It's been six years since a Digimon video game was released in North America. If Digimon All-Star Rumble is Namco Bandai testing the waters for more US releases, we're not going to see another for a very long time.
As a fan, a part of me is simply overjoyed to see the Digimon name on video game store shelves again, and no doubt many fans of the virtual pet toy turned turned long-running anime franchise will cut this bare-bones fighting game slack on that alone.
It's great to find myself in control of Gatomon, Veemon, Agumon and their digi-evolved forms once again. I've really missed it. But not enough that I can give this half-arsed effort a pass.
Digimon All-Star Rumble consists of three modes.
Practice mode is just what it sounds like, and it hardly counts.
Battle Mode allows up to four players to select one of 12 Digimon characters to fight in one of six game modes.
This is free-roaming 3D fighting, as opposed to the 3D fighting on a 2D plane of the old Rumble Arena series. The action is chaotic and sloppy. There's no way to lock on to your opponent, so flailing in their direction is the order of the day. When an opponent is knocked down they are given a couple seconds of invulnerability as they rise, which is about the stupidest thing I've ever seen in a fighting game.
When the evolution meter is fully-charged, players can briefly evolve into a larger, more powerful form. This is the cue for their opponents to run like hell, because the power differential is massive. And should the Digi-evolved character's special meter be full, allowing them to unleash their ultimate attack, forget about running. Just take it.
In an ideal situation, one in which a fan of the series has easy access to three more fans of the series, I could imagine there being fun to be had in Battle Mode. With no online play and the stupidest CPU fighters ever, there is no joy here for the solo player.
They won't find solace in Story Mode either. It's a series of incredibly tiny platforming levels -- and calling them platforming levels is being generous. You get three or four really quick battles with minion Digimon, followed by a match against one of the game's 12 main fighters. Running through the entire thing takes under an hour, and it doesn't change if you choose a different fighter and start over.
If I sound disappointed, it's only because I am incredibly disappointed. I knew Digimon All-Star Rumble for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 wasn't going to be spectacular, but I'd hoped it would at least be good enough that the generated buzz would encourage Namco Bandai to bring over cooler, less mainstream titles, like the upcoming Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth for the Vita.
Ah well. At least I'll always have imports.