Why do they keep making this spin-off series?
Pokémon Rumble U is a Pokémon spin-off game for the Wii U where Nintendo seemingly trialled their now ever-so-popular toys to life venture, Amiibo. This is not the first Pokémon Rumble game, and it wasn’t the last, with Nintendo releasing the free-to-play 3DS version since; but to be honest, I don’t know why they are still making them.
The main hook of this series is that the Pokémon in it are toys (exciting, I know), and collecting them is no longer a matter of catching them, acting more like winning them or buying them as a Gatcha ball. Also missing from this series of games is Pokémon’s iconic gameplay style, instead of an RPG with impressive battle mechanics we have a top-down “arena” style game in which you fight lots of other Pokémon by pressing “A” or “B”.
Each Pokémon does have different attacks and the amount of variation in damage and style of attack is rather decent (there are even stat-boosting attacks and healing attacks thrown in for good measure), but it is still incredibly simple – too simple. And that is the main complaint about the game, it is simply far too simple and uninspired; the most complicated it gets is when stage hazards are thrown into the mix, which often make the game seem just a little frustrating.
Now, to make the game more challenging and interesting, there are challenges in each stage that, when achieved, give you rewards such as rarer and more powerful Pokémon. Indeed, each Pokémon has a power level, and the higher it is, the stronger your Pokémon is. However, while a lot of these challenges are simple, there are ones that just seem too difficult to achieve, even for gaming veterans; this is thanks to what I think is a lack of communication from the game.
You can “catch” Pokémon by defeating them in a fight, and while a lot of the time this is incredibly easy, you just never seem to catch some Pokémon, no matter how hard you try, and there is no way of knowing how. The developers could have made it clearer how you are meant to catch some of the Pokémon, but I suppose this would’ve decreased difficulty and replay value.
Despite this, replay value doesn’t seem that important for this game as its overly simplistic gameplay and storytelling is just dull. There’s nothing quite like seeing a game with poor graphics struggling with frame-rate either: something this game manages to achieve when hundreds of enemies appear on the screen.
However, it is not all bad news with Pokémon Rumble U, as although the game is for the most part dull, it can be a bit of fun sometimes, especially when playing with buddies or family. And, incredibly, its Amiibo-like functionality is pretty good fun. Levelling up your personal, physical Pokémon toys with cash collected in the game feels rather rewarding despite not really adding anything particularly meaningful to the experience.
Pokémon Rumble U suffers badly from its overtly simplistic nature, in all tenets of its design and it can get a little frustrating at times especially when it comes to the challenges. Its ugly graphics and at times poor frame-rate only go to further ruin the experience which, at its best, offers small doses of mild fun, but not nearly enough of them.
With a more fleshed-out experience the Pokémon Rumble series can be decent, but stripped down to its basics, as it is here, I can’t really recommend it.