokemon) was My Pokemon Ranch, which was basically a remake of Pokemon Box. Sadly, we never got the Pokemon Platinum update for MPR here in the states, but it’s nice to see we’re getting Pokemon Rumble.

In both Pokemon Collector Magazine and with friends, I’ve described Pokemon Rumble as, “the Pokemon game for people who don’t like the core RPG’s.” That being said, Pokemon Rumble is priced at $15 (or 1500 Wii Points), which makes it pretty pricey for a WiiWare title. Is it worth the cost of three NES games, or is this better left for the more curious or Pokemon friendly?

Let’s Review

1. Modes/Story

Here’s the basic flow of the game. You start off with a lone weak Rattata. It realizes it will never be the most powerful Pokemon in the world, but its dream is to gather a team that can win the Pokemon Rumble. So Rattata sets out to make itself stronger by gathering a team of truly powerful Pokemon. At least this way, if it can’t win itself, it can live vicariously through its friends or as the team founder/manager.

You start off in “Normal Mode” where the game will only contain the original 151 Pokemon from Pokemon Red, Blue, Green, and Yellow. Here you will traverse through one of six worlds, each containing four different difficulty levels and corresponding Pokemon for each level. Your Pokemon has two attacks so you’ll be spamming those to knock out enemy Pokemon and get money that they drop. This money can be used to learn new attacks and other things. Occasionally instead of dropping money a Pokemon will simply lie their flat on its side. If you go up and touch it, you will collect it for your army. You can also later trade in that Pokemon for tickets and/or stronger Pokemon. While battling you can change your Pokemon at any time, however the game does not pause, so you need to be quick. Only two of your Pokemon can faint. If a third does, it’s back to the beginning for you. At the end of each level is a super massive giant Pokemon boss (It’s big!) that your team will have to defeat. Once you beat it, you get your performance stats for the level and you are returned to the terminal to use or spend your ill gotten loot.

After you have Pokemon with a certain power level (note that your Pokemon do NOT level up. Their stats are frozen. You’ll just have to keep finding and using stronger Pokemon), the battle royal for the grade you are on will open up. For example, if you are on the Grade C track, the Grace C battle royal opens up once you have Pokemon with a power rating of 99 (I really do want to give a “It’s over 10,000!” DBZ joke at some point in this review as this game just asks for it…). Here the goal is to be the last Pokemon standing, eliminating all your opponents. Again, you can switch out between your Pokemon, but when that third Pokemon faints, you lose.

After you beat Normal Mode, by clearing the S rank, you’ll unlock “Another Mode” which are the same levels and battle royals, but with far more powerful Pokemon and the introduction of GIV Pokemon (Pokemon Diamond and Pearl). It’s still not done though. After you beat Another Mode, you get EX Mode, which features the most powerful Pokemon in the game and you have to do two battle royals in a row instead of just one. HARDCORE!

As you can see there is not only an amazing amount of content to Pokemon Rumble, but it’s pretty different from the usual Pokemon games. You’ll get an incredible amount of time out of this game as you look for Pokemon with different abilities, stats and even Shiny Pokemon. Shiny Pokemon are even better than in the core RPG because not only are they rare and different coloured, but they’re crazy powerful as well.

Although it’s not a “core Pokemon RPG” for the Nintendo Wii, which the system still needs, it’s still the best action RPG I can think of for the system (not that the Wii is drowning in RPG’s…) and it’s going to be a game that Pokemon and non-Pokemon fans alike will end up enjoying. Best of all, the Battle Royal can also be four play multilayer and that, my friends, is some crazy fun.

Story/Modes Rating: Great

2. Graphics

The weird super-deformed visuals of My Pokemon Ranch are back. The game claims these are “Pokemon Wind Up Toys” as a way to explain the visuals, but really, wind-up toys are neither sentient nor can traverse forests and caves where they can find other wind-up toys. Really it’s just an excuse to explain why the visuals are a weird chibi thing instead of the high level Pokemon visuals we got in Pokemon Battle Revolution.

Here’s the thing, the backgrounds are fine and it’s impressive when you have a lot of Pokemon on the screen with all their attacks blazing and there is no slowdown. However the Pokemon themselves are hit or miss. They definitely don’t push the Wii’s graphical capacities at all, and people will either like them or hate them, as they’re fairly “unique” looking. I just chalk it up to stylization like Pokemon Trozei and then ignore it. What’s here is fine, especially for a WiiWare game, but it’s not going to be a game that is touted for it’s graphics. Let’s just leave it at that.

Graphics Rating: Decent

3. Sound

This is another area that is merely acceptable. The music is fine as far as background tracks go, but it’s nothing that will stick in your skull and have you humming it for days or even weeks later like the handheld Pokemon RPG’s do. Battle noises and Pokemon sounds are exactly like what you would expect if you’ve played any Pokemon game up to this point. Again, there is nothing to write home about, and this is passable because it’s a $15 WiiWare game, but honestly Pokemon games usually do a great job with music and sound effects, but this just didn’t do it for me. It’s a bit dull and unimpressive.

Sound Rating: Below Average

4. Control and Gameplay

One of the things I love about this game is that you can play it with just a Wiimote ala an old school NES game, you can use a Wiimote and Numchuk combo, you can use the Classic Controller, or you can use a Gamecube Controller. All four schemes work exceptionally well, although I prefer either the GCN or CC schemes just because it find them easier when the action gets frantic around EX Mode time.

The controls are amazingly simply. You use a D pad or analog stick to move, and have two attacks, each assigned to a different button. You buy new and stronger attacks throughout the game, but you’ll have to jettison one to get another. The controls are easy, but considering no two Pokemon of even the same type are the same it then comes down to finding the best Pokemon to use and then wailing away against your opponents with your team supreme.

Pokemon Abilities are something to watch out for besides the Pokemon’s overall rating and moves. After all you can always get better moves, but let’s say you have a Water Pokemon with a rating of 2200, and then you have a Water Pokemon with a rating of 2100, but also an ability that drastically reduces Electric Attacks damage (Electric Guard). Are you willing to sacrifice a bit of strength for defense, especially when it’s defense against damage Water Pokemon are usually extra weak against? I would, but I also play Geese Howard in KoF and Fatal Fury games. It’s all up to you.

I have to admit, I’m still impressed that what boils down to Pokemon Gauntlet (Pikachu shot the potion!) is incredibly solid. Ambrella isn’t really known for making Pokemon games with this level of action (Hey You, Pikachu, Pokemon Channel and My Pokemon Ranch aren’t what you would call the most violent or frantic games on earth), so I’m actually impressed by this outing.

One of the things I found most interesting about the controls is that you can actually store some of your Pokemon in your Wiimote and then take it over to your friends house to battle against his Pokemon. Sure, you’ll be at a slight disadvantage as he’ll have access to his whole lineup (it caps out at 1,000 Pokemon), but the fact you can do this is nothing short of awesome. Co-op violence is awesome and you can also try to beat each other’s high score for bragging rights. The only downfall is that you can’t do multiplayer online, which would have made this a definite purchase for a lot of my friends and fellow DHGF staff so that we could team up and commit Pokemon genocide. What? I’ve been using a Mewtwo, Spirittomb and Giratina a lot. It’s a dark and bitter team.

This is an amazing solid game with a lot of depth to it, all while boasting simple controls even a small child could learn and have fun with.

Control and Gameplay Rating: Unparalleled

5. Replayability

Although there are only 257 Pokemon in the game (ONLY…), you still have to factor in Shiny Pokemon and that no two Pokemon of the same race will be the same. You also have six levels of four different difficulties in the roaming sections of the game, giant Pokemon bosses to contend with and battle royals to finish things off. That doesn’t include the unlockable modes you can get or the need to “catch ’em all” or the need to catch multiple Pokemon, not only to compare stats and abilities but because you can also trade five of one Pokemon in for the next evolution in that line.

There’s an amazing amount of replay value here, especially for a WiiWare title. While it’s not as long as a full RTS or RPG, you’ll definitely be able to sock away a lot of time on this little downloadable title.

Replayability Rating: Good

6. Balance

I really love how balanced this title is. It will always manage to provide a degree of difficulty and challenge, even when it’s only a button masher at times. Let’s say you can’t get a good quality Pokemon when you are in the wild, so you have lots of weak ones in your collection. Trade five Metapod in for a Butterfree. Trade five Bulbasaurs in for an Ivysaur. So on and so forth until you have a Pokemon you feel is strong enough. You can also use your hard earned money to buy better moves or even new Pokemon. Sometimes you can even trade in a mix of Pokemon to get a Legend. No matter how hard things seem at a certain point in time, with practice comes money and more Pokemon and one of those will eventually lead you to success.

Much like “real” Pokemon, there is no one set team that will always win, so it’s constant refinement and testing until you at least have a team that works for you. With two harder difficulty modes to unlock and multiple difficulty settings for each mode, there will be a level at which you plateau and that’s fine. At least the game gives a challenge to everyone who plays, but not so much of fun a gamer will find it unbeatable. With Pokemon Rumble, it’s about planning and using your mind as much as it is hammering those buttons.

One note: Multiplayer co-op is dramatically easier, but that’s because there are four of you. Still, if you’re having problems getting the hang of battle royals, you may want to go this route and practice with friends for a while.

Balance Rating: Great

7. Originality

Although this is pretty outside the box for Pokemon, it’s a little bit Dynasty Warriors, a little bit Gauntlet, a little bit WWE Smackdown Vs. Raw, and a little bit Double Dragon. People familiar with any of those franchises, or games like them, will instantly recognize bits of them in Pokemon Rumble . Thankfully it’s the best bits of those games that have made it through to Pokemon Rumble, but it still shows that this WiiWare title is a hodge podge of a lot of great games.

That doesn’t mean Pokemon Rumble is a pure Frankenstein’s monster. It has its own ideas and innovations like the fact your character’s stats are frozen permanently so you’ll have to get new ones constantly as things get harder. This means that Pokemon Rumble feels fresh, not only as a Pokemon game, but as a beat ’em or to a much lesser extent, an action RPG or RTS as well.

Ambrella’s given us a nice old school style beat ’em up with a Pokemon twist and I can’t say I’m disappointed about that.

Originality Rating: Decent

8. Addictiveness

When you start Pokemon Rumble, you’ll find it strangely hard to put down. The gameplay is so simple and yet rewarding that you’ll play through several levels and even battle royals before you realize how much time has passed. You’ll find yourself scrutinizing your current collection to see which Beedrill has a better strength level or ability or attacks so that you can have the best one on your team. If you’re into Beedrills anyway.

However as the game goes on, things start to drag, You’ll be seeing the same six levels at least a dozen times each with the only difference being bosses and the obtainable Pokemon. This can get a little old if you’re not a fan of beat ’em ups, or you’re not one who needs to catch every variant you can find or collect all the Pokemon in the game. Even then, you’ll still probably find yourself finishing Normal and Another Mode, but EX might induce some burnout due to the repetition.

There’s no denying that Pokemon Rumble is a fun little casual game that will suck you in for several hours, especially if you’re doing multiplayer with friends. However, after a certain point, it’ll probably be left in short spurts so as to avoid the feeling of Deja Vu.

Addictiveness Rating: Good

9. Appeal Factor

I’ll be the first to admit Pokemon isn’t for everyone. This is especially true for the core RPG’s where you are still a ten year old kid collecting eight gym badges and battling the elite four. Even I’m a bit bored with the plot at this point and it’s the extras and side quests that keep me entertained. The Pokemon Company knows this too, which is why there are so many Pokemon spin-offs the include action RPG’s like Pokemon Ranger, roguelikes like Pokemon Mystery Dungeon, arcade fighting/strategy games like Pokemon Battrio and so on. Pokemon Rumble is your first real Pokemon action/beat ’em up game and it’s sure to bring back people who have left the fold (or were never in it) due to its unique gameplay and look. This is certainly the Pokemon game I would give to people who don’t like RPG’s, and it’s exceptionally easy to get the basics down. Whether you’re nine or forty-nine, you’ll be able to play, and most importantly enjoy, Pokemon Rumble.

It’s certainly not for everyone, but there is something satisfying about killing a giant Ivysaur with a teeny weeny Charizard, even if you have no idea what i have just said. For fifteen bucks you could sure do a lot worse, and at the very least, you’ll at least have fun with this game unless you can’t get past the visuals or you hate Pokemon just on principal.

Appeal Factor: Good

10. Miscellaneous

Although Pokemon Rumble is certainly on the expensive side for WiiWare titles (We honestly thought it was going to be 800 Wii Points originally), it’s still the deepest downloadable title for the Wii yet and my favorite on Wiiware so far that doesn’t include Bub and Bob. It’s a well made game that has given Pokemon yet another facet ensuring the franchise will reach more than RPG fans and children who love the cartoon and/or TCG. It’s definitely not a top tier Pokemon release, but it’s better than games like Pokemon Dash, Pokemon Trozei or a few other Pokemon failures out there. There will also be passwords released for this game to unlock rare or special powered Pokemon, so check back here regularly as I’ll post them here as they become available.

Miscellaneous Rating: Enjoyable

The Scores
Story/Modes: Great
Graphics: Decent
Sound: Below Average
Control and Gameplay: Unparalleled
Replayability: Good
Balance: Great
Originality: Decent
Addictiveness: Good
Appeal Factor: Good
Miscellaneous: Enjoyable
FINAL SCORE: GOOD GAME!

Short Attention Span Summary
Pokemon Rumble is both the first full fledged Pokemon game for WiiWare and the first straight Pokemon Beat ‘Em Up and it doesn’t disappoint. Although the audio and visual aspects of the game won’t be to everyone’s liking, the gameplay and controls are extremely intuitive and the game manages to be a lot of fun, even if you’re new to Pokemon or don’t even like the franchise that much. The game probably shines bright in multiplayer mode where you and up to three of your friends can take on all comers in a battle royal, but single player is the true heart of the game where you’ll be “catching ’em all” and finding yourself pouring over each new Pokemon to see who is a worthy addition to your main team and who is trade bait. Fifteen dollars may be a lot for a WiiWare title, but Pokemon Rumble is worth every penny. Best of all you can store your team on your Wiimote and then bring them over to a friend’s house to do battle. The only thing that is missing from this game that would have made it amazing is online multiplayer. Alas, maybe in the sequel if there is one.

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