Review: Pokemon Rumble Blast (Nintendo 3DS)

Pokemon Rumble Blast
Developer: Ambrella
Publisher: Nintendo of America
Genre: Beat ‘Em Up
Release Date: 10/24/2011

Pokemon Rumble was released in 2009 and was one of the more out there Pokemon titles released. Instead of being an RPG like most Pokemon titles, this was a beat ’em up in the vein of River City Ransom and Double Dragon. You could collect all the Pokemon from the first and fourth generation of games and there was a surprising amount of strategy in addition to the mindless button mashing. I had a lot of fun with the game when I reviewed it and it would go on to win our award for “Best Downloadable Game of 2009, so it would appear I wasn’t alone there.

Now it’s the end of 2011 and Pokemon Rumble returns – this time for the Nintendo 3DS. Going from downloadable game to a 3DS cart has more than doubled the price (from $15 to $34.99-$39.99 depending where you get it from). Now I’ve always railed about Adventure games jumping from their usual PC price range of $6.99 – $9.99 to $19.99-$29.99 when they are ported to the DS, so I can’t deny that the price tag for Pokemon Rumble Blast However, instead of being a straight port, at least Pokemon Rumble Blast offers new features, levels, Pokemon and 3D visuals. As well, unlike PC adventure games, you can take a laptop with you in a similar fashion to the 3DS where the Wii doesn’t work that way. So is there enough of a difference here to pay twice what you paid for the original Pokemon Rumble, or are you better off just sticking with the $15 version?

Let’s Review

1. Story & Modes

In the original Pokemon Rumble, you started out with a Ratatta who was quite weak and so it decided to gather together a bunch of other Pokemon to form a gang of sorts. The ultimate goal? To win the Pokemon Battle Royal. Also – your Pokemon were quasi-living toys rather than actual cock fighting seizure monsters. So it was a bit surreal with a cute, but ultimately shallow story. What ultimately saved the games were the modes of play and the uniqueness of the storyline.

Well two years later that won’t help Pokemon Rumble Blast as it’s been done before. The good news is that the game offers several completely new modes of play in addition to the original. This is going to be the bulk of the review so stay with me as I briefly cover each mode of play.

First up is Story Mode. Here you gather Pokemon toys to fight for you. You’ll have a team of three for each level. It’s straight up button mashing beat ’em up combat and each stage ends with a giant Pokemon boss fight. You can play this on your own, or with a friend over the Wi-Fi connection. If you play with a partner, the odds of catching new Pokemon greatly increases, so it’s definitely something worth doing whenever you can. This is a nice little treat and also reinforces that Pokemon has always been about playing with (or against) friends. After you beat a level, you can gain access to the Battle Royal as long as you have a Pokemon with a high enough power rating (think Dragon ball Z) to enter. Repeat over and over again until Story Mode is finished.

Team Battle allows you to use all three members of your chosen team at once. The goal is obviously to manage all three at once, as well as solve a few puzzles (like Disgaea-esque tower stacking) to get through a stage. Having a solid balanced team matters far more here than in Story Mode. For your first time out I suggest Pokemon with attacks that have a bit of a spread to them.

Charge Battle is flat out insane, somewhat resembling Kingdoms Under Fire or Dynasty Warriors. Here you lead a full legion of Pokemon into battle against an opposing army. Your combined Pokemon army’s health and power determines how well you do here, along with button mashing. To say that your poor A button will get a workout in this mode is an understatement.

Street Pass Battle is the coolest use of the 3DS’ street pass feature that I’ve seen since Super Street Fighter IV 3D. Basically, if you pass anyone on the street that also has this game, the street pass feature will connect and swap data. Then, the next time you play the game the other person’s Mii will show up and challenge you. The neat thing is that it picks one of their Pokemon and turns them into a boss. If you can beat the boss, you’ll get that Pokemon as a prize. As well, using the street pass feature at all, whether or not the other gamer even owns Pokemon Rumble Blast can help unlock special Pokemon like Celebi, Jirachi, Mew and the other legends for the core RPG that require a Nintendo event to obtain.

Solo Battle is perhaps the most “hardcore” mode in the game. You have to finish story mode to unlock it. Then when you play this, you have to beat a randomly determined level with only a single Pokemon. The catch is that your Pokemon is much weaker than the other Pokemon you’ll encounter in the level. If you win, you get a ton of cash though. If you get a win streak going, the amount of money received increases by 5,000 per win. It’s pretty crazy but the prize is pretty big.

Finally, we have the Mysterious Room. This isn’t really a mode unto itself, but it is pretty unique so I’m talking about it here. The first version of the room pits you against FIFTY other Pokemon – luckily not all at the same time. The room is small though, so you can’t run and dodge in the same way you would in a normal level. The other version of the room has you take on an entire evolutionary line of Pokemon, with the final form appearing as four large boss Pokemon – all while the lower levels of the evolution keep respawning. The room randomly occurs in other modes and like Solo Battle, the difficulty is ramped up, but the reward is great.

As you can see, there are a lot of modes of play. While the core gameplay is roughly the same for all, each feels noticeably distinct and requires a different style of strategy. I was quite happy with the sheer amount of content here. Between the different modes and attempting to collecting al 646 Pokemon, you can easily spend weeks or months with this game without repeating yourself. For a brawler style game, that’s very impressive. Now if only there was a little more of a story.

Story and Modes Rating: Good

2. Graphics

I’ll be honest, I haven’t been too impressed with the 3D visuals on the 3DS so far. For most games it’s just been a gimmick and it doesn’t really add anything to the experience. Pokemon Rumble Blast is no different here. The 3D feels like an afterthought and this game could easily be done on the regular DS. It looks neat, especially with Charge Battles, but most of the time I just turned it off to preserve my battery and prevent headaches.

The in game visuals look almost the same as they do on the Wii. The only differences are some new level designs and the toy Pokemon that weren’t in the previous game. Much like with the first Pokemon Rumble, the designs for the Pokemon are unique, but definitely not a feast for the eyes. I understand why they went with the less detailed blocky design here – it’s to prevent slowdown when you have tons of Pokemon on the screen at once, but it’s still a step down from recent portable Pokemon games like Pokemon Black & White on the regular DS.

What’s here is well enough for Pokemon fans, but the entire game really doesn’t make use of the 3DS’ capabilities. The game went for preventing slowdown over prettiness and I can respect that, even if I feel the end result looks much the same as things did two years ago.

Graphics Rating: Mediocre

3. Sound

I really enjoyed the music here, which is a stark contrast to the original Pokemon Rumble. Pokemon Rumble Blast has a fine soundtrack that fits the fast paces, frantic nature of a beat ’em up style game. The music is quite catchy, albeit it nowhere near the level as the music from the early Pokemon core RPGs. You still might find yourself humming alone once or twice though.

The sound effects are nice and each move has their own distinct sound. This is far more impressive when you experience it firsthand due to the sheer number of moves in the game. Pokemon make their own noises, but it’s the squarks from the core RPGs rather than voice acting. Like the graphics, people will either like that or hate it.

Unlike the graphics, what’s here is a noticeable step up from the Wii precursor to this game. Of course for more than twice the cost of that title, it bloody well should be.

Sound Rating: Good

4. Control and Gameplay

The original Pokemon Rumble was made perfectly for the Wiimote as a NES controller. It was classic old school style button mashing goodness. Everything is ported to the 3DS nicely, although it didn’t feel as solid button mashing on the 3DS compared to the Wiimote. This is especially true with charge battles where you have to hammer the A button so quickly that I was afraid I might break the 3DS at some point. As well, there is less space between the buttons on the 3DS than there is with the Wiimote, so those of you with larger fingers might experience a bit of butterfingers during the more frantic bits of the game.

Now with all that said, Pokemon Rumble Blast still plays quite well. Controls are tight and there isn’t any lag or slowdown that I came across. Each Pokemon can have one or two moves. These moves can differ even between the same exact type of Pokemon, so if you have two Pikachu, they might play totally different. As well, a Pokemon might sometimes have a special ability which can give it an edge it wouldn’t usually have. A Pokemon with a special ability is almost always better than one without it. In Pokemon Rumble these were generally defensive things, like you could get a Espeon that was super resistant to Dark attacks. In Pokemon Rumble Blast you’ll get abilities like 50% more Hit Points than this particular species of Pokemon would normally have or regeneration. As you progress through the game you’ll even find super special Pokemon Abilities. These will be written in blue instead of pink lettering. These are unlocked by certain requirements like beating story mode.

So there you go. Pokemon Rumble Blast is pretty simple gameplay wise. It’s just a lot of button mashing combined with dodging attacks from your opponent and collecting Pokemon left and right so you always have the best Pokemon for a particular stage or battle. The key is trying to get a great moveset and a special ability on a particular Pokemon. Then it’s just hammering away for as long as you can.

Control and Gameplay Rating: Good

5. Replayability

As I said earlier, you can spend weeks or even months with Pokemon Rumble Blast and not be anywhere near completing it. It’s that long of a game. There are so many modes of play that this is easily the longest game for the 3DS right now. As well, with the Street Pass feature and the ability to use 3DS coins to “purchase” some things in the game, there will always be something new to do. I’ve been playing PRB (not to be confused with PBR) for a while now and I don’t even have HALF the possible Pokemon in the game. Compare that to the original Pokemon Rumble where I had all possible Pokemon in less than a fortnight. If you’re a 3DS owner with very little disposable income to spend on games, there’s no title for the 3DS that will give you more bang for your buck than Pokemon Rumble Blast. Unless of course you’re not a Pokemon fan. Then go for something like Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Shadow War .

If there is one thing Pokemon games seem to excel at, it’s reply value. Pokemon Rumble Blast is no exception.

Replayability Rating: Unparalleled

6. Balance

Pokemon Rumble Blast is an extremely balanced game. For each section of the game, a Pokemon’s maximum power is limited. So for example if you get a Mewtwo from a special code with a crazy high power rating, you can use him, but his power will be capped at the maximum possible for that part of the game. Then as you unlock new bits of the game and the maximum power level rises, so too will that Mewtwos until you the maximum it is programmed for. Now for regularly obtained Pokemon, their power level will stay at the level they had when you caught them. This means you’re constantly going to be on the lookout for better and more powerful Pokemon. Once you beat the main story and advance to the post story play (The World Pillar), you can pay an insane amount of money to raise the strength level of all your weak Pokemon up to a level playing field. For example, it’s free once you beat the game to raise all of your scrubs to a max rating of 2100. To get them higher, say 2200, expect to pay 1,000,000 coins. If you want to raise the rating further, it gets more and more exorbitant. It’ll take a while to raise the cash, but it not only ensures a Pokemon with a great ability and two awesome moves is still playable in the post main story part of the game, but it gives you something to work for and helps you out with Charge Battles. This is a nice touch.

Battles across the board are well done too. The level of difficulty is determined not only by your Pokemon’s strength rating but also by those of the opposing Pokemon and the usual Type advantages and weakness that you all know from the core RPGs. So if you have a pretty powerful Sableye that takes half damage via a special ability, you’re sitting pretty – or at least until its strength level becomes too low in later levels. Boss fights and battle royals are tougher than the beat ’em stages, but the same general principles apply. It’s just you can take more damage and have to deal with more enemies in these situations.

There’s always a challenge to be had in Pokemon Rumble Blast, but it’s never hair pulling or profanity inducing. It’s fun without frustration and that’s what’s important.

Balance Rating: Great

7. Originality

Since Pokemon Rumble Blast is essentially a deeper and more expensive version of Pokemon Rumble, it’s hard to give the game high marks in this category. I like the new modes, the extra Pokemon and the optional 3D visuals, but all that’s window dressing on what is essentially the same core engine we saw in a downloadable WiiWare title two years ago. A very FUN title mind you, but still.

I appreciate that Ambrella really tried to pack in a ton of extra content to justify the much larger price tag but I can’t honestly define the game as original or innovative. It’s different and a nice change of pace from Pokemon as an RPG, but that’s about it.

Originality Rating: Mediocre

8. Addictiveness

We’ve reviewed nearly twenty different 3DS games here at Diehard GameFAN. I myself have played eight of those. So far I’ve only found two worth keeping and the rest have been trade-in fodder. Those were Ghost Recon and Bust-A-Move Universe. In the case of Ghost Recon: Shadow War, it’s a very well done SRPG by the creator of X-Com and BAMU is because I really like Puzzle Bobble. Everything else has either been bad, not as good as a console version or worth playing but not worth keeping. Hell, I didn’t even bother with the Ocarina of Time remake as it’s already available on the N64, the GameCube AND the Wii. I don’t need another version of the game. Nor does anyone really, no matter how good it may be.

Pokemon Rumble Blast becomes the third 3DS game I can honestly is worth buying for several reasons. The first is that PRB is a sequel to a Wiiware game that a lot of people probably haven’t played instead of a slightly enhanced port of an older gamer. Because everything but the core engine is new here, it’s a similar but ultimately different experience. The second is that unlike a lot of 3DS titles, PRB is actually portable, meaning that you can play it for short jaunts, save it and forget about it. It’s easy to play in the back of a car or when riding on the metro. Levels take only a few minutes and you don’t have to flail around, blow into anything or move the system around for augmented reality reasons. It’s actually something you can play anytime, anywhere.

Finally, beat ’em ups are hard to put down. Even mediocre ones are strangely addicting. Find a high quality one, and you have yourself a game that people remember fondly. Look at both Batman: Arkham Asylum and Arkham City. Both games at their core are beat ’em ups. Both are pretty much adored across the board. Pokemon Rumble Blast isn’t up to that level of quality but it’s still an extremely hard game to put down. It’s well made, it offers a lot of strategy for a button masher and there’s always something new to do. You’ll find yourself saying, “Just one more battle” and then before you know it, an hour will have passed. Simple but addictive. Sometimes, that’s the best way to go.

Addictiveness Rating: Great

9. Appeal Factor

Is Pokemon the most successful video game franchise ever? Yes. It’s constantly setting sales records, and between the card game, video games, cartoon, toys and more Pokemon has penetrated pop culture in pretty much every way possible. This pretty much guarantees every Pokemon game to sell decently, even the sub-par titles like Pokemon Dash. Good games however consistently break video game sales records. Pokemon Rumble Blast is one of those good games and it’s also the first Pokemon title for the 3DS so that ensures people will buy it. Will they enjoy it though? Well, most Pokemon games are turn based RPGs while PRB is a beat ’em up. That means you’ll need better hand-eye coordination and some good reflexes to get through it instead of picking an attack from a menu and repeating this until the opponent is knocked out. Because of this, and the strange look of the “Pokemon toys,” some gamers may be turned off as it is so different from the core games. At the same time, gamers who are kind of burned out of turn based RPGs and want something a little more exciting may find this as their gateway back into Pokemon. Basically if you want more of the same like in Black and White and only that, this isn’t the game for you. If you like the characters in the Pokemon franchise but want to play something different from a turn based RPG, than this is probably up your alley.

Case in point, our own Mark B. likes the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon games but doesn’t care for the turn based RPGs at all. He likes games like Fist of the North Star and God Hand. Pokemon Rumble Blast is more in-line with those games, so he’d probably enjoy this more than say, Pokemon Black and White as the core of that game is exactly the same as ye olde Pokemon Red/Blue/Green/Yellow from the mid to late 90s. Meanwhile someone like Aileen or Ashe who enjoy a good JRPG might not like this as much since it’s closer to something like X-Men: The Arcade Game. So the game might bring in (or back) as many gamers as it pushes away. It’s always a crap shoot when you do a genre change.

At the end of the day, Pokemon Rumble Blast is a good game certain to delight the vast majority of those that pick it up. People that generally have disdain for Pokemon will have fun with it if they fiddle around with it. It’s going to be one of the better 3DS games released this year (not that this is a hard achievement) and while it won’t be a reason to buy the system, it’s worth picking up if you already own it.

Appeal Factor Rating: Good

10. Miscellaneous

The real question here is whether or not there’s enough here to justify a $35-$40 dollar price tag when the original game was only $15 via Wiiware (and even that raised some controversy as WiiWare games were between $5-10 up to that point). The answer is yes. More so than say, purchasing Overclocked if you already own Devil Survivor. In the case of Overclocked, you’re basically getting an enhanced version of a game that is 1) already portable, 2) can be played in the 3DS, and 3) it’s 95% the same game. With Pokemon Rumble Blast, you’re getting four hundred more playable Pokemon, an entirely new version of story mode, several new modes that haven’t been done before and the game is portable where the original was tied to a console. Then there’s also the cost of printing up a book, making cartridges, packaging, shipping the game to retailers and other just things that didn’t come into play with the first game in the series.

Again a good example of this comes with point and click adventure games. You can generally buy those for $6.99-9.99 in a downloadable format, but for $19.99 or so in cartridge form. So applying that example to Pokemon Rumble Blast, a straight port should of cost about $25. Add in the new content and the fact it’s an entirely new game save for the engine and graphics and the price is justifiable at $34.99, which is what most retailers are charging. I’d be happier if it was at $29.99 as that would be the magic price point, but after years of seeing first party Nintendo titles being at a five dollar premium on the DS, the fact Pokemon Rumble Blast is five dollars less than the NoA published title is damn near a miracle.

Overall, the price tag is worth it, especially compared to skimpy titles like Super Monkey Ball 3D. When the game drops in price in a year or two (first party NOA title, remember), it’ll be a much easier sell to those that have the WiiWare version.

Miscellaneous Rating: Above Average

The Scores:
Story: Good
Graphics: Mediocre
Sound: Good
Control and Gameplay: Good
Replayability: Unparalleled
Balance: Great
Originality: Mediocre
Addictiveness: Great
Appeal Factor: Good
Miscellaneous: Above Average

Short Attention Span Summary
Pokemon Rumble Blast is one of the better titles for the 3DS this year, but if you don’t own a 3DS or the $35-40 price tag is too much, remember there is a WiiWare version for only $15. The 3DS version boats 400 more catchable (and thus playable) Pokemon, along with a completely redone story mode and several other new modes as well. Add in the 3D visuals and a great use of the spot pass feature, and this beat ’em up button mashing brawler is reminiscent of when this genre was king as well as why. The odd “Toy Pokemon” visuals might annoy some while others might be put out by the fact this is more River City Ransom than the turn based JRPG form Pokemon normally comes in, but that’s likely to draw back gamers who like the Pokemon concept or characters, but got sick of the “same old, same old” from the core RPGs. If you like brawlers and you own a 3DS, it’s well worth picking this up. If you don’t have a 3DS, stick with the Wiiware version.



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5 responses to “Review: Pokemon Rumble Blast (Nintendo 3DS)”

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  2. […] of sad. I personally have owned ten games for the system and I’ve only kept three of them: Pokemon Rumble Blast , Bust a Move Universe and Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars. Because I’m such a […]

  3. […] Universe, Fire Emblem: Awakening, Kid Icarus: Uprising, Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, Pokemon Rumble Blast and Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars. I’m very picky about what games stay in my […]

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  5. […] Nintendo 3DS I’ve logged more time with, and aside from Gates to Infinity those other three (Pokemon Rumble Blast, Shining Force: The Sword of Hajya and Fire Emblem: Awakening) will easily be surpassed by the time […]

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