One has to be curious about Nintendo’s entry into the world of free-to-play gaming. While that technically started with Steel Diver: Sub Wars, the game was so tedious and boring that I couldn’t even play enough of it to warrant a review. However, Nintendo definitely upped their game with the surprisingly glorious Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball, though I wouldn’t necessarily call it free-to-play.
Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball is a free-to-play game – though I use the term loosely – that was released on April 3rd, 2014. The game is free to download on the Nintendo 3DS eShop and gives gamers a small sample of what they can expect from the game. After downloading Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball, players can hop into the first game right away without making any purchase commitments. The game Nintendo gives you is actually a demo of the insanely addictive Bat and Switch. You get to sample a handful of levels for free, though you’ll need to purchase the full Bat and Switch game to experience everything. Technically, I don’t consider this free-to-play by any means, and truly believe Bat and Switch should have been completely free, though it was a fantastic enough experience to convince me to dive deeper into Rusty’s world.
So, when you’re ready to purchase Bat and Switch, head over to Rusty’s shop. You – and by you I mean your Mii character – will be greeted by Rusty Slugger, a former pro baseball player that now sells sporting equipment and Nontendo 4DS hardware and games. Yes, you read that right; the Nontendo 4DS is Nintendo’s clever way of selling you mini-games, or 4DS cartridges if you prefer. You’ll notice right away that Rusty is a glum fellow, which plays a part in the 6 episode length story. You’ll be constantly cheering up Rusty with donuts and a variety of miscellaneous items, which help him solve some of his problems. Rusty’s wife is missing, he isn’t properly caring for his kids, and his confidence is at an all-time low. He practically lays a guilt treatment on you to convince you to buy his mini-games, to help him better his life. This, of course, leads to the game’s haggle mechanic.
To see the whole story, you must purchase six specific mini-games (there’s a total of ten mini-games) from Rusty. These are the mini-games that you must haggle with Rusty to buy. You haggle with Rusty by giving him donuts to cheer him up, providing the best answers to his questions, and providing specific items when necessary. Making all the right moves will give you the lowest possible price on each game. The game will tell you that you’ve reached the lowest price and then ask you to continue to the Nintendo eShop to buy the game. Of course, you’ll be spending real money on these mini-games. There are four other mini-games available, though these aren’t necessary to complete the game’s story and can’t be haggled for; you must use discount coupons on these mini-games, which can be earned by playing through the game’s mini-games.
So, how are the mini-games from Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball? As I alluded to above, these mini-games are fantastic, specifically the hitting mini-games. Every mini-game has 50 levels that challenge you to top a set score without losing your hearts. The hitting mini-games – Bat and Switch and Cage Match – challenge you to read pitches and swing for the fences, complete with a satisfying hit sound effect. Missing a pitch means you’ll lose a heart and when all three hearts are gone, you’re out. The mini-games start off easy enough by giving you slow pitches, but will ramp up the difficulty by throwing fast and trick pitches at you. The first 25 levels you’ll face are considered basic challenges, and once you complete over half of these stages, 25 advanced levels will open up.
Of course, there are other mini-games that put you in different roles. There are some catching and throwing mini-games, as well as an umpire mini-game. They all follow the 50 level format, though with a variety of new challenges to experience. Every game also has a pick-up-and-play control scheme that usually require only one button to play. I won’t detail them all, but these are also quite enjoyable and worth the low price of $2 or less that you’ll spend on them. In general, all of the mini-games have an addictive quality that is hard to explain.
Each mini-game offers a ton of replay value, not only in finishing its 50 levels, but also in the Hi-Score Derby modes A and B that each offers. These challenge you to go for the highest score possible in grueling endurance-like challenges. You have to unlock these Hi-Score Derby games by collecting stamps, which are given after completing levels. Collecting stamps will also unlock donuts and items that are needed to advance the story. Each level and Hi-Score Derby modes also have gold, silver, and bronze medals to be won for those that like to complete everything. Lastly, you can unlock new costumes for your Mii character by getting gold medals in the Hi-Score Derby games.
Besides being quite addictive, Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball is a visually and aurally pleasing game. It sports colorful graphics and some fine use of stereoscopic 3D. Not much else can be said about the game’s graphics as they are quite generic, in the sense that there’s not much flavour to be added to baseball. Frankly put, the game’s music and sound effects are awesome. The soundtrack is full of delightful, retro-inspired tracks that fit the game well. However, the awesome, satisfying bat cracking sound effects keep me coming back to Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball.
Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball is an excellent free-to-play experience – if it can truly be called that – and proof that Nintendo is testing the Nintendo eShop waters in unique ways. The full game can be purchased for $16 after some tough haggling with Rusty, with a handful that are worth visiting over and over again, especially to hear the sweet sound of baseballs cracking off your aluminum bat. It’s hard to recommend the game to everyone, though Nintendo has made it easier by giving everyone a free sample, which you should ultimately use to influence your decision. If Bat and Switch doesn’t suck you in, then it’s likely that you won’t enjoy the rest of what the game has to offer. However, if you do enjoy the game, prepare to get lost in a strange, but satisfying world of baseball mini-games.
8/10 – Great
Downloaded from Nintendo eShop (All six story games and one additional mini-game were purchased)