Friday, March 20, 2015

Adventure Bar Story (3DS eShop) Review

To cap off your work week, I have two new reviews to share. The first is Adventure Bar Story, a digital delight for the Nintendo 3DS eShop. It surprised me how much I enjoyed it. See the extent of my satisfaction with the game with my review.

Where (Seemingly) Every NPC Knows Your Name

An amazing amount of variety is apparent on the Nintendo 3DS eShop. From platformers to shoot-em-ups to essentially any other genre you can think of, you have a nice selection to choose from. While there is an abundance of full priced retail RPGs to try out on the eShop in the form of games like Pokemon, Fire Emblem, Etrian Odyssey, and more, budget RPGs seem to get overlooked. Adventure Bar Story, published by CIRCLE Entertainment, takes the familiar attributes of the genre and toss in some cooking fun into the mix to create a very satisfying dish that unlike real cuisine, won't pack on the pounds!

The story part in Adventure Bar Story has your main character running a struggling bar that is in danger of being bought out by a snobby and elitist owner of a much more successful place. It's up to you to ward off this danger by helping your bar rank up through competing in monthly cooking competitions and selling dishes on a daily basis.

As you reach further into Adventure Bar Story, the
amount of locations available to you opens up extensively.
Adventure Bar Story is a kooky and atypical take on the JRPG genre. The game has a day and month system that changes days when you open your restaurant with the dishes you have made and selected for sale. You get Mats, short for Materials, from shops and in the game's dungeon areas where they lay on the ground to snatch up, or are earned by participating in battles that pop up in a random encounter fashion while exploring said dungeon areas.

Battles are interesting enough and don't take too long so getting into a random battle on a dungeon or field map isn't annoying like many games that contain them. You can have a party of up to three characters, many of which join your party when special conditions have been cleared. Battles occur on a grid. Characters on the front lines of battle do more damage and have a better possibility of hitting enemies, but they also take more damage. Whereas characters in the back row of battle have better defense but much more lower attack capabilities. It's the same with how enemies are situated on the grid battlefield as well.

Does Siela count as an Iron Chef if she
uses an iron axe in combat?
Instead of leveling up from fighting monsters, the primary goal of battles is to secure Mats from them. You gain experience, but it's in the form of five elemental categories. Earn enough experience in one of those categories, and a character learns a new special skill (taking up Mana, the MP of Adventure Bar Story) pertaining to that element. Characters' strength, HP, and other attributes are increased through eating created dishes. Each dish has a specific amount of EXP that is earned when it is consumed by a character, and a character's stomach can only hold so much food in a given day. It's a nice change of pace that gives Adventure Bar Story even more in innovation.

Outside of the main town in Adventure Bar Story has multiple areas to visit, but you can only enter one per day. That goes for dungeons and other towns, as well. New areas open slowly in Adventure Bar Story, meaning that you will definitely get to know the dungeons, field areas, and other towns in the game rather well. Since the areas of Adventure Bar Story aren't the most intricate-- dungeons like grassy plains, forests, and caverns are completely free to puzzles, only offering some secret areas to be found-- it can become a little tedious to constantly have to return to these places to grind for new Mats.

Siela just wants her corn and melons.
None of this monster stuff.
Not only can Mats be acquired from shops and dungeon areas, but so can recipes that allow you to see the ingredients/Mats required to make a dish at your restaurant's stove. As long as you have enough Mats, you can cook one of over 400 individual and unique dishes, from tempura to cakes, stews to drinks (e.g. juices and beer), to parfaits and pasta. Unfortunately, not all recipes give you the entire list of Mats required to create its dish. This means that you occasionally have to do some educated guesswork to fill in the blanks on what Mats are needed to make the dish. While this is some fun and really rewarding when you discover the correct ingredient(s), when you mess up fixing a dish by having the wrong mix of ingredients, the Mats used are wasted. This is problematic when some Mats are hard to acquire, meaning you're very cautious about potentially wasting them through a botched culinary creation (or is monstrosity a better word?).

The menus in Adventure Bar Story
could be designed a bit better.
Adventure Bar Story really thrusts you into its world and systems. You can even skip the opening scenes to get right to the action. It's only an issue here because the game does not do an adequate job of teaching you how to accrue Mats, find recipes, and make dishes. Seeing as the menus are a bit troublesome to navigate and a tad cumbersome, this issue is aggravated. That said, Adventure Bar Story might not have held my hand as much as would have liked, the accompanying digital manual included with the game on the Home Menu of the Nintendo 3DS was a much bigger help.

The presentation of Adventure Bar Story isn't going to drop any jaws, but the visuals and accompanying sprites are pleasing to look at. Dungeon areas are a bit sparse in creativity, but they do their jobs as being functional, even if the form isn't the most attractive. Meanwhile, the music is serviceable enough, implementing tunes that feel like they've arrived from an early PlayStation game. Don't get me wrong-- that is not meant to be an insult. The tunes give a nice warm, nostalgic feeling of games of old.

I'd love to see Bobby Flay
or Rachel Ray do THAT!
Adventure Bar Story is a mighty fine digital download for the Nintendo 3DS, and it's an RPG with a sound structure and design. Getting your bar to higher ranks, stumbling upon new dishes and Mats, battling enemies, becoming stronger, acquiring new equipment and weapons, and exploring the albeit sparse dungeons are all enjoyable tasks in the game. While there is a medium-sized amount of grinding for Mats and especially money to be found, overall, if Adventure Bar Story were an actual bar, it'd be one that at least I would want to keep an open tab at. That's because I can find myself coming back to this game time and time again.

[SPC Says: B]

Review copy provided by CIRCLE Entertainment.

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