Mobile Game of the Week: Adventure Bar Story (iOS)

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Mobile Game of the Week: Adventure Bar Story (iOS)

Adventure Bar Story

Platform: iOS
Developer: Rideon
Release Date: 03/08/2012
Price: $2.99

Japanese games have been in a state of flux for the past few years. Here in the states, gamers and critics have been practically begging legendary franchises like Final Fantasy and The Legend of Zelda to modernize their play style and production values. But it’s not just the players who’ve been looking for changes in the industry. Just a few weeks ago at GDC, developer of the upcoming indie game Fez said Japanese games “just suck”, while infamous indie developer Jonathan Blow agreed with him, saying Japanese games have become “joyless husks”. I had these quotes on my mind as I picked up Adventure Bar Story, a classic JRPG/sim with a modern iOS-friendly time management twist.

In Adventure Bar Story — and yes this is the worst game title of all time — it’s your job to turn your shabby little bar into the most popular restaurant in the kingdom. This requires fighting monsters in the surrounding areas to gather cooking materials, purchasing and creating more extravagant recipes, and competing in the local restaurant competitions. Like a hybrid of Harvest Moon, Tiny Tower, and every JRPG you’ve ever played, it’s a fresh concept that feels like a perfect fit for mobile devices.

adventure bar story screen 1.jpg

Fittingly, gaining experience points and leveling up in Adventure Bar Story doesn’t happen by defeating monsters on the battlefield. Instead, you gain levels by eating the food that you make at your bar. To encourage you to make more extravagant meals, recipes that require more ingredients to make are worth more experience. However, the connection between battling and cooking isn’t convincing enough to make the turn-based fights more than an afterthought. If the game didn’t force me to engage in the fights so often it wouldn’t be as big of a deal, but I felt like I spent a majority of my time walking around hoping to not get pushed into another unbearable battle.

We all know how grueling and insufferable it feels to be forced to grind through randomly-encountered battles, but imagine that without any of the good vibes that come from accumulating experience points. Instead of developing a way to get supplies and items that was more unique or interesting and that also fit the setting of the game, it seems like Rideon feared players would be uncomfortable with a game that didn’t include the familiar task of scrolling through menus to battle monsters in the forest.

adventure bar story screen 2.jpg

Is it actually true? Has the Japanese game industry fallen to the wayside against the explosion of both big-budget cinematic games and burgeoning artsy indie games coming from the West? The answer I found in Adventure Bar Story was both “yes” and “no”.

The fact that Rideon felt the need to add on this dated and poorly thought-out battle system really does address Blow’s comments for me. On one hand, Adventure Bar Story is a fresh and interesting take on previously established genres that has plenty to offer to both JRPG and time management/simulation fans. I’ll admit that while I don’t consider myself a huge fan of either genres, the concept intrigued me enough to keep me invested in the game for 4 or 5 days. However, once the freshness wears out, the game gets bogged down in both its execution and design. The production values are as stock and uninteresting as they come, and the unbalanced pacing of the game doesn’t exactly always give the player very much to do.

While it certainly tries, Adventure Bar Story doesn’t end up being the kind of game I would use as evidence to prove that Jonathan Blow is totally wrong about Japanese videogames. However, it only takes a quick look at games like Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective or even last year’s Catherine to see an industry that is still alive, kicking and willing to play outside of the box.