Hello, and welcome to the second installation of Free to Play Sunday. Today we will be looking at a free to play game from Nintendo, but first I'd like to give my sincerest condolences to our friends over at Nintendo. As you may have heard, Satoru Iwata's passing was announced earlier today. On behalf of myself and Nintendo fans everywhere, we thank you for your years of hard work and dedication to your company, and not just any company, but a company that has provided joy and entertainment for people of all ages for many years past. Personally, my first ever game system was a big 'ol grey Gameboy loaded up with a hand-me-down copy of Pokemon Blue Version that was given to me by an older cousin, I wouldn't have been much older than 5 or 6 at the time. I distinctly recall pouring hours and hours into that game at home, and struggling to play it by the light of the street lamps on long car rides with my parents. I can't speak for anyone else, but it is a fact that Nintendo games will always have a special place in my heart. So, in order to pay homage to both my video game roots and to the entire Nintendo family I bring you Free to Play Sunday: Pokemon Rumble World for the 3DS.
The Pokemon Rumble games are somewhat unique to the Pokemon franchise. Unlike their predecessors, they do not use the traditional Pokemon gameplay mechanics. For those of you who are unfamiliar with how the classic Pokemon games are laid out (you poor souls), the traditional game always has you play as a brand new Pokemon trainer who must choose their very first Pokemon and set out on a grand Pokemon adventure. During your adventure you must capture and train your Pokemon and then use them to defeat gym leaders, crime syndicates, and eventually The Elite 4. Pokemon Rumble World, on the other hand, is essentially nothing like this. Instead of playing as the young hero of the Pokemon world you will be playing as your Mii, as well as a variety of wind-up toy Pokemon. In Pokemon: Rumble World you will have to unlock hot air balloons in order to explore new and exciting dungeons, most of these balloons are purchased with poke Diamonds that can be obtained in game or by purchase with real money. Once you have traveled to a dungeon you will use A and B to hack, slash and bubble beam your way through hoards of Pokemon, this is quite different from traditional Pokemon games which utilize turn based combat. There is also a dramatic change in how new Pokemon are acquired; instead of throwing a Pokeball at that lowly weakened caterpie you will have to rely heavily on luck and a little bit on timing to put it into a "wobbly" state and then KO it. You are only able to befriend Pokemon that have been knocked out while wobbling or sparkling. Aside from the dungeon crawling aspect of this game, there is a King who will provide you with daily quests. These quests vary, and they range from more dungeons with a boss that must be defeated to an arena style match where you must defeat all of your enemies in a limited amount of time. By completing the Kings quests you can earn diamonds which can then be used to purchase hot air balloons. One of the more unfortunate aspects of this free to play Pokemon game is that it is entirely funded by micro-transactions and this, as a result, heavily influences the pacing of the game. For example: the hot air balloons have cool down periods, that range from a couple of minutes to over an hour, during which they cannot be used, unless you use diamonds. Once you have used your hot air balloon you will be randomly placed in one of several levels, each of which have unique Pokemon, but it is often the case that you will play every level except the one you want, possibly several times (this becomes incredibly frustrating with the cool down times that are over an hour). In the non-free Rumble games levels can be selected, this is likely because they do not utilize micro-transactions in the same way that Rumble World does. The online features in this game are also minimal. Streetpassing with players who also play Rumble World will generate the passed players Mii in a dungeon, you will then have to complete the level while keeping the rescued player alive. Once the level is complete you will see the rescued Mii's in the kingdom where you can then talk to them, sometimes they will offer to take you to a specific stage for a small amount of in-game currency. You can also set rescued Mii's to play the roles of the characters in the kings quests. The short and sweet of the gameplay for Pokemon: Rumble World is simple but addicting.
There is a minimal amount of story used to progress Rumble World, the biggest driving factor that will keep a player going is their desire to collect as many Pokemon as they can. Non-collectors will grow bored of this game quickly. At the start of the game you will be introduced to a king, who's only Pokemon is a pikachu, and basically this king is jealous of a magician who has more Pokemon than he does and so he asks you to upstage the magician by obtaining a bunch of Pokemon. The rest of the quest narratives are of a similar nature.
All in all this is a good looking game for what it is. Now we can't expect Witcher 3 quality graphics from a free to play Pokemon game, but given the context the visuals work well. While I was playing through Pokemon: Rumble World I got the sense that this was a playful game that did not want to be like other Pokemon games, and instead of trying to address deep questions like whether or not forcing Pokemon to fight was ethical or not (Pokemon Black/White) it simply wanted to be fun, cute, and a little bit whimsical. During my play through I was brought back to my childhood and the games I used to play with my little Pokemon figurines, and I believe that this is what the developers of this game intended. As for the dungeons, I found the map layouts to be fairly simple, but the maps looked good for a free to play game.
Overall there are some less than amazing aspects to this game. The story is lacking and the game play is simple. There are some redeeming qualities however. I personally enjoyed the cutesy sprites and the simple levels. One of the biggest turn offs for me was the waiting in between balloon uses, but I am also the kind of person who likes to binge watch/play/read just about everything. Despite its flaws I did enjoy Pokemon: Rumble World enough to play for over 10 hours, and enough to consider buying other games in the Pokemon Rumble series. This is not a game for someone who is looking for a heavily detailed narrative, this is not a game for someone who needs complex gameplay to enjoy a game, this game is for someone who has a Nintendo 3DS and no money who really wants to catch all of the Pokemon.