The success of the Nintendo eShop has prompted a lot of changes for Nintendo, including the use of the “free-to-start” model. Nintendo first explored free-to-start games in 2013 with Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball. More recently, Pokémon Shuffle was released as a free download in February. Today, Nintendo released their latest free-to-start effort: Pokémon Rumble World. The game is the latest in the Pokémon Rumble series, which started with a 2009 WiiWare title. Since then, it has seen a retail title for Nintendo 3DS and a downloadable Wii U title. Now, the series has returned to the 3DS.
If you’ve played any of the previous games in the series, the gameplay will feel familiar – you control a toy Pokémon as you fight through a dungeon crawling with other toy Pokémon who you will attack and attempt to befriend. You can switch between Pokémon during stages, and each level ends in a boss fight. There are a lot of new elements, most notably the addition of two methods of in-game currency – coins, which are earned by defeating enemies, and PokéDiamonds, which are earned by in-game progression or purchased with eShop funds.
Coins are easy to come by (I picked up about 200 coins per stage), but PokéDiamonds are different. You’re given 15 PokéDiamonds at the start of the game, which is enough to purchase one hot air balloon. Each balloon unlocks a “destination,” which includes three stages. As you collect more Pokémon, you level up and unlock goodies like clothes and titles. Once you hit level 3, you’re given 25 more PokéDiamonds, enough for two more destinations. Up until this point, the game’s micro-transactions are hardly noticeable – only after leveling up do they come into play. After using a balloon, it has to pump back up. Before level 5, this only takes a few seconds. After you level up, however, inflation times… well, inflate. At level 5, one balloon takes about half an hour to inflate, and the waiting time increases with each level you gain. You can either wait it out, or spend PokéDiamonds to speed up the process.
This is where gameplay begins to be restricted. I was able to play about one hour of Pokémon Rumble World before I hit a pay wall. The PokéDiamond prices aren’t ridiculous – a current special sells 50 for $0.49 and 200 for $1.79. So if you’re really excited to smash more toy Pokémon, you have that option. Nintendo doesn’t want to force you into it, though: the manual states that the game “can be thoroughly enjoyed and played to completion without purchasing in-game digital items.” From what I’ve seen, I think this is true. The game is best played in short bursts, rendering the waiting times unremarkable. There are also a few social options to keep you busy while you wait.
After spending a few hours with the game, I can say that it feels like a stripped down sequel to Pokémon Rumble Blast. However, it is a free download without pushy micro-transactions, so it’s worth checking out.