The latest game in the renowned Pokemon franchise, a free-to-play action game called Pokemon Rumble World, has been out for around two weeks now and I’ve spent a good deal of time finding, battling, and collecting Pokemon toys. At its best the game offers up fun, addictive gameplay not unlike a child’s version of Diablo: at its worst the game feels boring and limited. But I have hope the game can be better, the game can be what Pokemon Conquest was to strategy RPGs: an introduction title for a new generation of fans to the awesome world of action RPGs. There’s hope for this series Nintendo. Hope and an aspiration to make it something special, something truly worthy of the Pokemon moniker.
Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat: Pokemon Rumble World is a free-to-play game for the 3DS, and as such as many characteristics of F2P games. These include limited lives governed by waiting an allotted amount of time or purchasing more with actual money, rewards for playing daily, and simple yet approachable gameplay. Honestly these all work fine, and are something inherent to the classification of games and are not what I want to focus on here. What I do what to focus on are the good, the bad, and the missing aspects of this game.
It could (and should) be like Diablo for kids
Yeah, Diablo isn’t the greatest name for a game to be marketed toward kids, but when looking critically at action RPGs the Diablo series is the pinnacle of perfection. Pokemon Rumble World has many aspects in common with Blizzard’s epic series, such as the top-down perspective, one button (essentially) attacks, collecting items to improve your character (or in this case collecting more Pokemon), and getting into large, one-sided scuffs with enemies. It’s straightforward, mindless fun that works on so many levels: I hit stuff, I beat stuff, I get more stuff. There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact it’s the foundation of many great and successful franchises.
With Pokemon Rumble World though, there could (and should) have been more. Most Pokemon you collect have one attack, based on the stat the Pokemon represents (i.e. Pikachu uses electrical attacks). Occasionally you’ll come across a Pokemon who has another unique ability, like a different based attack. Players should have more options than this. Having only one choice of attack just means I’m moving toward an enemy group and spamming the A button. What kind of gameplay challenge is that? What’s worse, you don’t even need to hit the A button, because if you run into your foe you’ll automatically attack them! With a bit more customization, which should absolutely be available based on the background of source franchise, the player could have more interaction with the world and the creatures in it.
The worlds could (and should) be more expansive
While moving through the stages and battling all kinds of Poke-mans you’ll notice something intriguing about each stages: there are no branching paths. The game is set up around visiting islands via hot air balloons. Each island has a theme, such as only containing Pokemon from specific regions (i.e. games) from the series, or primarily having only water-based Pokemon. Each time you visit the island you randomly get sent to a different location on said island containing specific Pokemon, meaning each visit you have a random chance of getting random Pokemon (which is totally alright by the whole Free to Play standard). Regardless of where you end up, you pretty much go through four or five locations before battling the boss. Each path to the end is identical. You only have one route to your goal, which is really nothing a Pokemon game.
The stages could (and should) have included some branching paths. The player already has a set path to the goal as outlined by the stage they’re currently in, so why not give a special path or two to explore? More past Pokemon games could have been referenced here by including obstacles like bushes that need to be “Cut” down before proceeding, something to make the player feel more interactive and part of the world. As it currently stands the game is rather mindless: you just go through the world on a set track and have nothing else to do. It’s kind of like Pokemon Snap… maybe that’s what they were going for. Huh…
There could (and should) be more interaction between players
Maybe a bigger multiplayer scene is further into the game, as I’ve only been able to play for about three or so hours, but the only interaction we have between players is in the form of StreetPass. It is pretty awesome to be able to tag other players and see their islands you can visit and catch even more Pokemon, but aside from having them take on the roles of NPCs in your town thingy, there isn’t much else to do here. I haven’t found too many local players I can tag, but thankfully an online tagging system lets me grab some people from across the globe and use in my game.
StreetPass and multiplayer functionality could (and should) have included more options with players. Maybe some free islands could unlock after getting so many tags. Or perhaps a player could tag someone who would simply give you a Pokemon from their collection instead of having you spend your hard earned diamonds (jewels?) in order to try to go to their island to get them. StreetPass is such a wonderful and unique feature of the 3DS I wish it were implemented more and in more creative ways.
This game could (and should) include multiple trainers at once
The idea of having multiple Pokemon trainers in the battlefield at once is hinted at with finding Miis you’ve tagged via StreetPass show up and give you items and powerups in a stage, but it isn’t fully realized. Even if it has to be done by the AI, other trainers could come with you on your journey and use their Pokemon to aid you in large scale battles! It’d be a change of pace for the game and one that would make the whole experience a lot more epic.
The game could (and should) include a feature that lets you bring a party of trainers into the battlefield. These areas would be designated as “team areas only” and would require you to form up groups of other trainers, because the Pokemon present on those islands would either be much stronger, or the island would house multiple times the regular amount of Pokemon, or, better yet, both!
Pokemon Rumble World is free to download and play, so these complaints are hard to really get upset about because I paid nothing for admittance. However, there are inklings of something amazing hidden within the game, and it only gets more hyped for what could have been. Overall Pokemon Rumble World is an average title with enough content to keep you playing for a few hours, but little to offer on the side of immersive gameplay. Check it out, play around with it, have fun for a few hours, then move on to bigger, better games.