Review: Digimon All-Star Rumble (PS3)

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Title: Digimon All-Star Rumble
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (393 MB)
Release Date: November 11, 2014
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Developer: Prope
Original MSRP: $39.99
ESRB Rating: E10+
Digimon All-Star Rumble is also available on Xbox 360.
The PlayStation 3 disc version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Releasing a brawler in the same month as a new Smash Bros. is certainly a bold move. Even if you had a groundbreaking new fighting game with flawless mechanics, stacking it up against Nintendo’s behemoth is naive. Digimon All-Star Rumble – a brand which has been absent from the US and Europe for a decade – has arguably been sent on a suicide mission. So, why has this game even been made?

Digimon is an anime series from 1999, which involved seven kids being transported to the digital world. When there, they are each paired with a Digimon (digital monster) and travel through this new universe together, battling to stop the evil Digimon who are plotting to take over the real world. That brief summary doesn’t do justice to an interesting, emotive, and complex narrative (well, for a young audience at least) – which is why the show has such a cult following. It was a story that stuck in the mind.

Unlike the mass market Pokemon franchise, Digimon petered out into a small but vocal fanbase in the West. In recent years, some apparently excellent RPGs based on the original series have been released in Japan, but Bandai Namco has been reluctant to localise them in English. Enter All-Star Rumble, an ensemble fighter which is exclusively available outside its homeland.

Gameplay:
Does it live up to the potential of being the ultimate love letter to Western Digimon fans? Regrettably, no. Developer Prope certainly knows the IP and has some promising ideas but the execution is poor. It has the feel of a small-budget title in need of higher production values and more time to polish.

The fighting is not as satisfying as it should be, thanks to some unresponsive controls and sluggish movement. Characters move around the screen ponderously which causes them to get caught by an opponent’s attack whilst manoeuvring into a desired position. Often, your Digimon will be facing the wrong direction or take an age to respond to a flick of the Analog Stick. For what should be a fast-paced brawler, the flaws in control really detract from the gameplay experience. It’s also somewhat easy to get caught in a loop with seemingly no escape from a barrage of hits.

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However, All-Star Rumble is very easy to pick up. Standard melee is on Square, counter uses Circle, and Triangle executes a ranged attack. Thankfully, the latter cannot be spammed since launching projectiles from across the map is only possible a couple of times before needing to be recharged. The recharging is done by landing melee hits, so in order to be successful, the game forces players into being varied with their offensive arsenal. Defensively, the block seems to be a little too effective. For many encounters in the story mode I found I could simply hold R1 to shield myself from almost any attack.

One of the major aspects of Digimon is Digivolving (think Pokemon’s evolution, but only temporarily for each battle, rather than a permanent alteration), but Prope hasn’t incorporated the mechanic overly well. Instead of moving through each stage (Rookie-Champion-Ultimate-Mega), players either fill up a meter or collect a power-up which appears on the stage to briefly become an arbitrary Digivolved form.

By that I mean it’s inconsistent – some turn into Ultimates whilst most are Megas. It’s nothing to do with an appearance in the original series either – for example, Biyomon Mega Digivolves into Phoenixmon, even though it never made it on TV. Meanwhile Tentomon cannot become his final form, HerculesKabuterimon. And yes, it is pretty damn embarrassing/worrying/impressive (delete as applicable depending on your level of nerd) that I can still instantly recall these names and Digivolution patterns.

The other power-ups available mid-match work quite well. It’s one of many facets of Digimon All-Star Rumble which suggest the developers have some good attention to detail – for instance, one power-up is the same piece of meat which appeared in Digimon World on the PSOne. Match types are varied, with traditional point scoring joined by the likes of a capture-the-flag type affair. The actual fighting remains extremely samey and tedious though as the move variety is fairly low. Also, the camera (which cannot be controlled) is at times maddening.

A story mode has been included, which in fairness, the developers have put some effort into. This is not just a string of random fights, instead you’ll play through a mini, linear action game. There are some platforming elements and smaller scale battles against numerous enemies you may recognise from Season One. That said, the premise is not fantastic (basically, the Digimon became bored without humans so decided to have a fight tournament). Most fans would probably argue it should focus around a narrative where the player is one of the Digidestined.

Digimon-1

Visuals:
A spiritual successor the Digimon Rumble Arena titles, the game almost looks like it was made straight after the last PS2 game. It’s not overly terrible thanks to the colourful graphical style, but the evidently low budget makes this seem like an early PS3 title rather than one at the end of the powerful console’s life-cycle. Some textures are very poor indeed and most of the environments are uninspired.

On the plus side, the character models are largely excellent – the original series’ main cast especially have been faithfully recreated. As evidenced by the screenshots, some Digimon from the newer Japanese series have been included too and they do create a varied roster in terms of appearance. The major stumbling block is the small quantity – only twelve monsters have been produced – which again plays into the lack of depth.

Audio:
Sadly, none of the brilliant music from the original show has made it in, nor have the voice actors. Generally, the audio is instantly forgettable. The sound effects don’t infuriate and the music isn’t awful, but there’s nothing good here either.

Online/Multiplayer:
Disappointingly, local multiplayer is not much more exciting than playing alone. For a game of this type, battling against friends should be the main selling point, but the repetitive nature of the gameplay is too strong. There is no online component whatsoever. With Digimon fans being few and far between, this absence is a significant one.

Digimon-3

Conclusion:
For those who are not Digimon fans, this isn’t a game to convert you – there is absolutely no reason to purchase this game. This is an average brawler which disappoints through its repetitive nature, lack of online play, and unresponsive controls. It runs out of its fun factor after just one playthrough of the story and is extremely shallow.

However, for the series’ long-suffering Western fanbase, the initial rush of nostalgia may be worth the price of admission. Enthusiasts will also obviously take more joy from plodding through with each character to collect all of the Digicard modifiers.

There’s the looming carrot of Digimon Adventure 03 too. A sequel to the fantastic original two Seasons is finally being made, but it may be a while before we receive an English dubbed version (if at all). If this game sells strongly, that decision will potentially become a no-brainer. Taking the game at face-value though, All-Star Rumble is a missed opportunity either to serve as a definitive title to old fans or to attract new generation.

Score:
5.0

* All screenshots used in this review were provided by the publisher.

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Written by Raj Mahil

Game collector. Journalism graduate. Batman addict. Movie goer. WWE nut. Sports obsessive. Arsenal fan. Squawka.com Sub-Editor.

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