I'm glad Nintendo decided to make this game.
Rusty's Real Deal Baseball (3DS)
Release: April 3, 2014
While visiting the world of Rusty's Real Deal, you'll take the form of your Mii character as you're warped into a small town consisting of your house, and Rusty's shop. You see, Rusty was once known as "THE" Rusty Slugger (his words) -- a former professional baseball player that is now married, with ten kids. He is also a talking dog.
Rusty often reminiscences about the "good old days" while having thinly veiled conversations regarding "the problems" with his wife, and his mischievous kids. He even offers you a donut after entering his shop because "donuts open up wallets, you see." This oddball delivery sets the tone for the game, which is one of the most interesting Nintendo releases in some time.
If you're confused, Real Deal is part visual novel, part minigame collection. The entire purpose of Rusty's shop is to sell you 10 micro-games with multiple challenge levels and score attack-centric stages, but in order to do that you'll have to go through Rusty, and multiple layers of dialog choices. Rusty often goes off on tangents, and for the most part, he always has something interesting to say (in a pathetic sort of way). Whether Rusty is prattling on about his family life or about "Nontendo" ("Nintendo," he claims, sent over "Romeo and Squeegee" to fix his leaky sink), I was drawn into his own fictional world with every passing conversation.
If you're a fan of Married with Children or other similar self-depreciating comedies, this is up your alley. The script isn't rip-roaringly hilarious, but the subtle jabs at Rusty's ego (mostly by his own children) walk the line of awkward silliness, and I couldn't stop turning the page, so to speak. He really reminds me of The Simpson's Gil Gunderson, and that's a compliment.
There's even a tiny storyline built into the game, unlocked by purchasing minigames from his store. There's a major catch though, since said games aren't bought by in-game currency -- rather, by way of real-life cash. Yep, Rusty expects you to buy each game from him with eShop credit, and the base price for activities is $4 a pop. The good news is you can haggle with him by talking him down, giving him gifts, or using discount coupons to get the games you want.
By playing games and completing certain objectives to earn stamps, you can earn discounts, items, and new costumes to don while playing. One of the introductory items is a nose trimmer, which Rusty will promptly use to clean himself up -- so even if it's just a tiny bit of fanfare, they're integrated into the back-and-forth. As a general rule I was able to get him down to $2 per game with a little sweet talking and an item or two, which seems to be the average drop -- but according to hints from the game itself, you may even be able to go lower.
While we've already established that a good deal of the game is essentially a visual novel, it's important to note that a good deal of the 10 actual games are pretty fun. Each purchase nets you 50 repeatable levels as well as two score-attack challenges, which can last you upwards of an hour each game at minimum, depending on how much you're willing to replay.
The first offering is "Bat & Switch," which is basically a one-button home-run derby of sorts. You'll stand stationary as guys with suits throw pitches at you, increasingly tripping you up with faster, slower, or tricky pitches as you progress through the level set. It's a timing game, essentially, that gives you three chances to miss and a score to aim for. It can get pretty tough, but it's a bit too simple for its own good.
There's another modified variant of Bat & Switch with multiple pitching machines though, which is a little more interesting given the addition of extra variables and more speeds to account for. You can also buy a minigame that's basically "hot potato," tasking you to whack a ball back and forth with an AI. Like Bat & Switch, it's extremely simplistic.
As you work your way down the line though things get more interesting, starting with the color-coded batting rhythm game where you have to press certain colors on the screen (assigned to face buttons) to "chop down" a giant totem. It's more action-oriented than the others, and as a reflex game it's a ton of fun.
Similarly, "Make the Call" puts you in the shoes of an Umpire, as you judge whether or not pitches are balls or strikes. It's another one that involves snap decision making skills, and there are even puzzles where you have to read a number on a ball as it's coming towards you. Given the stark deparature from the bat and mitt theme of the rest of the games, this one is my favorite.
If you're tired of batting there are two more games that involve moving around the 3DS to manipulate a catcher's mitt, and another that's a mix of batting and catching. The weakest game in the bunch is probably the juggling one (keeping a ball up in the air with your bat), which is just as dull as it sounds, and the same goes for "Gear Games," which is basically just bat and mitt maintenance. Finally, "Bat Master" is more of an extra feature that modifies other games, allowing you to craft your own custom bat (you can even go as far as creating weird shapes like Zs) for use in the appropriate activities -- nothing is free in the world of Real Deal though, so you'll need to buy it just like the rest.
While I only really enjoyed half of the minigames Rusty's Real Deal had to offer, I had a blast talking to the ol' slugger, learning more about his situation, and laughing at its jokes. Even if you only buy one game you should be able to get a few hours worth of enjoyment here, and more than a few chuckles. Nintendo really took a chance with something as screwball as Rusty, and it ended up being one of the most innovative takes on the free-to-play model in some time.