Pokémon Rumble U (Video Game Review)

Pokémon Rumble U is the newest release for a relatively unknown series. While the original Pokémon series is all about capturing and training monsters found in the wild on the player's path to the Elite Four, the Pokémon Rumble series debuted in 2011 with Pokémon Rumble Blast for Nintendo 3DS and offered some button mashing fun that only the biggest fans of the Pokémon series could appreciate. Pokémon Rumble U suffers from many of the same flaws as its predecessor and compounds the problems of the original with a price tag that will be out of many people's budget. The game itself only costs $17.99, but with each toy adding another $4 to the overall investment and 649 Pokémon to collect in the game, fans looking to purchase 'em all will likely go broke long before reaching their goal.

Pokémon Rumble U doesn't feature much of a storyline with the main plot seeming more like something stolen from the Toy Story film series rather than borrowed from Pokémon lore. After an accident at the Toy Pokémon Shop, some toys are stranded far from their home and must battle their way back to the friendly confines of the shop. The game utilizes toy Pokémon figures that grossly resemble their handheld counterparts, and the toys can be brought to life in the game via the NFC reader on the Nintendo Wii U gamepad. The process is very similar to the highly popular Skylanders series from Activision, but the idea is only copied and theory and isn't nearly as well developed as its original source. The toys also aren't much to look at with only a few of the smaller and cuter creatures such as Victini and Celebi looking good in their new toy forms, while some others are downright hideous.

The main gameplay in Pokémon Rumble U isn't completely terrible, but it is very repetitive and shallow. The entirety of the game is spent fighting in battle arenas where waves of Pokémon must be defeated to advance to a boss battle against a tougher and much larger boss Pokémon. The player is allowed to control only one Pokémon in battle, but players can take a team of four into battle to help with the fight, and up to three other players can join in cooperative sessions to control the three AI companions for a bit more fun. Once a battle has been completed, players can unlock capsules containing helpful items and unlock additional Pokémon to use in the game. In-game currency is also unlocked in fights and can be used to upgrade Pokémon with some RPG-like elements, but to attain the most powerful characters the game has to offer, an actual figure must be bought in retail stores in real life. It's optional for players to purchase additional figures for the game, since all Pokémon in the game can be unlocked without buying them, but the game is definitely a lot more enjoyable and easier to progress in with more toys.

Combat heavily relies on Pokémon equipping one or two attacks before heading into battle and forcing the player to aimlessly mash the A and B buttons on the way to victory. While the game does manage to include elemental attacks that can make fire attacks super effective against ice enemies or fire attacks not very effective against water creatures and the like, this is as deep as strategy goes in the new release. Except for occasionally dodging out of the way of a frontal assault of a boss encounter, players will already have determined which attack will be most effective in an encounter and will then continuously spam the button corresponding with that attack. Battles in the game feel more like a grind than actual fun, and since customization of characters isn't as fun as it should be, winning battles rarely feels rewarding.

As we stated earlier, Pokémon Rumble U features toys that aren't as appealing to collect thanks in large part to a unique aesthetic that makes them look too blocky and unattractive to be considered cute. This design choice is reflected in the game as well, and the arenas presented in the game don't offer many variants to help separate one mission from the next. There are some challenges in each battle that offer rewards for collecting the most items or defeating the most Pokémon, and the game does include every Pokémon since Pokémon Red and Pokémon Blue to collect to create some longevity for fans of the game, but only the most devoted Pokémon fans are likely to enjoy a game that strays so far from its roots and offers such stale gameplay.

Pokémon Rumble U that won't come close to challenging Skylanders for the best toy and video game collaboration and will likely simply be remembered as a ploy to get fans to spend hundreds of dollars on toys from their favorite video game series instead. Boring gameplay and other questionable design choices severely limits how much enjoyment fans can get from the new release. Nintendo Wii U is a system that is desperate to get some good games out on its marketplace and could definitely use some more great, original games for Nintendo eShop, but Pokémon Rumble U is not the answer Nintendo was hoping to find from this spin-off series. If you and your family are desperate for a game to hold you over until the release of Pokémon X&Y, then maybe think about picking up this release, otherwise dust off one of your older handhelds and relive the best moments from the rest of the Pokémon series instead.

Pokémon Rumble U is now available exclusively for Nintendo Wii U via Nintendo eShop. Pokémon Rumble U is rated E by the ESRB for Comic Mischief & Mild Fantasy Violence. For more information on the game, check out the official Pokémon Rumble U website.

Game Features:
  • Local Multiplayer 1-4
  • 649 Pokémon to Collect
  • Collectible Toy Figures
  • Unique Art Style
  • Hours of Arena Battles

  • Game Information:
    Developer: Ambrella
    Publisher: Nintendo
    Available exclusively for Nintendo Wii U  (reviewed)
    Release Date: August 29, 2013

    Score: 2 out of 10

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