Often playing second fiddle to Pokemon for many, Digimon actually came first through a variety of digital pets. Growing exponentially with a television series, card game, and toys, the franchise has also received a solid number of different video games over the years. Two in particular focused on the fighting aspect under the Digimon Rumble Arena name. Over a decade later, the spiritual successor has now arrived with Digimon All-Star Battle that has plenty of potential but overall feels quite unpolished.
Unlike Pokemon that focused on mostly one-on-one battles, Digimon has always been very different, thriving on battle royale like sequences in not only the television series, but also the video games. That is certainly no different here in Digimon All-Star Rumble, as up to four players have the opportunity to select from a roster of mostly Rookie level Digimon that can fight one another in battle, each of which have two further levels in which they can digivolve. The roster itself is pretty heavy on the nostalgic side, with half coming from the first season alone.
Disappointingly, Patamon and the fan favorite Angemon are completely left out alongside Palmon, while the other six main Digimon of the first season are included. Season two and three each get two representatives, but the fourth and fifth seasons receive none at all, unless you count Agumon twice for the latter. However, the most recent iteration of Digimon Fusion gets two characters to reach the younger gamers, who may have never watched the original series. The focus on the first season is completely unsurprising considering that the developer Prope previously worked on the Japanese exclusive PlayStation Portable game Digimon Adventure, which was based exclusively on the first season.
The digivolutions of each are somewhat unbalanced, as the levels obtainable here vary greatly in the world of Digimon, but still exhibit the same level of power to where they are competitive with one another. Digimon like Agumon and Gabumon can transform into the Mega forms they had on the show, while others like Gomamon and Biyomon have Mega forms that were never shown on the show available. Even lower leveled are Veemon and Wormmon, who only change into Champion level, though that is excused considering their evolutionary stages work a little differently. Something like this does not really detract from the game itself all that much, but for longtime fans the lack of consistency can be a little mind boggling.
With anywhere from two to four Digimon on the screen at one time, players will fight in one of six different match types, each with unique rules. These battles can either be in a free-for-all format or two vs. two as well. The 3D arena format almost can remind one of something like Power Stone, but the gameplay itself is quite different. Having six completely different battle types really helps to keep the game fresh and worth coming back for more to try them out to see which is the best for each person. These range from the more basic battle modes, where the player must get the most KOs in a set time span or finish off the health bar of an enemy, to a few that are more complex.
One of the most unique is a “king of the hill” scenario, where the players fight over control of a flag that will allow them to gain points by holding it, while being able to gain points quicker by attacking more. This is the most fun to play with friends, as it becomes a heated race to go after the one with the flag, allowing for quick partnerships and broken allegiances all in the short span of a match.
Between the different game types, the combat itself is pretty simplistic, but still detailed enough to allow for some fun. It certainly doesn’t reach the depth of a franchise like Super Smash Bros., but each Digimon still has a unique skill set associated with his or herself to where it doesn’t feel like every fighter is the exact same. Fans of the series will certainly recognize the variety of techniques each Digimon displays, pushing forward the notion that this game is built for that audience.
The various battle modes are technically customizable, but there is not much offered here. Similar to Super Smash Bros., usable items will pop up across the arena, though there are only a few in total. This seems like it could have been expanded upon to mix up the battle system a little more. Players have the option to turn the items off, but sadly do not have the ability to choose which they want in battle. Having the choice to have battles that exclusively use the missile or the quick digivolve item could have really made matches with friends all the more interesting.
Another aspect of the combat was the inclusion of equippable Digicards, a take on the popular collectible trading card game from back in the series’ prime. These cards can either be found during the game’s story mode or bought with the in-game currency from the main menu. The only major problem is that they are not explained in the least anywhere in the game on how they are used. The in-game tutorial screens are quite good at explaining everything else, but for some reason the Digicards are completely left out, leaving the player to figure it out for his or herself. As one of the more complicated elements of the game, this is something that really should have been spelled out.
While Digimon All-Star Rumble can be a lot of fun for friends to sit around locally and play, it is quite disappointing that the game is lacking online play. This is the kind of game that would be perfectly suited for quick online matches, with rooms made up of the different battle types. As a lower budget game that was built for the western audience, it is a little understandable as the market may not have quite been there to worry about online, but it still feels like something the game should have had.
The variety of battle modes that can be played against the computer or with friends may be the main attraction in Digimon All-Star Rumble, as is the case with most fighting games. However, the developer Prope also added in a story mode that was more than what you see in a lot of games in the genre. Rather than just a ladder of enemies to fight, the game features an adventure like setting where players can choose one of the available Digimon and fight enemies in a 3D environment across eight stages.
Digimon All-Star Rumble can be a lot of fun for friends to sit around locally and play
The battles against grunt Digimon, including ShellNumemon, Goblimon, and even Boltmon, are of the button mashing variety. However, the end of level boss showdowns are arena -based with the game types that are found in Battle Mode. Playing through story mode allows the player to experience these various types as a preview, which is quite useful to the player. The grunt battles are pretty uninspired, though a few of them do get very difficult later, which require a little more strategy.
Digimon All-Star Rumble’s story mode starts off extremely easy to where the first six or so stages can be completed in 30-45 minutes. However, once players hit stage seven, the difficulty increase is massive. With no save features outside of directly before the final boss, players will go through the gauntlet of many of the most difficult grunts in a row, likely causing a number of deaths. This difficulty spike is both a good and bad thing in a game like this. With the first six stages being so short and easy, increasing the difficulty to make it longer and more fulfilling is good for the player. However, the punishing jump is almost ridiculous, with even the most experienced of gamers struggling to finish the last stage.
The game’s story mode does have a chance to show off the visuals more so than the regular battle modes by seeing a few different environments. However, the visuals are just okay throughout. There is nothing terrible about the character models or environments, but even on a last generation console, it is nothing standout. The story mode settings almost feel like the very basic environments found in the recent Atelier series games, with the focus seemingly put elsewhere over the actual visual designs.
Digimon All-Star Rumble is a competent fighter with fairly unique battle types that seems held back by a quick turnaround time, leading to a somewhat bare bones experience. The Smash Bros.-esque gameplay can be fun with friends, though a lack of online play is pretty disappointing in this day and age. With a large focus on the original cast, Digimon All-Star Rumble serves as a nostalgia trip for fans, but ultimately is not going to be of interest to the typical gamer who has no history with the franchise.
Digimon All-Star Rumble
- Available On: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
- Published By: Bandai Namco
- Developed By: Prope
- Genre: Fighting
- US Release Date: November 11th, 2014
- Reviewed On: Xbox 360
- Quote: "Filled with a cast that will be familiar to long-time fans of the franchise, Digimon All-Star Rumble offers intriguing battle types that can be fun with friends, but sadly feels like it could have used a good bit more more development time."