It’s been a long time since a Digimon game has graced North America. That honor belongs to the Nintendo DS’ Digimon World Championship, which was released over six years ago. As such, it’s no surprise that fans have become a little antsy about getting another game in the series. So antsy, in fact, that they banded together earlier this year to launch a petition known as “Operation Decode” in an attempt to localize Digimon World Re:Digitize Decode and Story Cyber Sleuth. While that campaign has so far proved unsuccessful, it did reach over fifty thousand signatures and make Bandai Namco take notice. As such, the publisher announced Digimon All-Star Rumble for release just months later. Oddly enough, this Digimon game would not be a localization but instead a title currently exclusive to the west. A spiritual successor to the Digimon Rumble Arena series, All-Star Rumble is looking to revitalize the series the only way it knows how: by being the Digimon game nobody asked for.
Somewhat surprisingly, All-Star Rumble features a Story Mode. Probably not the best name for it, as it boils down to less than a few pages of text. The game begins in a digital world that has regained peace. Although some Digimon still have their quarrels, the world is calm and friendly until one day a horrible force invaded the Digital World: boredom. Apparently the Digimon become so frustrated with boredom that peace no longer meant happiness and they decided to beat each other up. That’s literally the plot of the game; you can’t make this stuff up. The mode lets players choose a Digimon (including such familiar faces as Agumon,Gabumon, Shoutmon, Dorulumon, Veemon and Tentomon) and battle their way through the Digital Monster Evolution Tournament. While there’s technically a different story for every Digimon, it’s only by means of a few different images and lines of text; every story plays out the same. Instead of cutscenes, however, players are presented with a handful of static images and scrolling, unvoiced text.
The story mode sees players progress through several environments ranging from a factory to a volcano in search of other Digimon to defeat. Everything up to the Digimon battle itself is completely worthless, boiling down to a series of weak enemies that are fought in tiny locked squares. Not including the battles, each area could probably be fully explored in under a minute, so suffice it to say, they’re incredibly small. Once the Digimon contenders are reached, a battle is fought the same way they’re fought outside of the story mode. While fighting games generally don’t have the best story modes, this one just feels like a pointless chore. The only purpose of even playing through it is to collect Bits (the game’s currency) that can be used to purchase Digicards, which are playing cards containing the name and likeness of a Digimon that boost abilities.
Gameplay itself — which can be accessed quicker through Battle Mode — is along the likes of Super Smash Bros. There are multiple combos that can be utilized, but realistically, it boils down to a button masher. There’s simply not varied enough combat to spend time training and learning when to best use combos to make it worthwhile. Stages are too confined and poorly rendered with hardly any dynamic elements and just a few platforms. The only thing that adds any intrigue are points that spawn power-ups, but these take a lot of strategy out of the game for those who actually would (for whatever misguided reason) want to master combos.
Digimon All-Star Rumble isn’t the game fans deserve nor is it the one they needed right now. In the past four years alone, Re:Digitize, Adventure and Lost Evolution have been released in Japan, all of which are more interesting than this rehash of a ten year old PS2 game. While Bandai Namco should be applauded for bringing the franchise back out west, this ultimately might be a disservice to it if they’re using it as barometer to test sales for future localization. While serviceable, it’s not worthwhile enough to deserve a pass simply to show support for the series; put aside all of the baggage it carries along with it and you’re left with a bog standard fighter. With bargain basement production values, mediocre visuals, boring gameplay and a substantial lack of features, there’s no reason to experience it. Adding salt to the wound is the fact that it’s for all intents and purposes a threequel to a mediocre clone of Super Smash Bros. Melee released the same month as the current-generation version of that series will debut. As hard as it may be to hear, it’s time to go back to the
Version Reviewed: PlayStation 3