Platform: Playstation
By: Infogrames
Players: 1-2
Genre: Beat-'em-up
Vibration Function compatible
One Memory Card Block

Digimon Rumble Arena (European Version)I must admit to being pleasantly surprised by the relative speed with which "Digimon Rumble Arena" reached Europe - I feared we would suffer another farce like we did with the original "Digimon World," which was pushed back so often that it did not come out here until "Digimon World 2" was released in the US. As a result, DW2 never reached Europe - not that I especially care, though, as in my humble opinion, the DW games suck-sucky-suck-suck suck-suck-SUCK.

That's a technical term, too.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand. "Rumble Arena" is your typical beat-'em-up game - choose your character and fight through a pre-set number of battles. Though it takes a few steps to give it a slightly different edge. For starters, the arenas in which you fight are not simply flat, left-to-right affairs - they're multi-levelled areas, each with various traps and pitfalls - such as falling boulders, lightning bolts and lava pits - that leave your character with more than just the other player to contend with. As you fight, power-ups appear around you - food to restore health, and Modify Cards to give you extra power. There are also more threats that will surround you in the form of appearing bombs, and Dark Ring and Spiral cards that will make your Digimon uncontrollable. And in between rounds, there are a mini-games to play to earn more points.

But even without all that jazz, there's one other thing - Digivolving. As you fight, an energy bar above your health rises, and when it gets full, your character can Digivolve to their Mega form (or in the case of Wormmon, his Champion form) to become stronger and gain new attacks.

Calumon will cheerfully instruct you to select your Digimon. There are nine characters available to start with from across all three seasons of the show - Agumon, Gabumon, Veemon, Wormmon, Gatomon, Patamon, Guilmon, Terriermon and Renamon - each with their own specialised attacks and strength and weaknesses, which can give them advantages over certain other characters, and in certain arenas, but also vice versa.

Which Digmon are ya gonna play with, huh? Which one? Go ahead, pick your favourite Digimon!

There's no monkeying about with endless button-pushing combinations here - Rumble Arena has a delightfully simply control method, where you simply push Square to punch, X to jump, and Triangle and Circle to use the Digimon's two special attacks. When your Digivolve bar is full, press R1 and you'll Digivolve to Mega, with all the new attacks that go with it. Pressing R1 again will implement the Megas "Super Attack," which uses up all the remaining energy in the bar and returns you to Rookie, but will do a large chunk of damage to the other player.

The boss character of the game, who you fight in the seventh and final round, is Reapermon, known as Gokumon in Japan. And it's nice (in some twisted way) to see that the good old Reapermonbeat-'em-up tradition of having a final boss who makes you want to hurl the joypad through the TV screen every once in a while is still going strong. This is coming from someone who refuses to play the game on anything less than Hard mode, of course, 'cause it's not a challenge otherwise. :-p

Something that makes my voice-actor-listing heart beat with joy is the fact that the American version of the game has actually used all of the actors from the US dub of the show (with the unfortunate exception of Brian Beacock as Takato and Edie Mirman as Gatomon and Magnadramon, who are filled in for by director Mary Elizabeth McGlynn - who's impression of Takato is an absolute dead ringer for Veronica Taylor's Ash Ketchum). The influence of the show's director does not go unnoticed either - because of her presence, many of the attacks in the game are given the names used in the US show, rather than the different names that Bandai US give them. Some odd ones for older characters are used, thoug, and then, there are the characters that hadn't been recorded for the show when this game was in production - and hence almost Here zoom, there zoom...ALL of the Tamers Mega Digimon's attacks are named differently. Still, it's all very cosmetic, and really, you could care less. ^^ In a similar vein, the feel and personality of the characters is definitely retained in their victory lines - Impmon proclaims "I'm Class A material, baby!", while Guilmon wonders "Takatomon... are you hungry?" And some lines lhave been lifted directly out of the show itself, such as BlackWarGreymon's "Who is your creator?" and "Foreign objects must be destroyed!"

Rumble Arena will keep you coming back - there are, in total, fifteen more characters to unlock which you can play the game with. Nine of them are the Digimon's Mega forms, which are unlocked upon completion of the game with the respective Rookie - although you cannot play as the Megas in One-Player mode, only Two-Player and Vs. Computer. The other six are assorted characters from across the seasons, which are unlocked by completing the game with specific Guilmon vs. Renamoncharacters - for a little guide on how to unlock them (as well as some other fun things to muck about with) click HERE. However, I feel that there aren't nearly enough arenas to fight in - seven in total (including Reapermon's), for twenty four characters. More are required.

Now, the technical end of things. The graphics are pretty much standard PSOne fare - I know that I personally had to let my eyes get used to them after playing PS2 games so much. But they accurately capture the look of the Digimon (indeed, it would appear that a lot of the sprites are simply lifted from the DW games), and the opening sequence, which blends CGI of the Digimon and original cell animation of their partners, looks very nice.
The music (which I understand is almost entirely new for the US and European version) is quite nice, but there are a few tunes that really stand out, namely the one in Reapermon's level, and another that plays fairly randomly in 2P and Vs modes. The Gallantmon vs. Stingmon - that's going to hurt in the morning...character voices are all fine, although those belonging to the partners come off as fairly static-y. I'm a bit disappointed at the lack of "Digivolve to...!" declarations.

There's no point in denying the similarities between "Digimon Rumble Arena" and Nintendo's "Smash Brothers" games. However, I've never been into Nintendo stuff much, so I don't have the experience that allows me to compare the games. I just know that Rumble Arena is fun, fills time, and is probably the best Digimon game around (see technical and balanced comment on DW games above. Suck). I don't really think you'd have to be a fan of the show to get into it, as you would with the DW games - after all, Digimon Rumble Arena appeals to that one basic primal urge that links all of humankind: the desire to beat up on little cuddly things. And in that respect, DRA delivers the goods, and how.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Apologies for the lack of decent in-game shots in this review. I don't have the facilities to make my own, and you'd be damn surprised how hard it is to find any *good* pictures of the game on the 'Net.