Every year, since I usually have a pretty good idea of if I'll like a game or think it a massive failure, I make it my goal to find a game that can surprise me. Of course, with all the research in the world, the game could still end up as a massive failure. For example, let us take a look at one of Nintendo’s first entries into the free-to-play realm of gaming: Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball for the Nintendo 3DS, free-to-play tactics and sports games, two things about gaming that I am usually not super fond of. I have gone on record before about sports games being way too focused on having super realistic movements. and all of them being the same with no innovation thrown into the mix. Now, free-to-play sucks, since the business model can be easily abused and has been abused from Final Fantasy: All the Bravest to Dungeon Keeper Mobile. It is awful that companies have put a sour taste in everyone’s mouth with these bad examples of free-to-play, while games like Loadout, which is a great example of the same model done well, get overlooked. Anyway, back to Rusty’s: what do you get when you combine arcade-style baseball mini-games and a surprisingly good free-to-play model? Well, read on to find out.
You play as your Mii, who one day goes into a baseball attire store run by a dog name Rusty Slugger, an ex pro baseball player who runs the store with his 10 kids. That is pretty much the story. I mean, there is a story, but it really isn’t that important. However, the dialogue between Rusty and his kids is entertaining, and they aren’t annoying characters.
Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball is, of course, 10 mini-games revolving around certain aspects of baseball, like hitting the ball, catching, being an umpire, cleaning catcher mitts, throwing balls, and making your own bat, to name a few of the mini-games. The best part about these mini-games is while there are only 10 games, each one has 5 different challenges with different difficulty levels. After you complete three rows of challenges, each mini-game will have advance challenges, which are usually the same as the normal mini-games, but with a difficulty twist. Each game also has two different arcade modes where you need to score the most points to unlock different uniforms for your character.
So that covers the sports aspect of the game; what about the free-to-play part? Well, the game is free to download, but each of the mini-games costs money, starting at $4. But here is where this game differs from those terrible free-to-play games: the game actually recommends that you haggle the price down on each game you purchase. The main mini-games that drive the story require you to listen to Rusty and his problems, and you can that information to select specific items to help give you discounts on the price of the game. You can use items like a shovel, donuts, nose hair trimmers, flowers, a remedial cooking class ticket, and you get the idea. In the end, each game cost me about $1.60, and the overall total I spent playing through the game was $16 or so. It also helps that you can win discount tickets and can use three of them on one game. I really like this, since Nintendo knows how rocky the business model of free-to-play can actually be, and they make it friendlier with the push to keep down the price of each game you buy. Plus, each game has a lot of substance, and is really fun to play, despite a few flaws here and there.
The graphics of Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball are good. They are bright, colorful, and as usual, have that Nintendo charm. Rusty is an enjoyable character, and all of his kids are fun too, even if they all pretty much act the same, since both Rusty and his wife can't tell them apart. The music isn't bad, but it's more ambient than trying to be memorable. Overall, the presentation package is solid, but this game is all about gameplay.
Despite a lot of the addictive gameplay and fun I had with this title, I did experience a few kinks here and there. My only big complaint is that some of the mini-games, like the catching mini-games, could have been better. Using the analog pad on my 3DS made it a little awkward to catch some of the balls thrown at me, and the mini-game where you need to catch a fly ball is going to make you look awkward if you are anywhere in public using the motion controls in the 3DS. A minor complaint I have is that the mini-game where you create your own baseball bat should have been cheaper than the other games, since it feels like you are just paying for a feature instead of a mini-game. It's as if you bought a fighting game, but had to pay separately for the character creator mode.
Anyway, this is one of the best free-to-play games out there. It is probably as good as Loadout in terms of wanting to be a fully enjoyable game first and foremost, and not be all about making a quick dollar – unlike 90 or so percent of free-to-play games where the emphasis is on draining your wallet first, and being a mediocre game second. The base game for Rusty's Real Deal Baseball is free to download, while each mini-game is $4. Like I said though, haggle as much as you can! Just like any game genre or design, we can make it work. The goal is to make it fun and enjoyable first and foremost, and not let it hinder the experience for the consumer. What else can I say about this game except that it really surprised me? If you are looking for a fantastic free-to-play game in a sea of garbage, check this game out.
This game gets an 8 out of 10.