Picture a group of well-dressed corporate types, sitting around the Bandai Namco boardroom discussing the best way to milk a dead property. One of the younger, hipper businessmen pipes up and says, “Why don’t we just make a game that’s like, a combination of the three most popular franchises for the under 14 crowd?” The other suits agree, and begin debating just what exactly those three games would be. Eventually, they decide that the best possible option is to make a mashup of Pokemon, Mario, and Super Smash Bros. Unfortunately for Bandai, their attempt to distill what made those games great would be boiled away in the process, leaving a stale, lifeless, and most importantly, boring game that only diehard and underage Digimon fans will enjoy.
Let’s discuss the gameplay, and why its attempt at mimicking more popular franchises crashes and burns. Essentially, the game is a cross between platformer and brawler, forcing you to slog through levels that were clearly designed by someone who hated their job before fighting another digimon at the end to progress to the next stage. These levels are incredibly linear, with enemies that can easily be defeated in one or two hits. After moving through the stage battling these enemies and gaining currency to purchase digi-cards (more on that later) you get to the “boss” of the stage, another digimon, and fight them to continue.
The controls are janky, movement is stiff and awkward at best, while still feeling sluggish and inaccurate. While you have several combos (aka mash X over and over) available, the enemies rarely have enough health to warrant attempting to pull one off. After an agonizing several minutes of boring and repetitive button mashing, the end of the stage opens up and you’re forced to battle another digimon in an arena battle.
This is where the game manages to directly rip off Smash Bros and yet somehow suck all the depth and fun out of it. The stages are 3D, with power-ups appearing at different intervals to spice up the combat. There are ten stages available, each with its own twist on adding some outside threats in, like a train that will run your characters over if they stay in a certain area too long. The combat itself consists of basically hitting the same two buttons over and over, as all the combos are essentially the same, until your power bar fills up enough to “Digivolve” into a bigger, tougher version of your monster.
One thing that was enjoyable about the combat were the different modes. Time bombs attached to the back of your character, who can do the most damage races, and straight up fighting are a few of the modes available. During the story mode, these are randomized, so you never know what you’re going to get. Not that it matters, because the fighting, like the platform sections, is hurt by terribly stiff and awkward controls. Another layer added to make the combat more interesting is the aforementioned digicards. These cards are either won or purchased with the in-game currency, and activate at random times according to a percentage shown on the card. Just what this percentage actually means is still unclear to me, but it seemed that my opponents knew how to work them just fine.
If the game only suffered from these faults, it would be one thing, but the package it’s wrapped in is another ding to the score. The graphics, and I say this without hyperbole, look straight out of the PS2 era. The textures, aliasing, particle effects, all of it. The fact that this game came SO late in the generation makes this issue unforgivable. While other games are pushing the boundaries of what seven year old hardware is capable of, Digimon All-Star Rumble could comfortably cruise on the Gamecube without a hiccup.
All of these issues aside, if a game has fun multiplayer who cares what it looks like? I can always just jump online and talk trash to some ten-year-old as he kicks my ass up and down the digital arena. Oh, wait a second, this game has no online. In 2014, and classed as a fighting game, there is no multiplayer outside of local. This boneheaded decision is yet another strike against an already terrible game. I can’t fathom how in this day and age such an integral facet of game design was just skipped.
If you have a niece of nephew that’s still too young to play a lot of your favourite T or M rated games, this could be a fun way to spend an afternoon. But at $45 you’d be better off taking him or her to the movies instead and save you both the tedium of playing through this half-baked, uninspired rip-off.