Pokemon is such a strong franchise that even most of the spin-offs can stand on their own. The core generational releases are among my favorite RPGs, but the Game Boy Color Trading Card Game, the Mystery Dungeon series, and Pokemon Snap are some of the most enjoyable games I’ve ever played due to the amount of care that goes into them.
Then there’s the Pokemon Rumble series.
Pokemon Rumble U (Wii U)
Release: August 15, 2013
The Rumble sub-franchise itself is a bit of an odd prospect, involving wind-up toys that battle each other, often for mundane reasons. Rumble U is even more linear than past Rumble titles (Pokemon Scramble in Japan) in that it’s essentially a level-based arena game, pitting you against other foes in closed areas. The “battle” system (if you call it that) relies on two buttons, tied to two specific attacks based on the character.
So for instance, the crabby Kingler might have a physical (normal) and water attack given his characteristics from the actual games, and he’ll do additional “super effective” damage to fire Pokemon. But once you realize that Rumble U basically throws any strategic elements out the window early on, you’ll realize that the game is a mash-fest with one minor “advanced” tactic: occasionally moving behind bosses to avoid frontal area damage. If you pick up enough crystal power-ups on any given map, you can touch the screen to unleash a circular shooting attack, but more often than not you won’t need it.
Nearly every level goes through the same motions as the one before it: you fight a few waves of minions, then a boss character with more minions, then you’re rewarded with a screen full of coins — done and dusted. Then you move on to the next level, rinse and repeat.
That’s it, essentially. You mash two buttons (often one), occasionally skirt around hazards, and tap the screen for a super attack when you remember that it’s there. All of the levels are so similar that they tend to blend together, and as you progress along your journey you’ll earn more Pokemon to play as and put on your team. It’s very basic, and at times, I felt like I was playing the game level over and over and had to take a break.
Even still, provided that you don’t mind occasionally playing a mindless mash-heavy game it’s a decent amount of fun in shorter spurts — especially with friends. Four-player local co-op is supported with player one on the GamePad the other three commanding Wii Remotes, and given the fact that you can compete for the most amount of points, it makes things more enjoyable.
Off-TV/Remote Play is also fully supported at all times, making it the perfect game to mess around with while you’re watching something else in the background. If the Miiverse is your thing, pressing L and R also allows you to instantly take and share screenshots, which is convenient.
For those of you who aren’t aware, there are also physical toys to go along with the game which I explain more in-depth here. But don’t fret — they’re not required at all to fully enjoy Pokemon Rumble U. You can still eventually get all the Pokemon your heart desires through normal gameplay, it’s just that these figures allow you to customize them, provided you have them in toy form.
As the first ever game to officially support the Wii U GamePad’s NFC technology without an outside device (like a Skylanders USB Portal of Power) it works well, and demonstrates the versatile nature of the GamePad in a big way. In short, the toys are a nice little addition to the game that don’t really detract from Rumble U, and add a tiny bit of fun should you decide to pick up the cheaply priced collectibles.
Only the most die-hard of arcade fans should take part in Pokemon Rumble U, and it helps if you’re going to explore the physical side of the game. It’s overly simplistic, but the constant amount of positive reinforcement and sheer amount of content unlocks may keep you going should you charge through the monotony.