Whether a fighting game roster is considered a “spoiler” is often up for debate among online communities. Super Smash Bros. often finds itself at the centre of this debate, the roster for which is usually revealed through carefully scheduled announcements, which were spoiled with a leak. Digimon All-Star Rumble‘s roster can tell you most of what you need to know about the game.
I watched Digimon as a kid, mostly Digimon Adventure, the first series. The anime continued on afterwards, each time changing out the cast of characters and the story. But it never seemed to be as popular as Digimon Adventure was. The western dub aired between 1999 and 2000, so rest assured, 90s kids know Digimon.
Of the twelve playable Digimon fighters in the game, six of them are from Digimon Adventure. That’s half of the game. Also, most of the original voice actors for the Digimon have returned to reprise their roles. Nostalgia definitely plays a big role in Digimon All-Star Rumble, and I have to admit it’s nice to be joined by the familiar Digimon of my past for (one last?) adventure. I can’t be doing with too many of these brand new Digimon like Shoutmon from Digimon Fusion, though he does make an appearance. I want to feel young again, and for the most part Digimon All-Star Rumble succeeds in this.
The story itself starts off vaguely depressing and somewhat dystopian. It’s a peaceful time in the Digital World, and the Digimon can just sit back and relax. But without the need for battle they cannot digivolve, which is a problem for some reason. The only way they can validate their existence seems to be through combat, given a literal representation via their digivolutions, their “evolutions”. Because of this a tournament is organised so they can all fight it out to discover who is the best. Towards the end the story hints at a wider problem behind the scenes, but, disappointingly, this is only touched upon as the game reaches its climax, and it feels like it finishes just as it’s about to get going. Could the game have been cut due to time constraints? I don’t know, but it sure does feel like it.
The gameplay itself is split in two. Firstly there are the levels where you run through a small dungeon type area with various themes: forest, industrial, coral, and that sort of thing. While making your way through these you will encounter weaker Digimon that you’ll have to fight. There are treasure chests containing DigiBits, and collectable DigiCards that you can use to customise your Digimon’s status effects. It’s all very reminiscent of the ill-fated Medabots Infinity, but without the gruelling slog and difficulty, and a lot shorter and more straightforward. You have to wonder why they’re even there except to add a marginal amount of padding. At least Medabots Infinity committed to what it was.
The main battles, or “rumbles”, I suppose, come at the end of each of those stages where you’ll encounter a fellow tournament participant waiting for you, depending on who you’re playing as. The brief exchange of dialogue is unique between each Digimon, which is a nice touch. Each of these battles can have a different set of rules. Sometimes you’ll need to inflict the most damage within the time limit, other times its the first to three kills, there’s even a capture the flag mode.
The combat itself is fairly limited. Each character has a handful of ground combos, air combos, and moves they can charge up which use expendable energy points. After a while you rack up your digivolution meter and can digivolve with a squeeze of the triggers to your ultimate form. From there you repeat the process to fill the meter for your best move, which you can only use while in your ultimate (well, actually, mega or higher) form. There’s really not much too it. Often the best solution is to wait for an opening and then spam your best combo over and over. The AI isn’t great so you’re mostly be able to trap them into some sort of loop, especially on capture the flag.
It’s an experience that feels a lot less like a fighting game and more like a collection of mini games in a party game. By no means does that have to be a bad thing. Digimon All-Star Rumble is a fun but very surface-level trip back to Digimon’s past, an echo of glory years that now seem spent out. It’s less of a fighting game like BlazBlue or even Super Smash Bros., and more like a collection of mini games for you to play with your friends. You can run about as Agumon and Gabumon with bombs on their back. Sometimes they’ll shout things at one another. And you know what? Sometimes, after so long without a truly great Digimon game like Digimon World or Digital Card Battle, you just need that.
I still love Digimon, and Digimon All-Star Rumble reminded me of that for a brief few hours. But all it’s left me wondering is “where’s the next thing?”
Another celebration of the past is coming up! Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth releases this coming Friday, 28 Nov. It combines elements of Persona 3 and Persona 4 together into one awesome looking package! We’ve still got our pre-order bundle available, which comes with a free Chie’s Badge Set and Double Teddie Keyring. Pick it up here!