Digimon All-Star Rumble Review
I was an avid fan of Digimon as a child, and it still holds a special place in my heart today. And though I loved Digimon Rumble Arena on the PS1, and its sequel on the PS2, they were still rather flawed games. Thus, when Digimon All-Star Rumble was announced, my inner child was absolutely ecstatic in the hope that we would finally be getting the perfect Digimon fighting game.
This time around, Bandai Namco Games takes the publisher’s seat, as Digimon All-Star Rumble is developed by Prope Ltd., an independent developer whose only other Digimon-related title is the 2013 RPG, Digimon Adventure for the PSP. While this did set off a few alarm bells, I decided to give them a chance. Have Prope done the source material, my childhood, justice and given fans the Digimon fighting game we’ve been waiting for?
Not really, no. It’s quite disappointing really.
Digimon All-Star Rumble’s plot appears to take place after the Digimon anime. The Digital World has entered a time of peace, free from fighting. But the Digimon find this boring, as they can only evolve into higher forms, known as “digivolution”, by battling each other (this is slightly incorrect, but since this is a fighting game, I will let it slide), and decide to hold a fighting tournament in order to digivolve.
They’re using the clichéd “there’s a tournament going on” plot in their fighting game. There is a twist before the final stage about the true motives behind the tournament, but it felt rather forced, like the writers realized at the last second how dull their plot was and tried to make it more exciting.
The initial character roster of Digimon All-Star Rumble is made up of four characters, with the remaining eight unlocked via Story Mode. For a 2014 game on the PS3/Xbox 360, this is inexcusable. The game is called “All-Star”, but many beloved characters are missing. Where are Patamon and Terriermon? Or Renamon? Or anyone from Frontier? I see no reason they couldn’t have been in this game. They would probably have been more welcome than the five iterations of Shoutmon.
Digimon All-Star Rumble’s Story Mode is split up into eight very short chapters. You complete them by running through the small, linear, beat-em-up-style areas. Simply defeat all the weak, standard enemies and the stronger mini boss — all of whom have only one attack — and then a battle with a character from the roster ensues; this is where the actual fighting game part happens.
This gets so repetitive and the chapters are so short, they almost blur together. The only reason I remember that there are eight chapters is because you get an achievement for completing each one.
Upon completing each character’s story, you unlock an alternate digivolution for them, which I appreciate since not all the characters’ primary digivolutions are their final forms.
But this is a fighting game, so how is the actual fighting?
There are six battle modes to choose from in Digimon All-Star Rumble, which can be played with up to four players: Survival, in which each player is given three lives and the last one standing is the victor; Point Battle, where you must earn the most kills in a set time limit; Damage Race, where you must deal the most damage in a set time limit; Flag Battle, a capture-the-flag-style mode where holding the flag scores you points; Bomb Battle, in which every player has a bomb floating behind them that gets closer and closer to exploding, either as time passes or as their health decreases; and Medal Battle, where you must earn three medals by defeating your opponents.
While these modes are fairly standard and nothing all that special, Medal Battle is the most broken and infuriating. When you defeat an opponent, you are not automatically given the medal. Instead, the medal will fly out of your opponent’s body when they despawn, and land somewhere random in the arena — where someone else can literally come and steal your kill.
Players have three attack buttons: light attacks, heavy attacks, and a ranged attack. However, the potential for combos using all three buttons is so limited, you might as well just keep spamming light and ranged attacks. Besides your health bar, you have something called an SP Gauge that is used to power your ranged attacks; and an evolution gauge that, once filled, will allow you to digivolve. While in your evolved form, you gain access to another gauge that, once filled, can be used to unleash your ultimate attack.
The fight stages themselves, unlike the beat-em-up areas in Story Mode, are all very unique. Each one has its own set pieces that can either help or harm you, such as the giant flowers in the Native Forest that act as bounce pads, or oncoming trains in the Digital Station that can run you over.
There are also small stations (for lack of a better term) in the fight stages that dispense powerups. Each station has a small gauge above it to show when the next power up will be released, so you can strategically plan ahead to claim it before your opponent.
Additionally, players can make use of cards, which can be found in the story mode or bought using bits, the in-game currency. You can equip up to two at once, and they will have effects such as healing you or dealing extra damage. However, the parameters for activating them are rather haphazard. Some are activated at the end of a combo and some are activated while guarding (it says on the cards which type they are), and it also says on each card what the chances of activation are. But I had a guarding card with a 75% chance of activation, and I have only managed to it activate once.
Aside from that, there are a few flaws with the combat mechanics of Digimon All-Star Rumble:
The first is one that was present in the Rumble Arena games, in that it is very easy to get stunlocked into your opponent’s combo. This is abated somewhat by the teleport mechanic, but that eats up a lot of your SP Gauge.
Secondly, this game sorely needs a lock-on feature. A bit unorthodox for fighting games, but since Digimon All-Star Rumble is the kind of fighter that lets you run in all directions, it is very easy to miss your opponent with melee attacks. And because you cannot turn mid-combo, this leaves you wide open to your opponent. Basically, you can get stun-locked by your own combo. Let that sink in.
The biggest problem is that even though digivolving is central to the game’s plot, the actual digivolutions during a battle only last 15 seconds, which is far too short considering how slowly the gauge fills. At most, in a two-player match, you will only be able to digivolve twice at most. 30 seconds would be a more decent time.
As far as graphics go, they are average. The textures for the stages are low quality, and everything that moves, such as the characters, looks too clean and sterile, which is the same problem Rumble Arena 2 had.
The soundtrack of Digimon All-Star Rumble is completely forgettable, and what little voice acting there is (the dialogue is all told through text boxes, with no spoken lines) is atrocious. None of the characters sound like their onscreen counterparts. This is especially bad since they did actually get some actors from the Saban Entertainment dub, but all of the actors completely phone it in, especially Shoutmon X4’s horrid, screeching voice.
The only lines they speak (besides grunts and battle cries) are the names of their attacks and their names when they digivolve, and they couldn’t even do that right. A lot of the attacks’ names were changed for whatever reason, e.g. Gatomon’s “Cat’s Eye Hypnotism”, which is meant to stun opponents, was changed to “Cat Laser”, a generic laser beam attack. I know this is a nitpick, but surely this game is for Digimon fans, so details like this are important!
There is also an audio glitch where the characters’ voices and the sound effects for their attacks significantly decrease in volume whenever you perform their ultimate attacks, completely killing all impact of the attack. This also occurs if you are both too far off to one side of the stage, even though the camera follows you there.
All-in-all, Digimon All-Star Rumble is a disappointment. As a fighting game, it is mediocre at best, controller-throwingly infuriating at worst. As a Digimon game, it is simply insulting. The combat mechanics are flawed, the story is clichéd, and the voice acting is atrocious. I was seriously considering docking the score lower because of how stupidly unfair the final stage of Story Mode is. If you want a decent Digimon game, go play one of the Rumble Arenas or the first Digimon World.