I'm not much of a sports fan. I don't have a favorite team in the NFL, NBA, NHL, or MLB. In fact the only sporting events I watch regularly are track and field meets, and that's probably due to the fact that I'm coaching the athletes involved. I also rarely play realistic sports series such as Madden or The Show. So when Nintendo announced a new eShop-only baseball title for the 3DS, I wasn't exactly jumping out of my seat. But Rusty's Real Deal Baseball isn't your average sports title.
While you'll be hard pressed not to pick up the first of Rusty's ten games I'm happy to report that pretty much all of the titles you can purchase for your Nontendo 4DS (more on that below) are worth the one to two bucks you have to shell out. Let me make one thing clear - at no point will you be playing an actual game of baseball. Every game features 50 challenges and two "durby" modes that put your skills to the test, be it hitting, catching, umpiring, or... cleaning your mitt? I would highly recommend the first seven titles, they're worth every penny and keep you coming back day after day to improve your best scores.
You wouldn't think a title that's basically a collection of baseball mini-games could really have a story worth caring about, but Real Deal does a great job of getting you involved. Rusty Slugger, the games titular character, certainly has his hands full with a failing store, ten unruly children, and a marriage that seems to be on the back burner. You start to feel for ol' Rusty as his story unfolds and you're sure to crack a smile when he's at his best. This is one aspect of the game I wasn't really anticipating, so it was a pleasant surprise.
Nintendo is at their best when they're at their weirdest. In fact most of Nintendo's main franchises are very bizarre, we just kind of accept them because of the reputation they've built up over the years. Real Deal is a bit more strange than most in many regards. The game constantly pokes fun at Nintendo as a company and introduces your character to the "4DS" a gaming machine that blows the 3DS and 2DS out of the water (or so they say). This enormous clamshell console is made by none other than Nontendo. Nontendo. It's nice to see Nintendo can make light of their past in the toy and gaming industry in such a silly way.
When you first step up to the plate to slug a few out of the park you'll notice one of Nintendo's classic toys "The Ultra Machine", a device that pitches you baseballs. Then the Ultra Machine crawls out of the ground... and it turns out it's really a person with an Ultra Machine for a head. This is no one time bit either, these bizarre pitching machine people make appearances throughout the entire game.
These small details, along with the fact that you can hit baseballs at alien ships and the normal batting machines will get angry at you when you hit them, just make Real Deal a pleasure to play. You never know what kooky thing is going to pop up next.
Though you'll technically buy a load of challenges and durby modes with each game you purchase, you'll only start with a few of these unlocked. To get more games you must defeat challenges and improve your high scores. My favorite item to unlock doesn't even have any bearing on the gameplay at all - uniforms. Ever wanted to smash a shooting star into space while wearing a business suit? Now you can. There are some phenomenal outfits in Real Deal that will keep you working hard to unlock your next set of classy duds. I've got two words for you - baseball ninja.
Like most free-to-play games Real Deal has a series of micro transactions that players can use to unlock any of the ten games shown above. Unlike most (any?) free-to-play games Real Deal lets you haggle the actual price you want to pay. This aspect gets a "Not Bad..." because I'm not a fan of micro transactions on the whole, but the way Real Deal handles it is much more welcome than any game I've see before. For more on haggling with Trusty Rusty you can read my write up on that specific part of the game.
While games like Quick Catch and Cage Match offer challenging gameplay that keeps you playing for hours, there are other titles that just don't quite have the same allure. In Bat Master you'll, well, make bats. That's it. It's pretty enjoyable, but it's not so much a game as an inventory building mechanism. Other games such a Make the Call and Gear Games have their moments, but you can only call "STRIKE!" so many times before you realize you'd rather be batting than making umpire calls.
You may notice that the normal "Terrible" section of "The TAY Review" is absent from this review. I wracked my brains over and over to think of any aspect within the game that might qualify as terrible and I just couldn't think of anything. When all is said and done this eShop gem is one of the best 3DS titles I've ever played. Few games can keep me playing for hours on end just to improve a high score. Few games have such solid and dedicated gameplay, even if it's dedicated to baseball mini-games. Take a whack at Rusty's Real Deal Baseball and you may find you're more of a sports fan than you ever knew.