Throughout the life of the Nintendo 3DS the system has seen a few evolutionary moments. The introduction of folders and revamping of the user interface was one, themes were another, and finally we come to the latest with the free-to-play title Nintendo Badge Arcade. Setup exactly like an arcade, the game let’s players earn badges that can then be used to customize their 3DS home screen. Nintendo themed badges populate the prize pool of various crane games that will cycle in and out of circulation in real time. I got a chance to play a bunch of the game, unlocking badges along the way, and can easily see myself putting far too much money into this seemingly simple game.
The key is its free-to-play model, or more accurately its free-to-start model. You get some quick games at the beginning of the game, but after that you’ll have to wait for more free tries, or put in some real money if you want to collect those badges. Games come in packages of 5 plays per dollar spent, with players eventually being able to buy larger bundles, but never really getting a discount. The model works well in keeping you from spending more than you mean to, at least not by more than a couple of bucks.
As the name implies, Nintendo Badge Arcade feels like an authentic arcade experience. All of the games here are crane-style games, with the added benefit of actually being able to win things. Different styles of games require unique strategies. There’s the traditional crane, a hammer, and more variations featured here. By knocking, carrying, or hitting badges into the prize area you earn the badge for use. Each game has its own set, all of which are based around various Nintendo properties, such as Mario, Zelda, Pokemon, or even Box Boy.
Completing sets is great fun and will quickly cause addiction in the collectors among the audience, though some badges are definitely less interesting than others, pushing some to jump around, grabbing all the best ones. The designs range from amazing to totally skippable, but it’s always up to you where you spend your money, so you can easily avoid those that you don’t like.
Once you have the badges Nintendo Badge Arcade really shines, as it allows you to place them around your 3DS home screen to your liking. Building Nintendo-themed sets on the UI will delight many fans, and just throwing one or two around is enough to warrant checking out the free download. Some sets also offer different icons for applications, letting you really change your 3DS experience.
The best feature by far though is the ability to put a badge onto a folder. No longer does my Zelda folder just contain a Z on the front. Now it has a golden Triforce, with an 8-bit Link standing just beneath it. With enough time, money, and badges, players will be able to really reshape their 3DS into something they truly love. And with new sets of badges popping up almost every day, there will certainly be plenty to enjoy over the long term.