I have a long history with Digimon — while I don’t pay attention to it as much as I used to, I was a big fan as a kid. I distinctly remember watching the first three series every Saturday morning along with a slew of other shows on Fox Kids which would later become Kids WB. I remember being super excited to see Digimon: The Movie, and when I did — oh, it didn’t disappoint.
But I never played a Digimon game, and so I thought Digimon All-Star Rumble would be an excellent point of entry into a franchise that I used to know and love. You see, I’ve heard of the Rumble Arena series, and I know that while I may have never played them myself — they’re still very popular with fans of the series, even nowadays. If you take a look at any promotional video on YouTube or check message boards like GameFAQs you’ll see those games are what people remember.
Since I haven’t played those games, I can’t tell you if this game is similar to them or not. What I can tell you though is that Digimon All-Star Rumble is a party game through and through, and while there is a story in there — it almost feels out of place. That’s not to say that the game doesn’t have its merits or that the story is thoroughly unenjoyable, because that’s not the case at all. The story while extremely minimal can actually be quite fun — though it does get a bit more difficult as you get closer to the end (and by a bit, I mean extremely — but we’ll get to that later).
To start off, there is a mandatory install, something I am not a big fan of. When you get to the menu, the game has three modes — Story, Battle and Training. You can pretty much imagine what the latter two are, but if not they represent the multiplayer and training portions respectively. There isn’t much to the training mode, and at just over an hour long — there isn’t much to the story either. Yes, one of the major problems I have with this game is that the story is quite possibly the shortest I’ve ever experienced.
There are a total of eight stages, and to start off you have four Digimon — Agumon, Gabumon, Shoutmon and Dorulumon. I chose Agumon because he was my favorite when I watched Digimon back in the day, and I think a lot of people that will be playing the game can relate, particularly if you’ve been a fan of the series since the beginning as I have. Once you pick your character you’re dropped into what the game calls the World Map. It’s more like an adventure mode where you walk around the stages and fight monsters while making your way to battle other Digimon.
The story itself revolves around a tournament in the Digiworld to find the strongest Digimon — there’s not much to it, though there is a plot twist later on which frankly wasn’t very interesting. The stages typically involve running around fighting other Digimon outside of the battle mode until you get to the next Digimon to challenge, who becomes unlocked once defeated. There aren’t a lot to unlock with the total being 12, though there may be a few more depending on whether or not you count the digivolutions you can unlock later on.
While each stage is different, they are all extremely linear in that there are probably only two paths to take at any given time — one of which usually leads to a treasure chest. There’s also some minimal platforming, and when I say minimal I do mean it. Most of the time you’re jumping to higher areas through the use of springs or just jumping up small steps. When you get into the battles though, that’s when the game gets really enjoyable. Unfortunately the computer players aren’t that fun to play against. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not very good at fighting games, in fact, if we’re being honest — I’m terrible at them. Even so, I usually don’t have any problems taking out computer opponents.
Not here however, and while you may think that’s because of the game’s difficulty — it’s not. It seems to me that the game’s difficulty is artificially increased. When battling computers for example, the artificial intelligence will at times spam the same move over and over, something I eventually got used to and learned to avoid (hint: it’s a good idea to not stand in the way of their attacks) but still ended up having problems with. When the enemies aren’t using the same attacks over and over, they’re grabbing the power-ups the instant they appear to kill you.
For that reason, it’s important to learn where the power-ups are and when they respawn — something the tutorial doesn’t teach you. Another big issue I had with this game is that while it isn’t too difficult to pick up, they just don’t give you all of the information you might need. For example, my very first fight in the story mode had the enemy digivolving, something that I didn’t know how to do. Not only did I not know how to do it, but when the enemy digivolves it’s incredible difficult if not impossible to avoid their attacks.
If the enemy digivolves before you, there’s no chance of running unless you’re already on the other side of the map. For being a fighting game, there doesn’t seem to be much mobility. Maybe I just don’t fully grasp the game’s mechanics — and it’s entirely possible given that I haven’t played a fighting game in years, but I had a rough time defeating my opponents at first.
It’s a problem that only got worse, because on the last few levels there’s a difficulty spike unlike anything I’ve ever seen. This isn’t your average increasing difficulty we’re talking about — no, the final level is probably the length of all levels before it combined. Oh yeah, and there’s no checkpoints either which means that if you die, you’re doing it again.
Thankfully that only happens on the final level, because the rest of the levels are a breeze, but that one instance alone is enough to make you frustrated. I’ve been reading a lot of forums, and it seems like I’m not the only one who thought that the difficulty climb at the end was far too steep. It’s a common thing. There’s no difficulty level that you can change either, so you’re stuck with it. By the end of the game I was so frustrated that I didn’t feel like playing the story through again, at least not in the same sitting.
There are a variety of battle modes, all of which you experience over the course of the story — but all of them manage to be equally frustrating thanks to the cheap AI. The interesting thing about the battles is that while there seems to be a system in place to avoid infinite combos, it doesn’t really help. I’ve had the computer spam attacks at me while I was down and ended up getting caught in a combo the instant I was back up. It can be rather disheartening, and it seems that the best way to win any battle is to digivolve.
I mentioned that the game doesn’t teach you how to do that, and it doesn’t — but there’s something else the game doesn’t teach you, something I didn’t learn until I looked at my moves list during the final battle. You gain the ability to digivolve when your gauge fills up, but if you fill it up again while you’re digivolved you can also launch a devastating cinematic ultimate attack. Some people might not have a problem with the lack of important tutorials, but looking at the environment for video games now I’ve come to expect it.
Once you finish the story and unlock other Digimon, you can run through it again and try to unlock the final three — something which I didn’t do and instead read about. Sure, the story is only an hour and a half, but it’s an hour and a half of pure torture — at least it was for me. It makes me wish that I could play the game against people instead of computers, but unfortunately you aren’t able to do that unless you get people in the same room. That’s right, there’s no online multiplayer — and that’s a real shame because to me, the multiplayer is where the game shines.
It’s the lack of online multiplayer that makes me question the longevity of Digimon All-Star Rumble, what do you do once you’ve finished the story? Well, you can collect cards which you can equip to your Digimon and occasionally use during battle by collecting the currency or finding them in the story mode, or you can go for the platinum — but that’s it. Sure, you could replay the story and yes, it’s not that long.. but do you really want to do that? I sure didn’t. It’s a shame that Digimon All-Star Rumble is the game that was chosen to bring Digimon video games back to the western market, and it’s a shame that it’s the first Digimon video game I’ve had the chance to play.
While the gameplay can be both complex and fun, it’s bogged down by a short story and lack of online functionality. If you’re a solo player, you won’t find as much enjoyment in this game, and that’s unfortunate. As I mentioned earlier, Digimon All-Star Rumble is a party game and if you don’t have any friends with a mutual interest in Digimon, you might want to try renting it first. The game comes at a slightly lower $39.99 price point, but even that isn’t enough for me to recommend it to anyone other than the most dedicated Digimon fan.
There are old characters, new features, a decent move set for each fighter and a plethora of stages and battle modes — but unless you have friends, you won’t be able to experience them to their fullest. If there’s one thing I’ve gotten out of this game, it’s that I need to watch Digimon Adventure again. It’s a good thing that it’s available on Netflix.
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Platform: PlayStation 3/Xbox 360
Release Date: November 11th, 2014 (NA), November 14th, 2014 (EU)
- A surprisingly deep move list
- $39.99 at retail
- Roster features recognizable characters both old and new
- The first Digimon game in over 6 years
- Cheap AI will repeatedly use the same move
- There is a massive difficulty spike towards the end
- A bad camera angle makes it difficult to see during large battles
- A short story that clocks in at just under an hour and a half
Disclaimer: A copy of Digimon All-Star Rumble for the PlayStation 3 was provided to BentoByte by Bandai Namco for the purpose of review.