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Digimon All-Star Rumble

Platform(s): PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Genre: Action
Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
Release Date: Nov. 11, 2014 (US), Fall 2014 (EU)

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


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PS3 Review - 'Digimon All-Star Rumble'

by Brian Dumlao on Dec. 26, 2014 @ 12:30 a.m. PST

Digimon All-Star Rumble is a thrilling party-arena multiplayer game.

For a time, Digimon was up there with Pokémon in terms of awareness. It might not have been as wildly popular as Pikachu and friends, but it did have a long-running show, an assortment of games, merchandise, and a theatrical movie before bowing out of the American marketplace. In Japan, the franchise has kept moving along with new anime, manga, and a few games on portable systems. The 15th anniversary of the series is coming up and a new anime based on that series is expected in 2015, so Bandai Namco decided the time was right to bring a Digimon game back to North America. Instead of going for RPG adventures on the portable systems, however, we got a fighting game, Digimon All-Star Rumble.

The basic fighting mechanics mimic the original Power Stone. You pick any one of 12 characters and duke it out in your choice of 10 different arenas, each with multiple elevated levels to fight in. Your goal is to beat all of the energy from your opponent to knock them out, and that's accomplished with a combination of light, heavy and projectile attacks. In addition to your own attacks, you can pick up power-ups on the field to get a temporary advantage, such as increased size or having a slow-moving missile home in on your target. Connecting with moves also builds up a third meter; when triggered, it lets you "digivolve" into your higher form for a larger health meter, stronger attacks, and limited access to an ultimate attack.

Digimon All-Star Rumble does something interesting with the projectiles: It ties the use to a special move meter, limiting the amount of times you can use it per bout unless you mix in some melee attacks to refill it. Aside from the prevention of projectile spam, the game also lets you buy and use cards to augment your digimon. The cards can only be purchased with in-game currency, and they come with a set of effects, like a small health refill or a damage buff for a limited amount of time. The card mechanic also comes with an interesting side effect in that fighting with someone else who has also equipped a card leads to a cut scene where stats are compared, and the one with the higher stats can turn the match around or get a bigger skirmish advantage.

There are a bevy of issues with the fighting mechanics. Character movement is rather sluggish, as all of the characters feel like they're fighting underwater instead of on dry land. Each character also feels too similar to one another. Their moves look the same, so fighting with Gatomon feels the same as fighting with Shoutmon. It also doesn't help that there's no sense of depth in the fighting system, especially since practically every match can be won with button-mashing. Unlike other fighting games with simple mechanics, there's no sense of nuance here, and fights against other humans can also quickly become very boring.

Simple fighting mechanics can be good if the environments manage to make fights more exciting, but that isn't the case here. There are a few stages that feature exciting things like a subway train that passes by and hits people on the track, or a giant fan constantly pushing fighters toward a set of conveyor belts leading to a pit, but for the most part, levels are multi-tiered areas with a few places that contain power-up spawners. All of the levels are rather small, and while that may bolster chaos over strategy with the slow and simple fighting system, it feels like a mess here.

Digimon All-Star Rumble is split into two main modes, with Battle Mode being the one built for multiplayer. You can battle with up to three other players in six different match types, and there's a random option if you want to surprise yourself. Point Battle has you whaling against your opponent until they expire. One point is taken away every time you get knocked out, and two points are given to you when you score the knockout blow. Damage Race starts counting up points up from the amount of damage you can inflict on others. Flag Battle gives you extra for having a flag in your possession longer than the other combatants. Survival takes away the timer but gives you lives, and once the stock has been depleted, the winner is the last one standing. Medal Battle follows up on that in reverse, as each knockout can earn a medal, with the goal of reaching the desired medal count before others. Finally, Bomb Battle follows Survival mode's rule set but straps everyone with a bomb. The more damage you inflict, the longer it takes for your bomb to explode. Those on the receiving end of a beating will see their fuses cut short with every hit.

Despite the number of match types available, none feel very different. Knocking out other players always guarantee you a win. Flag Battle is a perfect example, as you don't really need the flag to win the match. Simply hitting any player gives you a great amount of points compared to when you hold the flag, so the rules are window dressing more than something you need to heed. There's no need to change tactics depending on the fight type, and the different modes only feel like a formality.

The other big mode is Story, and it comes equipped with a premise that can be described as quizzical. Peace has prevailed over the digital world, and its inhabitants have enjoyed it after many years of conflict. The nature of digimon is to evolve for short periods of time, and that evolution only occurs during combat, so everyone falls into a state of boredom. To combat the boredom, they decide to hold a tournament to see who is the strongest. You later discover that there is a bigger, more serious purpose for the tournament, but it's a flimsy idea that this was done because peace caused boredom.

Odd premise aside, the mode tries to do something different other than throwing you into a series of matches against other opponents. Each stage is presented as a small adventure, similar to Skylanders, where levels carry different themes and there are traps to overcome and switches to unlock gates areas. Sections of each level have enemies to fight and a few mini-bosses, all of which yield coins when defeated. Coins can also be gained by destroying barrels and crates. Monitoring your health and energy levels becomes important, since you'll start each fight with whatever you had left.

The addition of adventure elements is fine, but like the fighting, it doesn't work that well. The areas of exploration are rather small, there aren't any secrets to uncover, and the gated fights are rather predictable. Mini-bosses are nice but, much like the main fights, there isn't much strategy to employ. As progress is made, the game doesn't make enemies smarter, but it just throws more enemies at you. The reward for defeating each of these tougher enemies is so small that it doesn't feel worthwhile. It makes the mode feel like padding, and the lack of any real change to the story when using different characters almost makes you wish that the developers had gone with the genre's standard consecutive match format instead of halfheartedly trying something different.

Graphically, Digimon All-Star Rumble is serviceable. The character models look fine and animate well for the most part. The particle effects and backgrounds look decent enough, but the blurry textures make it look more like a middle-era PS2 title than something coming so late in the PS3 cycle. The frame rate barely makes it to 30 fps consistently, so the game feels more sluggish than it already is, and the lack of a frame rate cap means you'll have a few places where it jumps to 60 before diving back to middle 20s again. One element that poses a problem is the camera, which can pull back and get jerked at bad times during fights. When another fighter respawns or when a power-up appears, the sudden shift that occurs is disorienting. While exploring in Story mode, the camera can be placed in angles that make it more cinematic but are detrimental to the player since they can't get a good bead on some environmental hazards. This is compounded by the lack of transparency on some objects during these scenes.

As for the sound, the effort behind it is minimal. The effects are decent, but the soundtrack is pretty generic. There are a number of different tunes used for each environment and battle, but none are memorable. What's surprising is the scant use of voice. The announcer, which is something that seems standard for a fighting game, is completely absent. The digimon only repeat a few phrases and grunts throughout the course of a bout. Only a small number of voice actors reprise their roles for the game. The rest of the voices are handled by actors that sound nothing like the original cast, so fans are robbed of some fan service in this licensed title.

To put it bluntly, Digimon All-Star Rumble simply exists. The fighting is rather shallow but has no other exciting gimmicks or modes to improve things. The character roster is small, and the level selection is equally unimpressive. The presentation is fine, but you can tell that the bare minimum was put into it, and the lack of online play and a nonsensical story give you the feeling that this title was rushed out for a quick buck. Even die-hard Digimon fans will find very little to relish in this western-only release. For everyone else, many other fighting games can provide a more satisfying experience.

Score: 4.5/10

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