Adventure Bar StoryPlatform: Nintendo 3DS (eShop) Developer/Publisher: RideOn Japan, Inc./Circle Entertainment Price: $5.99 You know how you were always asking what it’d be like if there were a game that mixed an RPG with a bar simulation? Originally released in 2006 in Japan by RideOn Japan, for smartphones and iOS. Adventure Bar Story is a game that is so inherently Japanese and plays up to their sensibilities, that it’s almost surprising that we saw the release of a localized version in 2012. Now the impressive, quirky RPG has made the transition to the 3DS' eShop in its latest incantation, and while it’s virtually the same game, it’s the most refined version of it to date. The game sees you running a bar, as two sisters Siela and Kamerina, with the big bad coming in the form of Gustav, an incessant businessman who wants to buy your stumbling bar out. Naturally, the only way to avoid this and conquer Gustav is by turning your bar into a massive success. This is done by going out into the field and battling monsters to find exotic ingredients and build winning recipes (the game has over 400 at your disposal). Taking the tropes of an RPG and putting them in a different sort of world is hardly a new idea. We’ve seen this approach taken to extremes like running an item shop or even being a game designer. What works so well here though is how fundamental this bar and recipe aspect is entrenched in the game. For instance, no one in your party is capable of leveling up unless they’re eating the food that you’re preparing for your bar. You actually need to eat to grow stronger here; it’s not just the battling. Food is almost your pseudo currency here. It’s a weird, unique angle for the game, and it helps give it more of a voice and feel distinct. What a nice quiet town! Who would think THE BEST BAR IN THE WORLD LIES THERE!? Essentially the game is split into two sections, one where you’re battling monsters to gain ingredients and level up, and the other being the utilization of those ingredients (which can also be bought at stores) while you build recipes that make sense for your business to succeed. Balancing these two aspects back and forth is the bulk of how this game works. The battle sections are very solid though, and despite minor glitches it’s a lot of fun. Granted, it’s repetitive fun, but they still work really well. Part of the enjoyment in this divide is making decisions like if you want to use your high-caliber foods to level up your characters or to put them on your bar’s menu to get more customers. It’s the thought process behind these decisions where a lot of the joy lies here, even if they still could have gone further with this. You can even effectively play the game solely as a restaurant/bar sim, just by buying items when the price is right and venturing into dungeons when the story demands it. While the mix of gameplay is part of the game’s charm, it’s appreciated that you can fragment the game in such a way if you desire. While the mechanics behind this story work well enough, the story doesn’t move as quickly as it could, and its slow presence is certainly felt. It takes time to learn entire recipes, and you’re always forced to go through each recipe piece by piece, never gaining all the necessary ingredients at once. I understand what they’re going for, but just streamlining the idea would have been a better approach. The simplistic restaurant management aspect only highlights this more. This is so frustrating because all the ingredients (ha, see what I did there) to a great game are present, but it feels like none of it is pushed far enough, and what it is giving you too much of a certain thing. It’s just like following a recipe. If you don’t have the right balance of ingredients, as strong as your base may be, it’s going to fall apart. And this doesn’t quite go that far, but again, it’s a kind of lifeless title from what could have been incredible. Blood for ingredients! Blood for ingredients! In terms of the aesthetics, it’s all pretty standard fare. Nothing is too impressive, as you’re greeted with slick 2D art and catchy tunes, which is all that’s really needed here, but it’s hardly going above and beyond. 3D capabilities are not really implemented, which I suppose isn’t surprising considering this is an iOS port. Everything here is just acceptable enough to keep you satisfied, but not going that extra mile that it’ll be stand-out memorable to you. There’s a somewhat clunky menu interface where you have to scroll through your menus in battle to get to your desired decision, and there are some otherwise awkward controls in battle, but nothing that destroys the experience. It’s really just a minor grumble. The game is also just difficult enough, and deciding which recipes you want to concoct to lead to your success requires a good degree of thought. It’s not one of the more challenging RPGs out there, but it probably doesn’t appear like it would be. Adventure Bar Story’s biggest downfall, and one that befalls many of these sort of games, is the repetitive grinding that it expects you to do. The whole process becomes tiresome very quickly, and there’s nothing to reinvigorate it as you plod forward. There’s the typical dungeon crawl malaise that plagues this title as you find yourself wanting just to get through dungeons rather than savoring the experience. You want people to enjoy your meal, not just scarf it down and leave. It also doesn’t help that this synthesis of bar simulator and RPG feels deeply thin. The recipe and ingredient concept isn’t nearly as full as it could be, and it just feels like a placeholder sort of connection between ideas. This could have been a really exciting, inspired concept if given the chance. Only a small number of games could use a fire ball in both the battlefield and bar simulation aspect of their game. There is a lot of unnecessary, monotonous material to “unlock” like if you feel possessed to go through all 400 recipes, for instance. If you’re a gamer with OCD tendencies that loves looking at a huge checklist to go through, you’ll likely enjoy this, and while it does offer some replayability, it hardly feels mandatory and for everyone. Pros: +Great concept +Solid battle mode +Over 400 fun recipes at your disposal +Enjoyable, albeit kind of clunky gameplay Cons: -Repetitive grinding -Slow narrative and story -Doesn’t go far enough with the enticing concept Adventure Bar Story warrants a score of 6.5/10 due to its brilliant concept that’s unfortunately setback by repetitive gameplay and lack of further innovation. On the plus side, its robust, solid battle mode makes the fighting a pleasure, and with over 400 recipes to go through, the game will keep you busy. That being said, a slow story with a tedious narrative that doesn’t go far enough with its bar simulation angle, combined with the usual repetitive grinding seen in these games holds Adventure Bar Story back from being the true classic that it could have been. Disclosure: A review copy was used to evaluate this game.