The Best Thing About Gintama Rumble is That It’s A Thing That Exists Today

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Review by Paolo M.

Gintama Rumble is a hack-and-slash game based on the long-running Weekly Shonen Jump manga and anime series by Hideaki Sorachi.

The series is set in Edo, where aliens have established themselves among human society and the samurai have been outlawed. The series features Gintoki Sakata, a samurai who works odd jobs to pay for his sugar addiction (and rent), along with his friends Shinpachi and Kagura.

In the the 660+ chapters of the manga, 340+ episodes of the anime, two animated movies and the live action movie last year, Gintama finally gets its full game treatment.

STORY

This game is FOR THE FANS -- this game assumes the player already knows the story arcs in Gintama. The first thing you get once you boot up the game is the Prologue Chapter, which serves as the game's tutorial, even before you see any of the menus.

If you've played any of the Dynasty Warriors or Senran Kagura games, you'll feel right at home here -- the prologue teaches you the basics of the game by throwing hundreds of fodder enemies and gives you fancy-looking moves to dispatch them.

Once you get into the menu, you have the option to select Gintama Chronicles -- the game's main campaign. Each chapter represents one of the big story arcs from the anime/manga.

At the start, only the Prologue and Benizakura chapters are unlocked. Benizakura being the most famous of all of Gintama's story arcs -- appearing in the manga, anime, the first animated movie (episodes of the anime condensed into movie length) and the live action movie.

Each chapter is bookended with "cutscenes" -- edited stills from the anime with narration, which tells an abridged version of the story arc. These parts feel like a visual novel which you can’t speed up. If you already know the story, these parts are skippable.

The Benizakura chapter also teaches more of the advanced gameplay mechanics. Each chapter takes roughly 40-60 minutes to play, with various achievements per mission, ensuring replayability.

The Side Stories chapter also unlocks -- featuring supporting characters, and what they were doing during the story arc.

I mentioned earlier that the game is FOR THE FANS -- the game attempts to recreate key scenes from the anime. On paper, this sounds like you get to play some of the highlights from the series -- but in actuality, it causes some minor problems for the game.

An example is from the Yoshiwara is Burning chapter -- you get to play as fan-favorite character Tsukuyo, taking on big boss Housen. In the anime, Tsukuyo and her ninja fought with Housen to buy Gin time to recover -- which means that, in the game, even if you manage to get Housen's HP to 0, it will just regenerate to full once again, until Gin defeats him in the next chapter:

Another example is from Kabukicho Four Devas chapter -- the mission says to defeat a certain boss, but in the anime, Gin doesn't actually win that fight, so the objective is to actually LOSE for the story to progress.

Fulfilling a condition of ending boss battles with Rumble attacks gives you a short CG-recreation of iconic scenes:

Once chapters are finished, we unlock the ability to play Gintama Free Battle -- a mode that allows you to play chapters with ANY characters you unlock, regardless if they appeared in that story arc or not.

GAMEPLAY

You will grind to get good at this game. On the first playthrough, each character is Level 1 -- and has 3 upgrade points to distribute to either Spirit, Skill or Strength. You will struggle with limited moves and combos while bosses stunlock you.

Your first playthrough will also be filled with pop-ups -- as the game tries to teach you its mechanics.

Upgrading your character is necessary if you want to complete Achievements set per stage -- ex. Defeat 800 enemies, Finish the stage at 80% health, etc.

At the start, you are given the basics: directional control, a weak-but-fast attack, a strong-but-slow attack, a dash, jump, lock-on, assist and the Awakening/Rumble buttons. Continuously leveling up unlocks moves and combos for your character. 

Players are given the option to customize or upgrade their character before each stage, and from here, players may equip unlocked character customizations or add Silver Orbs. Silver Orbs are unlockable character assists that provide different effects per character. (For example, if you download the game within the first week of release, you get the Neo Armstrong Cyclone cannon, which provides AOE damage and also looks like a penis.)

The theme for this game is unlocks. Each chapter you play gives you XP and Pachi Orbs (used to buy customization options, soundtracks, vocal tracks, character cut-ins). Each chapter may also unlock characters featured in that story arc, making them available for play in Free Battle mode. 

The Rumble mechanic are a set of special moves per character that are unique to that character -- we’ve yet to unlock Gintoki’s Kamehameha special, as featured here:

Gameplay for every chapter is like this: get to a new area, defeat as many fodder enemies as possible to “own” territory and make captains appear, unlock new areas, defeat hundreds of enemies until boss battle becomes available. FOR ALL STAGES.

Although the basic gameplay loop of decimating hundreds of enemies in one go is fun, it is also impaired by some weird design choices.

  • Each dash makes you vulnerable and unable to move for 2-3 seconds after.
  • There are no double jumps, making your character feel sluggish.
  • By experience, Just Guard (guarding upon hit) sometimes works, sometimes doesn’t.
  • No XP is rewarded if you fail a mission, regardless of how many enemies you defeat before that point.
  • Failing to beat a boss makes you restart the whole chapter. Which is problematic if you were going for an achievement run and you’d have to restart. This sets you back a good 20-25 minutes based on play. (Defeat 1,000 enemies, etc) 
  • Ginpachinko Mode -- game modifiers that give you bonuses when you perform a condition take over the entire screen while playing, without pausing, potentially ruining a combo.


Given these limitations, an ideal strategy for beginners is to equip the Tsuu Terakado silver orb as you level up Strength. This gives you health recovery without having to rely on item pickups. (Which don’t regenerate) As you level up, 2 more Silver Orb slots open up per character. This is necessary since upgrading each character to the max is a trophy achievement. (It’s a grind!)

GRAPHICS

Releasing at the same month during that OTHER big anime game release, the art features cel-shaded models. It’s highly-noticeable that the graphics are pretty simple for a PS4 release. This feels like an HD upgrade of a Vita game -- which makes sense -- since the graphics need to be able to work on Vita hardware as well, with the PS4 version featuring a higher resolution and higher framerate.

The menus, overlays, etc. feel like they were made for the Vita.

SOUNDS

A plus is the game features voice acting by the anime’s cast (unverified) which helps make it feel like Gintama. However, the game’s music doesn’t feature some of the songs from the anime -- unless these are unlocks that we haven’t uncovered yet.

OVERALL

This game gets better as you play it -- and all the achievements per chapter, hidden Silver Orbs and leveling up each character will ensure hours and hours of replay. The greatest thing about this English release is that it happened at all -- take note, only the PS4 release got the English subtitle treatment, with the Vita version being less likely to come out anytime soon.

PLAY IT: If you love grindy hack-and-slash games and love the self-aware (the first part of episode 340 is about this video game) Gintama anime, this game is for you. If you’d love to find out more about the characters, we recommend the anime -- at times irreverant, but surprisingly has a lot of heart.

Similar games to this are Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus, Senran Kagura Estival Versus, Hyperdimension Neptunia U and Oneechanbara -- all from the same developer, TamSoft.

SKIP IT: If you’re a Gintama fan looking for a new story, or if you don’t like grindcore games.

   

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