Wednesday, November 18, 2015

A Thin Line Between Love and Hate: Nintendo Badge Arcade

When forced to make a choice between keeping homebrew emulators on my New 3DS XL or losing them all so I could play some cheesy crane game, well... it wasn't much of a choice at all. I was prepared to keep an older version of the 3DS firmware on my system, until I discovered that I couldn't access any of Nintendo's online services until I installed the update. That meant that I'd not only miss out on the Nintendo Badge Arcade, but the eShop, updates to previously purchased games, and Miiverse as well. I could scarcely imagine the 3DS experience without Nintendo's art-centric social network, so I swallowed hard and downloaded the latest firmware. So long, RetroArch. It was fun while it lasted...

Fortunately, since I had the foresight to update IronHax beforehand, I didn't lose anything important. I could still get online with my 3DS and play games from nearly a dozen other systems. I could also give Nintendo Badge Arcade a thorough evaluation, and decide once and for all if it deserved the hatred I piled on it in a previous blog entry.

Where's the option for "Hell no?"
And the answer is... well, I'm still not sure. As mentioned earlier, the Badge Arcade takes real money for virtual prizes, and you can see the potential for abuse a mile away. Free training sessions fill the player with misplaced confidence, and badges are tantalizingly placed, giving the impression that they can be earned with the one or two free plays offered each day. Badge Arcade uses carnival psychology to play you like a fiddle... you'll walk in thinking you're too smart to fall for its manipulation, then walk out with a puzzled look on your face and two less dollars in your bank account. I've already lost four bucks to the Badge Arcade over the last couple of days... one can only imagine the financial havoc a child could wreck after borrowing, or "borrowing," his parents' credit cards to play this.

Easier than it looks.
On the other hand, the Badge Arcade's crane games are legitimately fun and challenging, pairing realistic physics with a 2D perspective that opens to door to strategies that wouldn't be possible in real life. For instance, some stages include large boxes that block access to the rest of the prizes. The solution is to tip the box over by nicking its edge with the left pincer of the claw. The box tumbles into a nearby chute, and may even take a few badges along for the ride. Other stages replace the crane with a hammer or bombs, adding variety and rudimentary puzzle-solving to the gameplay. The Badge Arcade has been dismissed by some critics (particularly real-life-Cartman Jim Sterling) as a cash grab devoid of any meaningful substance, but it's clear that careful thought was put into the design of its levels.

Back to the less generous hand. The badges don't have much practical purpose... they're just digital bling, and they're awkward to use. Launcher icons for applications can't replace the standard, boring ones, and other badges exist to either mark folders or clutter the interface. The host of the Badge Arcade, a smartly-dressed pink rabbit, loves to talk, and lives to promote Nintendo products with all the transparent enthusiasm of a used car salesman. Hey, you're already trying to sell me credits for your crane games, but sure, I'll sit through a Pokemon advertisement too. Maybe you can push a Delfino Island time-share presentation on me while you're at it! Putz. I've found that half the entertainment of the Nintendo Badge Arcade is mocking its mascot on Miiverse.

Oh yeah, then there's that other thing. The badge selection changes every couple of days, so the prizes you want may quickly be replaced by ones you don't. Nintendo's younger fans seemed pretty excited about the debut of Pokemon badges, but as a member of Generation X, I just didn't give a damn about them. I'd love to get my hands on some of the game console pixel art offered when the arcade opened, but those badges were taken out of the rotation days before I arrived, and it's anyone's guess as to when they'll be back. If there was a more appealing selection of merchandise, including badges based on third-party games like Mega Man, I'd be more inclined to spend money on the crane games, but that may never happen.

All things considered, the best advice I can give regarding the Nintendo Badge Arcade is "approach with caution." There's fun to be had if you can play it in moderation, but plenty of misery for those who can't control themselves. And since Nintendo designed this game to break the willpower of those who play it, you'd be wise not to overestimate your self-control. Keep a tight budget and only stop by when your favorite badges are available, because the money you'll spend here adds up quickly.

(Images taken from Miiverse.)

1 comment:

  1. I can definitely see how this game could sink its claws into players, but I'm not too worried about Nintendo Badge Arcade drawing me in. I barely use themes as is (only ones I have besides the defaults are freebies) and I only buy stuff on Nintendo's stores with eShop cards, so for me it's just a "Maybe if I have leftover credit" thing...and even then I'm more likely to buy DLC or some indie thing.