Gintama Rumble Review: Not Too Serious and It’s Fine

Gintama has been the mainstay series of Shonen Jump for as long as I can remember. While I haven’t avidly followed the series, it’s been the source of good honest laughs every time I happen upon a movie or episode. And what better way to celebrate the end the end of the season, and maybe even the entire series, with a ‘warriors’ style adaptation playing out the best this anime has given through the years?

The zany and hyperbolic nature of Gintama makes for a great fit with how these senseless hack and slash, one-man-army formats work. In fact, it might be a uniquely better fit than most adaptations had attempted before. So is it that peanut-butter-jelly combination that just go so well together? Strap in for another odd job, this time with a game review, and let’s find out for ourselves.

Production (3.5 / 5)

Gintama Rumble on the PS4 provides a pretty faithful transition of its characters to the 3D realm. The aesthetic also carries over with how the backgrounds are designed as well. It definitely looks like the anime in every dimension of how the game looks. It also performs favorably smoothly while decimating vast amounts of faceless enemies, smooth frames all the way, though at the cost of draw distance. This should generally not get in the way of your game play but it might bother some who can’t see their enemies from much further away from the map. While not seeing the actual scale of the battle can be a problem that shouldn’t be too big a of a deal. It became apparent that finding or searching for enemies could be troublesome.

Their super attacks aka ‘Awakening Rumbles’ give them all unique animations that generally do the same thing. It is nice to see them the first few times, and the little flashes from older cutscenes make it have a much stronger anime feel. But after seeing them a couple of times in battle it does get old and I start wishing I could skip through most of it, except maybe when the special ones come out during boss fights.

The music is actually quite catchy, and along with the expected voice-overs, helps stave off the monotonous action of spamming attack to make the baddies fall down. It was a bit weird that the controller was talking to me, but it slowly made sense when they were also doing it in battle.

All in all nothing really surprised me but at the same time nothing really stood out for me to praise. I suppose ‘acceptable’ would be the best way I can describe how Gintama Rumble presents itself.

Mechanics (2 / 5)

I believe that people who developed this title think that comedy is a distraction, because distraction seems to be the central idea whenever they built something to include in the warriors genre. I found them welcome ones in general.

For Gintama Rumble, you get the standard fare RPG elements. You fight baddies to level up, you allocate and customize your stats to unlock skills and equip silver orbs. Silver Orbs are pretty much equipment in this game as they grant you active and passive abilities or stat bonuses.

I didn’t really like the stat system as you generally pick between raising your attack power and unlocking attack techniques or having longer ‘awakening’ gauge and being able to equip more silver orbs. And you generally never pick improving your defense because you’re never supposed to get hit anyway.

Now while in actual battle where you don’t think about any of that there’s one thing I love and one thing I hate. I find the addition of ‘GinPachinko’ a very welcome addition. Where if certain conditions are met you can trigger a challenge to be presented to you, achieve that and you can get a random effect for your current battle. This can range from a full heal or some form of buff, distorting your screen with mosiac censoring, or transforming into a bootleg version of Cell from Dragon Ball. This was a really welcome addition to the game as it gives you a break from just continuously attacking armies of nobodies as well as forming a short term goal for you that isn’t automatically ‘kill target x’ every time.

For the one I hate, it’s a bit of a surprise. Parrying is a mechanic I usually welcome with open arms as that makes for more balanced gameplay. This is achieved by guarding just in time before getting hit by an enemy, granting you a better chance to counter-attack after. It sounds like a good way to mix up boss battles but it’s not. This is a warriors game and it’s not designed for that. The animation is very subtle so it’s hard to tell when the actual timing needed to effectively pull off a parry. There’s also a delay to guarding, unlike how your attack comes out almost instantly, and the same goes for whoever boss you’re fighting. It was very frustrating as it became clear that it’s exactly what you have to do against stronger bosses where you have to play mind-reader just to open up their defense.

Content (2 / 5)

Gintama Rumble went in for a bit of a fumble with what they would do with the game’s content. It presents itself with the more memorable, action packed arcs of the series as playable scenarios. While it was rather enjoyable to be seeing cuts from the anime to give context to the upcoming battle, watching a cutscene full of stills and voice overs quickly became a chore. It didn’t help that you can’t speed up the scene so skipping them was something I found doing a lot. It later became more and more as that thing that kept me from actually playing the game, and nobody is going to like that.

Generally it plays out in separate, unrelated scenarios being placed one after the other to form some sort of campaign. While you do retain the progress you have for each character, you don’t really get to pick who you play in each scenario. Free battle mode let’s you do that but there doesn’t seem to be any real purpose behind it rather than grinding levels for a character of your choice. Which you’ll probably need since Gintoki is your character as for most of the campaign, meaning if you want to play other side-characters with a reasonable amount of unlocks, Free Battle might be the only place you’ll find them outside of their respective story arcs. With at least 11 characters playable in the game, it’s a bit of a crime to give so much of them so little spotlight.

What hurts the experience the most is unlocking content through the game. Ideally it should have been straightforward, unlocking the next story after completing the previous one and finally unlocking a crazy Dragon Ball -esque campaign to cap off your Gintama adventure but I must have missed something because I didn’t get to that as I had failed to unlock the final scenario but the game wouldn’t tell me what I had to do.

The side-story arcs that get unlocked as you progress was like a fresh breath of air, though. As it plays more on the comedy that Gintama is known for. While Gintama Chronicle mainly focused on the more serious and action-packed parts of the serie, these side stories pokes fun at everything including the game itself while playing as alternate characters in their respective stories. These got honest chuckles out of me even during my more cynical moods.

Features (3 / 5)

Gintama Rumble features a gallery mode called ‘Gintama Motion Picture’ and an Edo mart that sells you various things such as silver orbs and other customization options for your available characters. However, this only seems to be part of what this title plans to feature for the time being.

On the get-go you can have a ridiculous looking armstrong cannon as a silver orb and for free, a dlc orb that effectively makes you unkillable in the game. It’s like a developer’s way of saying telling you that you shouldn’t take the game seriously because we’re not too worried about game balance and just hammer away. Handing you that item to make sure you’ll make it through anyway even if the character doesn’t really work for you. You’ll eventually get through. There’s also tell tale signs of expansions possibly coming in for this title

Conclusion

It looks, feels, and definitely plays like a warriors game. It becomes pretty refreshing when you mix in Gintama’s merciless humor. I wasn’t exactly a fan of how the serious and comedic sides of Gintama were cleanly split apart rather than blended together in the way it naturally comes out, it diminishes the strength of the material by not having the gut punches switching out with the punchlines in rapid succession.

Still, if you’re a big fan of the series there’s a lot of nostalgia here to be had. You can also tell that there was concerted effort to make Gintama Rumble a little more than just another reskinned game for the warriors genre. Managing your resources while in the midst of combat kinda helps you keep on your toes.

Unfortunately the title falls fairly flat in making a balanced experience and it sticks out badly when fighting bosses. I find it hard to recommend it to just anyone wanting to play some sort of warriors type of game but if you like Gintama enough you’re likely to enjoy this. For people who don’t follow the series avidly (like me), it might make you want to watch the show, I sure do now.

Gintama Rumble is more like a funny bar fight landing a 2.6 / 5

Available on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita

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