Another month, another free-to-play Pokémon adventure to experience on the Nintendo 3DS. I mostly wrote that leading sentence as those words don’t come together too often and maybe never will again. Yes, it was only two months ago in February that I was scribbling away about Pokémon Shuffle, Nintendo’s stab at the free-to-play match-three genre. Now we’re here in April, the fourth month of the year in the Gregorian calendar, with a new free-to-play, pocket monster-starring, potential money-maker called Pokémon Rumble World.
Let me do some quick historical research. Evidently, Pokémon Rumble World is the fourth game in the Pokémon Rumble spin-off series, of which I’ve played none of them. In this one, you control your Mii as he or she helps a king with low self-esteem collect various Pokémon to one-up a local magician who has way more colorful critters than him. That’s the general set-up, and its school playground-esque plot is paper-thin, but acceptable. It’s not like the traditional Pokémon games have mind-blowing narratives. The whole point, as always, is to collect a bunch of Pokémon (719 in total) and aim for being a completionist, though you can also earn money to buy new clothes for your Mii. I already got mine a green hoodie, so I might be good for a while.
And here’s how you go about collecting all them toy versions of Pokémon: use a special hot air balloon to travel to themed locations brimming with pocket monsters. New special hot air balloons cost Diamonds, which are this free-to-play’s second currency, but are time-based to use after that initial purchase, meaning you can continue revisiting locations so long as you don’t mind waiting a bit in-between. When you select a specific area, a roulette of several stages spins around, with each stage hosting different–and sometimes rare, indicated by a star–Pokémon. As you collect more, your adventure rank increases and new Pokémon begin to appear in the wild, inspiring revisits.
Once you are in a stage, you take your wind-up toy version of whatever strongest Pokémon in your collection is and destroy everything in your path. You can do two different types of attacks, all of which vary depending on your Pokémon of choice. Personally, I really like using Chespin at the moment. Sometimes the defeated enemies turn into coins, and other times they are knocked down, ready for collecting; to do that, simply run over them. Strangely, simply moving your selected Pokémon warrior near enemies or barrels causes it to auto-attack, which I did not like. If you’ve StreetPassed with anyone, they will appear in the stage, under duress, and if you save them they will reward you with boosts or even a Diamond; in fact, I saved fellow videogaming blogger Matt Mason the other night from a wild gang of Treecko–you’re welcome. After a few levels, you fight a boss Pokémon and then return to town, replenish your wares, and head back out for more. As your rank goes up, the king will have side quests for you too.
By far, my favorite thing about Pokémon Rumble World is that it plays, more or less, with no restrictions. Sure, you have to wait for your hot air balloon to recharge to use again, but I discovered you can just visit a different location via some other hot air balloon while waiting, which leads to never really waiting. In Pokémon Shuffle, once a day, I played my five turns and moved on, but here one can keep playing, exploring, or organizing their growing list of collected toys for as long as their battery life lets them.I do worry, however, that there could be a bit too much menu-ing in this, especially once you have collected a large amount of Pokémon, many of which are seemingly duplicates, but do differ in terms of stats and attacks.
Having passed up on the remakes Pokémon Omega Ruby and Pokémon Alpha Sapphire last year for reasons, Pokémon Rumble World is turning out to be a good replacement for my “catch ’em all” itch, and the free-to-play elements are beyond easy to ignore, which makes this all the more successful. Wind me up, my Mii–I’m ready for more, as well as on the hunt for a Garbodor.