Digimon Rumble Arena

Like Digimon? Like Super Smash Brothers? Now you can like them both at the same time?on your PlayStation, even!

The Digimon TV series has spawned three games in the U.S. so far, all for PlayStation. Digimon World 1 and 2 were extensions of the basic Tamagotchi concept where you raise creatures and take them on adventures, and Digimon Card Battle allowed gamers with a tactical bent to build up a deck and battle computer and human opponents in a card-game deathmatch. If all of this is just too intellectual for you, Bandai has come back with the answer?Digimon Rumble Arena for the PS one.

There is no question where the inspiration for this game came from. Digimon Rumble Arena uses the exact same fighting system as Nintendo?s Super Smash Brothers series. Choosing from a total of 24 Digimon fighters (nine basic ones, nine Digivolved counterparts, and four hidden characters), you fight one-on-one battles in seven large, themed arenas. In one-player mode you go through a series of matches against computer opponents and face off against Reapermon in the end; two-player mode lets players choose whatever Digimon and arena they desire.

The battle system lies somewhere between the Nintendo 64 Smash Brothers and the more recent GameCube one. You have three attack buttons (one for the bog-standard punch and two for special moves), a jump button, and the ability to transform into a Mega Level Digimon once your charge gauge is maxed out. Once Digivolved, you can unleash a ?special finish technique? that can take about a third of your opponent?s energy away if it connects. Other aids come in the form of cards you can grab for extra attacks and energy, as well as the assorted features each arena has. One stage revolves every now and then, putting both combatants in danger of falling on a mine, while another has giant boulders thundering into the battle arena.

Digimon Rumble Arena does a decent job of recreating the world of the TV show, especially considering how long in the tooth the PlayStation is these days. The character animation is surprisingly smooth and battles are filled with Digimon and tamer voices. The Mega Digimons? finishing moves feel great when they connect (not always the easiest thing to do) and are visually impressive to boot. The music, however, is typical generic anime stuff and doesn?t do much to add to the atmosphere.

Despite the nice presentation, there just isn?t very much to do compared with Nintendo?s genre-defining fighter. The three unlockable mini-games are nice for a few minutes, but they?re nothing compared to Super Smash Brothers? adventure modes. And the lack of four-player battles is a real shame. If Bandai?s going to copy SSB, then why didn?t they copy the most fun mode in the entire game?

Still, Digimon Rumble Arena is a solid, playable cartoon fighter and you could make worse decisions than buying this. It?s definitely one of the better $20 PlayStation titles on the market. If you?ve played Super Smash Brothers Melee on the GameCube, though, this won?t keep you happy for very long.

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