Whenever embarking upon a journey through a Pokémon game in general, I firstly ask myself whether or not it is a main-title game. If the answer is yes, then I unequivocally know that I’m in for quite the entertaining adventure. If the game is a spin-off, I always find myself struggling to accept what the game is offering me. Luckily, Pokemon Rumble Blast is a title that hails from the better side of the fence that sits smack in the middle of the good/bad divide of Pokémon spin-offs. It isn’t a remarkably pretty title, and it didn’t compel me to perform cartwheels of joy in the street in celebration of my feelings towards it, but the game is based on a playful premise and alternate battle format and I quite enjoyed the whole thing. This enjoyment is to such an extent that I quite look forward to a sequel of the game, and I wouldn’t mind getting out in the open air some thoughts and ideas on what would make a Pokemon Rumble Blast 2 a title to behold. The open air in this case is the internet, and it is up to you whether you breathe it in or not: this is a metaphor for reading what I’ve written.
Even though the general idea is that (within the confines of this game, at least) the Pokémon exist as a lovely, collectable set of wind-up toys in order to be amassed and replaced with ones which are of more benefit to your battling efforts, the models simply aren’t that great to look at. I mentioned in the opening paragraph that the original game isn’t pretty, and the graphical representations of the Pokémon in the game are my motivation for making this comment, and I don’t think I can be blamed for thinking so. After all, the Pokémon you encounter in the game don’t look to be anything more than a collection of polygons of various colours that have undergone a very brief makeover to make them look kind of similar to the Pokémon they are representing. Truth be told, they kind of look like an artist’s impression of Pokémon as we know them, with the artist being a young child whose drawings belong wedged under a series of financial paperwork attached to the fridge.
Too basic: Pokémon models are lacking in aesthetic appeal
We could definitely do with some higher-quality models of each Pokémon that look about as nice as the hardware limits will allow. Pokemon Rumble Blast 2 would benefit greatly from taking a leaf from the book of the Pokédex 3D Pro, whose relatively beautiful 3D representations of each of the creatures does the Pokémon world considerably more justice, at least in the visual sense. Judging by the pitiful malformations of Pokemon Rumble Blast, they should forget the leaf and take the entire book from the Pokédex 3D Pro, since one of the most intriguing aspects of Pokémon in general is the astounding number of creatures available, as well as the individual nuances and characteristics of each of these creatures. Perhaps if there were some impressive battle animations specific to each move which took advantage of the 3D platform the game is based on, then we could have forgiven the relatively plain nature of the graphics in general.
It almost made me sad to see the graphics of Pokemon Rumble Blast reduce the Pokémon (as well as their surroundings) to a collection of plain, poorly-represented shapes , which is apparently justified by the context of the game in which they are referred to as ‘toys’. Sticking the occasional wind-up key animation in before boss battles and telling us that this is a ‘toy Pokémon world’ does not justify the frankly terrible aesthetics of each Pokémon. I look forward to better representations of these poor creatures, as well as some lovely new move-specific animations in the sequel.
Return to traditional Pokémon Values
Though some of the core principles of Pokémon are present in the game such as the inclusion of almost an entire Pokédex’s worth of creatures, as well as the requirement of collecting them up for the purposes of assembling a team of them for your own battling purposes, the heart of the Pokémon main games really just isn’t there. My reasoning for this statement is that the assembly of your team is almost entirely dependent on the Pokémon that are given to you in each area as opposed to the traditional Pokémon procedure of being able to pick and choose which ones to catch, train and nurture into your very own well-crafted battle battalion. Essentially, skilled selection and training has been replaced by luck-of-the-draw scavenging for Pokémon in order to fit the parameters of being a more simplistic, spin-off title.
The Pokémon magic doesn’t have to be lost forever, however! Pokemon Rumble Blast 2 could easily become a title that would excited the Pokémon strategist if only more emphasis were to be placed on building up a team of creatures that you kept for longer and invested more effort into developing. While the constant acquisition of higher-level Pokémon doesn’t necessarily have to be scrapped, a system could run in parallel to this in which instead of acquiring new versions of Pokémon you already own when you pick up their toy form on the ground, you simply collect experience points/power points from these toys instead. These power points could work in a similar way to experience points in the main-series games, being accumulated over time and raising your Pokémon’s level occasionally. This way, more emphasis would be placed on strategy and development of your own personalised team instead of merely having to rely on the Pokémon that are handed to you occasionally.
Sorry, we’re all out of Complexity
Though the pick-up-an-play simplicity of Pokemon Rumble Blast is one of its more attractive features, the satisfaction derived from the instantaneous action – which is initially quite rewarding – soon fades and stands quivering in the shadow of its own simplicity. While fast-paced action is desirable in any game, it soon becomes monotonous if the action follows too much of a linear pattern: it effectively becomes a victim of its own straightforwardness, and this game suffers quite badly as a result. After a few cycles of entering a new section, exploring the Pokémon-containing areas in each and facing off with a larger version of the regular-sized Pokémon that is the boss, you soon realise that the whole thing is the gaming equivalent of copy-and-paste. This linear gameplay needs a bit of shaking up, and what better time to do this than in the sequel?
Repeatedly exploring similar areas becomes monotonous
One of the most obvious ways to shake up the gameplay in a Pokemon Rumble Blast 2 would be to include a selection of mini-games or activities that either branch off from the main “storyline’ or perhaps even run in parallel to the repetitive, explorative procedure of the main game. In a similar vein to the supplementary/secondary activities of Pokémon White and Black Version 2 such as the Pokémon World Tournament and Pokéstar studios, Pokemon Rumble Blast 2 could include some mini-games which incorporate the real-time battle format of the game with activities such as Pokémon outbreaks (where rare Pokémon can be found) or mini trainer battles in which items such as TMs or HMs could be won, giving the Pokémon a chance to learn moves that they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to acquire.
Having criticised the game’s aloofness from the sentiment of Pokémon in general, why not kill two Pidgeys with one stone and have us revisit the Pokémon gyms of the main series, albeit in a different format? The storyline is already fairly shaky at best; therefore it wouldn’t take a huge leap of gaming-logic to incorporate some gym leaders from Pokémon’s past. Pokémon Stadium had ‘Gym Leader Castle’, which afforded the player an opportunity to take a break from the main stadium-based gameplay in order to go up against eight Kanto gym leaders. A sideshow of this nature in Pokemon Rumble Blast 2 would be a huge step towards making the gameplay a little more varied and complex for the player while simultaneously weaving in some familiar characters to establish a more definite link with the main series of games.
One of the largest failings of Pokemon Rumble Blast is in its overly-simplistic battle mechanics: the Pokémon are only able to learn two moves, with no provision for any truly special attacks, or any super-powered or interesting movements besides the regular-pace dodging afforded to you by means of the D-pad. A sequel to the game would most definitely hold considerably more appeal if the mechanics were changed up a little, with Pokémon having the ability to learn some devastating moves learned by investing your time into training it, and the movement of the Pokémon themselves being given more variety than the simple directional shuffles which they are currently limited to.