Rusty's Real Deal Baseball is a strange game on many levels. It's that kind of weird only Nintendo can produce. The game itself is quite fun, and while I plan on reviewing it in the coming days I have to talk about one aspect of the 3DS eShop-only title that stands out.
In-game purchases don't have the best reputation in the world of gaming. People get irritated when developers leave out material that must be bought to be enjoyed. They get downright furious when games force you to kick in extra funds to compete them fully. Is it fair? If you've already paid for a title, should you have to pay for more content that probably should have been there in the first place? Now, some games do this as a means to let you get ahead and progress more quickly, much like the despised mobile title Dungeon Keeper, which charges players for all sorts of ridiculous actions. Other games just give you little bonus DLC such as maps and gear to add to the experience. Both can feel tacked on at times, depending on the presentation.
The biggest problem that I've always had with in-game purchases is that they usually don't feel like they're worth the real world money. Even at a couple bucks it can feel like you're simply paying for something that's going to make little to no difference or be gone by the next day. In the Adventure Time: Card Wars app you can buy crystals so you can play more matches, or you can wait until your hearts refill. I always wait. Why would I buy something I can get for free if I'm patient? It's garbage like this that gives in-game purchases a bad name.
In Rusty's Real Deal Baseball there are ten games you can purchase at $4.00 a piece. The game as a whole is free to download from the eShop and gives you a quick 6 mini-game batting demo, but from there on in you're looking at $40 worth of content to purchase. What sets Rusty's apart is that you can haggle down the actual price you'll be playing for the games he sells. It's a bizarre idea when you think about it, but Nintendo does it right.
First of all, if you try to buy the game at $4.00 one of Rusty's ten children will step in and try to talk you out of it. They know you can spend less and they want you to get the best deal, so you'll have to go through quite a few confirmation screens to actually drop four bones (all puns intended) on one game.
The way you haggle is by giving Rusty snacks, helpful items and basically just talking him through hard times. It's kind of like a text based adventure. You have to make the right selections and give the correct items if you want to get the price as low as it will go. The best part is that even if you mess up and Rusty decides he's not going to give you a deal, you can do it all over again. Give him another donut, select a new response, or give him a different item. The game doesn't punish you for making mistakes, apart from making you sit through the same dialogue one more time. It basically rewards you for helping Rusty with his life. It makes you want to buy more games because... look at all this money you're saving! You're taking ol' Rusty for a ride, right? It's fun. It's actually fun to make a purchase because you worked to get them to a lower price point.
Now that may seem like the most evil approach to in-game purchases in the universe. Make in-game purchasing fun so players hand you dollar after dollar? I guess it's a bit shady, but I think it's genius. Now I wouldn't be saying this if you were buying baseballs that you could only use once, or bats that did virtually nothing. You are buying video games within this video game to play on your Nontendo 4DS (that's not a typo). Each game (bar one) consists of 50 mini game-challenges and two "Durby" modes. If you haggle correctly, which really isn't hard to do, you'll never pay more than $2.00 for a game. In fact you'll only pay $2.00 once, the rest of the games are cheaper. You also don't have to buy every game, you can just drop a few bucks here and there and pick up the games that look most appealing.
Rusty's Real Deal Baseball is a wonderfully enjoyable and addicting collection of baseball games. It's probably not worth $40. It is certainly worth $16, and that's how much you can pay to get every single game if you haggle your buns off. The in-game purchases actually add to the gameplay in a weirdly meaningful way, and while you don't have to buy all the games you'll be hard pressed not to. Well done, Nintendo, you earned those $16 and I still have much baseball to play.