If you have a gambling problem, you should probably stay away from this game.
Over the course of the year I saw many people I know with imported 3DS units talk about Collectable Badge Center, the Japanese version of Nintendo Badge Arcade. Then late one night, to my surprise, the "free" title was released here in North America. I immediately dove in.
Upon booting up the title, users are brought in to the seedy underworld that is the Nintendo Badge Arcade. It is here where one of Nintendo's cute but dastardly sales rabbits show up, a dead giveaway to Nintendo fans that this guy is out to take your real world money. Like a drug dealer, the rabbit will introduce players to the game and offer up a few free sample plays.
Basically, Nintendo Badge Arcade lets players try to win Nintendo themed badges from a plethora of different crane machines that rotate out every few days. I've seen three different styles of "claws" and countless different badge sets that come from various Nintendo franchises. These badges can then be used to decorate a user's 3DS Home Menu screen or placed on folders. Some badges can even work in place of the traditional system application icons. In this sense, Nintendo Badge Arcade blurs the line between game and application.
After a player’s initial free plays are up, they will learn that it's possible to earn more plays by succeeding at a practice crane machine that can be used once daily. Players can earn a free play by collecting 10 practice badges, or by earning a random bonus for obtaining these badges. I've found that I usually will earn one free play a day, but I have been lucky and earned up to five at once. There have also been times I've earned none.
If you don't earn any from practice, that's OK. Sometimes, during special promotions, the rabbit will offer players one free play. If you still haven't had your fix, the sales rabbit will then let you know you can purchase more plays. The going rate is five plays, or grabs, for US$1.00.
When you look at what's going on in Nintendo Badge Arcade, you will see how it's going all out to use psychological warfare on your mind. The rabbit tries to suck you in daily with frequent free plays. These plays make the harder, and usually more popular badges easier to obtain. However, in order to get them the player will need to start spending money otherwise the machine will reset the next day.
This whole system continues to build on itself. Since the machines are swapped out frequently, you may see that one that you like only has two days left, or worse, is on its final day. There is no promise these will ever return. Additionally, Nintendo Badge Arcade let's players view dioramas of each badge set they've completed, and what percentage of each series of badges they have collected. Also, a statue levels up based off of how many badges have been collected.
The problem with all of this is that the game really tries to scare you into spending more money to earn these badges. It wouldn't be so bad, but the going rate of five tries for $1.00 is incredibly steep. For the price of a few plays you could just buy a Virtual Console title instead. Every now and then players who do spend money can earn exclusive 3DS themes, but the sad part is that these themes don't have music like the premium ones that can be purchased directly from the 3DS Theme Shop.
One other problem I have with all of these badges and themes is that we have no idea if all of these earned goods will be useful in the future. Nintendo hasn't been clear if these items will somehow transfer to the next Nintendo platform, adding to the question, are these goods are even worth it?
Nintendo Badge Arcade is the type of software I'd expect to be released a few years ago for free. It just seems like the perfect additional application that could make use of 3DS Play Coins instead of real world money. The badges themselves don't really serve much of a purpose. How many people truly want to decorate their 3DS home menu screen? The best use I've found is to place Game Boy system badges, or a Famicom badge, on folders where I keep games for those respective platforms.
The major redeeming quality of Nintendo Badge Arcade is the writing. Some days the rabbit will have new things to say that are surprisingly witty. Nintendo proves to be extremely aware in what the rabbit says, often times referencing things from pop culture, the company's history, and often will promote upcoming Nintendo games, events, and promotions in funny ways. It's enough to make players want to check in each day to see what is said, but that starts the cycle of wanting to earn those rare badges all over again by maybe spending money.
I'd be lying if I said Nintendo Badge Arcade wasn't addictive; it was clearly designed that way. That said, this is the most disgustingly blatant, money grabbing game Nintendo has ever released. I really don't want to see more pieces of software like this from the company. Deep down, it just seems completely evil in the way it tires to mess with your psyche in order to get players to hand over cash for basically nothing.