Nintendo Badge Arcade is the sort of game that hardcore Nintendo fans won’t be able to resist. All right, so, show of hands: who here likes to take home Legend of Zelda cardboard displays from GameStop? Who in attendance can’t resist shoving quarters into capsule machines when they see Super Mario danglers inside? Who can cop to having purchased both the digital and physical versions of the same game? Anyone who answered yes to these questions will really dig what Badge Arcade is all about, and even those who aren’t fanatical collectors will find plenty to enjoy. It scratches the Pokémon “gotta catch ’em all” area of the psyche, while also acting as a celebration of sorts for Nintendo and its numerous (I mean it, too) franchises. For those not enamored with so-called frivolous (how dare you) knickknacks and baubles, this probably won’t be the game to change your mind… maybe. Read on and you might possibly find a reason to start collecting and decorating your 3DS!
“What the heck is Nintendo Badge Arcade?” is probably the number one question of most people who have seen the game floating around on the eShop. It certainly isn’t totally obvious at a glance, but the concept is actually very straightforward: pay to play a crane game and earn digital Nintendo pins! That’s it. Anyone who’s plunked quarters into a crane game in an arcade to win bouncy balls or a stuffed animal will be able to hit the ground running, and even those who haven’t will be guided through the one-button gameplay by Badge Arcade‘s helpful bunny attendant. The game is only playable with an active Wi-Fi connection, and each day new stock is rotated in and out of the arcade’s various cabinets. Each cabinet features a different set of pins to collect, laid out in different arrangements. The badge variety is great; I’ve seen everything from Box Boy to Animal Crossing in the game’s first week, and I’m looking forward each day to what new arrivals await me. There are also multiple different types of cranes to experience; some are traditional automated hands, others fling bombs at pins to dislodge and send them down the chute, and there’s more besides.
I call Badge Arcade a game, and it is, but it isn’t like any of Nintendo’s other free-to-play titles. The gameplay is incredibly light, and though some cabinets do offer challenging pin arrangements that take a bit of thinking to get a hold of, this is largely meant to be nothing more than a breezy time killer. On that front it largely succeeds, as I’ve found it very fun checking in each day to waste away five to ten minutes plodding around the arcade and seeing what’s on offer. The crane is easily controlled, and unlike the average arcade machine, doesn’t feel rigged, for the most part. Badge Arcade does occasionally have a pin nested in a cheap location or arranged so inconveniently that it takes multiple drops of the claw to snag, which wouldn’t be so bad if real money wasn’t being used for each play. Considering the gameplay here isn’t about setting high scores or doing anything that requires actual skill, there’s no joy to be had from wasting multiple attempts on securing a single badge, no sense of “one more try!”
That’s when the game is at its worst and stingiest, however. For the vast majority of the time, Badge Arcade is surprisingly generous. Pricing is okay for the most part; $1 nets players five plays. Whether a digital pin is worth roughly 20 cents is debatable, but even I’m inclined to say that’s a little steep. Luckily, there are multiple factors that help balance things out and make Badge Arcade reasonably economical. First, it’s possible to net more than a single pin on a given play. The badges all interact with one another; pull on one, and it might send another tumbling, or drag another along for the ride down the chute, and so on. These wins of multiple pins are common, and really minimize the sting of those times when a previous badge might have hogged up three or four plays to secure. Second, free plays are sometimes randomly awarded simply for logging into the game. With the very real chance of winning more than one badge during a single play, these seemingly meager incentives are actually worthwhile. Finally, there’s a practice catcher machine in the arcade, where free plays can be won by gathering practice badges– it can be accessed once every 24 hours.
Combined, that’s a lot of different ways to enjoy Badge Arcade without investing any real money into the experience. For those who are interested in paying, there are a number of payment options that allow for extended crane sessions by putting down more cash at once for bigger numbers of plays. $1 will likely be enough for most people, but for those like me who want to snag as many pins as possible, it’s nice to have the choice to be able to lay down $2 or $3 at a time, instead. As for what the pins actually do? Well, that’s straightforward, too: they’re for decorating the 3DS home screen! All of the software tiles on the home screen are already arrangeable, but now pins can be mixed in to liven things up. Some pins can be used in lieu of the current icons for apps like the 3DS Camera and eShop. Others are purely decorative and can be used to arrange miniature scenes on the home screen (which players can snap pics of and share using Badge Arcade‘s in-game Miiverse portal). There are even custom themes that can only be unlocked by playing the game, and are made to compliment the pins themselves.
Badge Arcade is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. For those who can do without superfluous bric-a-brac, the appeal for collecting Nintendo badges won’t be there. The fans who are into that sort of thing, even a little bit, will likely find much to enjoy with Badge Arcade, however, and the mix of free plays and reasonable payment options makes this an example of how to do free-to-play right. Some of the crane challenges can come across as cheap cash-grabs, but for the most part this is a title that gives great value. Badge Arcade is a quintessential Nintendo experience, pulling from the company’s rich history and doing something totally unique with it. The versatility and odd fun of sticking badges to the home screen make this is a wonderful addition to the 3DS library that gives players even more chance to personalize and customize their handhelds to suit their personalities. Be sure to hit up this link to the Badge Arcade website, where you can learn more specifics about the game, and scroll to the bottom for a handy QR code that will lead straight to the title on the eShop.