Pocket Rumble

Pocket Rumble has been one of the most curious cases of unreleased games on the Nintendo Switch.  The Switch has given players a tremendous line-up of games in the span of its first year. Not all of the announced games have made it out, however. Pocket Rumble was announced almost a year ago, and despite multiple reassurances by its developers, it is still not out.

Announced for the Switch on February 28th, a mere three days before the system’s March 3rd release, Pocket Rumble came to us courtesy of developer Chucklefish Ltd. It’s a two-button fighter that promised to be easy to learn for fighting beginners, and stood out for its retro visual style that threw back to the 16-bit handheld Neo Geo Pocket Color. The addition of local and online multiplayer and HD Rumble made this seem like a can’t-miss Switch indie.

Pocket Rumble was scheduled to launch mid-to-late March 2017, nestled in the quiet launch window. However, as March came to a close, a month after the game’s announcement, Pocket Rumble‘s Twitter confirmed they would effectively miss the March release date.

Despite the setback, at least Chucklefish was going to make-good with free post-launch DLC, a promise made public a mere two days later. The next bit of news for the game dropped on April 15th, mainly to explain just what was going on with the release date.

One of the game’s co-designers, under the Twitter handle of “sol_goodgirl”, explained that the original March release window was missed due to miscommunication combined with “technical kinks” that were taking longer than expected to fix. From that point, the team expected to send the final build to Nintendo in a matter of days, with a newly given release window of “before the end of spring“.

The closest evidence to this came via a PEGI rating in Europe, giving the game a 12 rating. It’s tentative release date was now “April 27, 2017”.


However, spring came and went with no word on Pocket Rumble thereafter. Nothing was said again until June 22nd, when a developer from Chucklefish assured fans the game was still coming, but couldn’t explain what was causing all those pesky delays.

Hey guys, developer at Chucklefish here. I can tell you that Pocket Rumble on the Switch is still happening, and we’re really sorry about the delays! There’s not much we can say right now other than there have been some issues to sort out with online multiplayer performance on the Switch. Don’t worry though, the release isn’t too far off now. We’ll let you know once we have the new release date!

That release would still be waiting, as August 24th brought another update that said basically the same thing but more elaborated. This time, Chucklefish explained on their blog:

We demo’d the game with Cardboard Robot at EGX Rezzed earlier this year and it went over really well, and was even playing quite well on the Switch! We all felt confident at the time that the game would be ready for submissions soon, but then ran into some issues that have taken a while to sort out. The number one priority for both Chucklefish and Cardboard Robot is ensuring that Pocket Rumble has a great release and that all gameplay modes perform well on Switch — performance issues are of particular importance, since it’s a fighting game!

We’re still working with the team to address some of these problems so, again, I don’t want to give you a release date until we’re absolutely sure, but I think we’ll have good news for you soon.

Even that same month’s Nindie Direct glossed over it completely. Nintendo did provide updates on some previously announced, unreleased games, but not this one. Whether intentional or not, it’s absence screamed volumes about the tangled state of porting it to the console.

The above “soon” from Chucklefish would come again on October 25th. Co-designer “sol_goodgirl” answered a Twitter inquiry of where the game was, saying it was coming, yet again, “soon”.

Flash forward, and as of this publication, there is still no release date for Pocket Rumble. .

After reading all of this, you might be wondering why you should be excited for such a game? Pocket Rumble isn’t just a 1 on 1 arcade fighter, but it’s also an homage to the Neo Geo Pocket Color fighters from SNK. Think of Gals’ Fighters, King of Fighters R-2 or Neo Turf Masters and you’re in the ball park. Adding to the authenticity is, just like the Neo Geo Pocket games, Pocket Rumble makes sole use of two face buttons for your punches and kicks.

Take a look at the screens below. One of them is from 2000 and the other is now. If not for the widescreen, would you tell the difference? Pocket Rumble even restricts the same color limitations as NGPC.

Gals' FightersPocket Rumble


And sure, the game has been out on PC since February, but on Switch it has a unique appeal. Being able to take a fighter of this style anywhere and have local matches thanks to the Switch’s tabletop mode and two Joy-Cons make it an appealing fighter prospect. The days of Neo Geo link cables are long abolished, so more people could play this together.

Its best window of release would have been March, before Capcom’s Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Showdown in May or Nintendo’s Pokken Tournament DX in September. Whenever Pocket Rumble launches now, it will release in a crowded Switch marketplace and fight to get attention.

For the entirety of 2017, the status of Pocket Rumble has been disorganization. It went from being highlighted as a Nindie darling to vaporware status. We know there have evidently been technical difficulties, but nothing as to the precise nature of what those issues are. Any flashes of word from the developers have been singularly anonymous with no payoff in their wake. Who knew a game that looks so simple could be so deceptively difficult to bring to a console?

Pocket Rumble

A January Nintendo Direct is undoubtedly coming, and if Pocket Rumble doesn’t show up there, then what hope do we have that it will come to fruition?  Pocket Rumble is a love letter to a style of fighting game long gone. For all the kind of developer’s care and commitment, it deserves a chance on the Switch sooner rather than later.

Alex Irish
When he's not writing about games, Alex Irish is an illustrator and animation expert. His favorite gaming franchise is Pokémon, full-stop, but his favorite game of all time is Resident Evil 4. He attended the first-ever IGN House Party and is a five-time attendee of the Ottowa International Animation Festival.