Pocket Rumble- A Modest Fighting Game Fan’s Review

I consider myself a fighting game fan, and I’m certainly smarter than your average bear when it comes to fighting games, their history, how to play them, etc. But like any good fan of things competitive, my critique is stronger than my actual prowess.

I am primarily a Street Fighter player. I play a bunch of other fighters, but 2D 1-v-1 is my forte. Try as I might, I just can’t think fast enough to play 3v3 fighters like Marvel Vs Capcom or Dragon Ball Fighter Z with as much flair or skill as Street Fighter. 3D fighters, such as Tekken are a little easier for me to grasp, but I still prefer the flat playing field. I’m also a huge fan (and a decent player) of Super Smash Bros. I give you this background to express my excitement for when a 2D, retro style fighting game with simplistic controls was announced for the Switch. 

I first laid eyes on Pocket Rumble during a Nintendo Direct that showcased upcoming indie titles last year. There were a ton of cool looking titles coming to my new favorite toy, but the new fighting game got me the most excited. Time passed and I almost forgot this game was coming out, which is great for me because I got to bypass the ache of waiting for an anticipated game. So when it suddenly dropped last week, I was excited to get my hands on it.

Well I’ve had this game for about a week now, and try as I might, I just can’t get into it. It’s such a shame because the characters are so diverse and interesting, but the gameplay just lacks any kind of fun for me. They controls are simple enough; you have two buttons and if you press down diagonally in either direction, you do a special move. Every character has a gimmick: Tenchi is your Ryu-esque character with fireballs and anti air special movies, Quinn is a werewolf brawler, Parker uses energy orbs to trap you, and the other 5 characters all have unique mechanics and looks that make them stand out. 

So what is my problem with Pocket Rumble? It essentially boils down to a game of priorities. Certain moves are stronger than others and will take priority over the week ones. Very rarely do you trade hits. You either press a button and succeed in hitting our enemy, or you press a button and succeed in getting overpowered. There are very few moves that combo into one another, so jumping in and laying down a combo is not how  you play Pocket Rumble. The best way to win is to spam a super move over and over, or do the classic “jump in- heavy kick then sweep” until your enemy’s life meter is depleted. 

Arcade mode is simple enough except for the fact that Tenchi and June are in the game. Tenchi is the first character you fight and he plays like Ryu did in arcade mode in SF2. June is the 4th fight and has so many projectiles that always take priority over just about everything else. These two characters are just annoyingly difficult and don’t make the game fun. You have to rely on cheap tactics to get past their high priority moves. It really feels like bringing a gun to a knife fight. 

I wanted to like this game so much, but the mechanics are just not right for me. I’m sure it will find its audience, every fighting game seems to. But more than anything else, this game reminds me of fighting gimmicky players in Street Fighter online- the ones who find a two hit combo that is difficult to stop and spam it until you lose. Leaving me wishing that thing that made my pockets rumble was the cash I spent on this disappointing game.