On paper, Super Pokémon Rumble – or Pokémon Rumble Blast in North America – probably seemed as if it had potential. Simple pick up and play battle mechanics, a novel Toy Pokémon idea and StreetPass support for battling your collection are all well suited for portable play. Yet, the end product results in a rather dull affair.
Whilst core instalments within the franchise inevitably prove most popular with fans, it is no stranger to a range of spin-off releases that have successfully served to expand its universe – Pokémon Ranger, Pokémon Mystery Dungeon, and PokéPark to name but few.
Whereas these explore the world and its inhabitants, Super Pokémon Rumble seeks to encapsulate upon its core ‘collect-a-thon’ concept, seeing player’s Mii characters visit a Toy Store in which they receive a ‘Wonder Key’ and set out to build a collection of Toy Pokémon, of which there are in excess of 600 within the entirety of the game.
The Wonder Key allows its user to bring any Toy Pokémon to life, and as such allow players to control such creatures within the realms of Toyland. Here, an evil group of Toy Pokémon have begun to steal as much as their mechanical claws can allow from the Glowdrop Fountains across the region. This powerful fluid has the capability to remove rust from materials, as well as to heal your Toy Pokémon, and the player must set out to discover the reasons of its theft and to return it to Toy Town.
The narrative doesn’t prove its worth across the chapter segmented structure of the game, although hides a few subtle twists to ensure that it retains your attention. It isn’t the most enthralling of plots, but will surely serve to keep the interest of the younger crowd.
What follows is a rinse-and-repeat formula that will see you visit a series of navigable fields, incorporating explorable areas, that provide locations in which you may gather more powerful Toy Pokémon to grant you an upper hand to participate and win the local Battle Royale.
These must be completed to move on to the next location in the game, and come in three variants; Battle Royale, where you must defeat all Toy Pokémon within the time limit; Team Battle, where you fight with three Toy Pokémon and can collect ‘Windup Energy’ used to enter the destructive Hyper Mode; and Charge Battle, in which you send a large group of Toy Pokémon en masse to attack a rival force.
During any given combat situation, the player is granted three Wonder Keys which simply equate to three lives. With these, you are able to freely switch between Toy Pokémon within your collection when necessary, but once three have been defeated you’ll be met by a Game Over screen and returned to the beginning of the area that you’re currently exploring.
However, there’s little substance here. Whilst the careful choice of Pokémon type remains to battle effectively, you’ll find yourself required to continually mash a single move as you attempt to eradicate oncoming waves of Toy Pokémon, taking as minimal damage as possible. Your progression through a series of uninspired environments resulting in a face-off with a gargantuan-sized boss that rarely poses any threat to you, as long as you’re careful enough to dodge their attacks.
Along the way, you’ll have the chance to randomly befriend new Toy Pokémon from those that you defeat for use, and will also gather currency that may be spent at a Move Vendor, or the imaginatively titled ‘Move-a-majig’, to learn new abilities. The player isn’t offered enough control over this, however, with more varied moves requiring the player to pour hours into the game to unlock. Customisation is key, and Super Pokémon Rumble makes you work far too hard for it.
Similarly, you’re also in part forced to use your strongest Pokémon to ensure you complete areas without difficulty, rather than being able to stick to personal favourites.
Cel-shaded visuals, which exuberate papercraft inspiration, also seem inadequate compared to the detailed model designs witnessed within the free Pokédex 3D application. You’d be forgiven for expecting more from Super Pokémon Rumble, the art style having a distinct appeal yet somehow remaining absent of the charm of the franchise.
The local co-operative play is also supported for two players, in which you can battle through a selection of areas together, and StreetPass allows you to gather currency from those that you pass as well as facing off against their Toy Pokémon collection.
Super Pokémon Rumble, the franchise debut on the Nintendo 3DS, ultimately falls flat. Repetitive, dull and uninspired, there’s little here to entertain, and definitely isn’t the best that Pokémon has to offer.