We will try our best not to associate the free-to-start Nintendo Badge Arcade with drug use - even if the first sample is free it's easy to get hooked, and visions of pink rabbits will fill your life more the farther you go into it. The Badge Arcade is perfectly legal, for one, and its pink rabbit will not whisper at you to burn things. At least it hasn't yet done so during our first few days with him.
Regardless, if you enjoy crane games and menu customization, the arcade is going to be awfully tempting to drop some coin on.
The Nintendo Badge Arcade offers a regularly revolving array of crane machines containing "badges" from a range of different properties. In our first few days the machines included 8-bit Mario and Zelda, as well as newer stuff including Super Mario Maker, Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer, Splatoon, and even BOXBOY! Each theme sticks around for a few days, then disappears. We assume they'd eventually make a return, but it still adds that "better get it before it's gone!" nudge.
Operating a crane is handled the same way it is in the minigame from Kirby's Adventure: hold A until the crane is where you want it, then let up. The Badge Arcade cranes do have a bit more momentum to account for, however, as well as different crane types. Instead of a classic claw, some machines have a swinging hammer attachment or drop bombs. Each of these secondary crane types adds a bit of satisfying violence to the games, although they're harder to finely control.
Any badges that fall, whether dropped directly by the claw or otherwise knocked about, can be claimed for use on the HOME Menu. More on that later, but what it means now is that there can be some strategic or just plain lucky turns on the crane that yield bounties of two, three, or more. Each machine's layout of badges and chutes is different, and clever players might be able to pick up on ways to snag more badges on one go.
While the lure of potential jackpots can be enough for some people to keep coming back, Nintendo also added some conversational incentive with the pink bunny attendant who runs the arcade. Talking with him feels a lot like speaking with the shop owner in Rusty's Real Deal Baseball, with plenty of expressiveness and opportunities to respond. It might not sound like much, but it can be fun to see what the bunny has to say each day. A good deal of it does seem to be promotions for games and such, but at least it's often done in an entertaining way.
Of course, the rabbit is there to make real money - real, real money, as he notes. To this end, things can start to feel a bit iffy. If you want to go without ever paying a dime to the carrot fund, you can: free plays are trickled out through daily use of the no-prize practice machine or just plainly handed out on certain days. It will likely never be enough to collect a full set of anything before it cycles out for a while, though, and that's when they slowly start to raise the heat.
Initially, it's $1 for 5 plays. But if you liked that, the attendant notes, you could switch up to $2 for 10! Oh, liked that too? Then how about $3 for 15! $4 for 20? On one hand, you can always switch to whichever bundle you want, and the larger bundles can save time processing through the clunky eShop system. On the other hand, costs can add up more quickly this way than some might realize.
What you do get for money can be pretty fun, though - if digital décor is your thing, at least. Badges can be easily dragged and dropped onto HOME Menu slots normally reserved for games, with some larger ones taking up 2-4 places. Fulfilling certain collecting or monetary requirements will provide access to free themes that provide better stages for certain badges, although they're not really much to look at by themselves. Everything seems neatly organized by game and grouping, as well.
Our favourite thing to do with badges so far is sticking them on folders. Instead of an obscure "G" on your Game Boy games folder, why not have pixel art of the machine itself? Or how about Isabelle managing your folder of premium favs? The badges on folders look nice, too; not just being flat like a sticker, but actually protruding a bit like a solid object. It would be nice if the same 3D effects were applied to the badge collection viewable in-game, but they only appear flatly in little scenes.
Ultimately, Nintendo Badge Arcade feels like a hit-or-miss activity, depending on how interested players are in the virtual merchandise being offered. For some, the badges probably aren't going to be worth paying anything. Others with collecting streaks (and Nintendo knows who you are) may find the arcade too cute and compelling to put down. Whether you want give it a try or just say no, the bunny will be waiting 24-7.