Review: Tamagotchi Connection: Corner Shop 3 (Nintendo DS)

Tamagotchi Connection: Corner Shop 3
Genre: Simulation / Mini-game
Developer:NanaOn-Sha, Dimps
Publisher: Namco Bandai Games
Release Date: 06/17/08

Bizarre to behold, yet strangely charming, Tamagotchi was the unrivaled king of the 90’s virtual pet craze. Some may even credit it as the disconnected forefather of such mega franchises as Pokemon and Digimon. I am unashamed to admit that I’m a fan of Bandai’s crazy little Tamagotchi creatures, that I have maintained quite a few of the key chain pets in my time, and even purchased the ill-fated Gameboy version back in 1997.

The Tamagotchi are making a comeback to some extent nowadays, as virtual pet products and other goodies have become available again in retailers, an animated motion picture featuring Mametchi and some of the other easily recognized Tamagotchi characters is on the horizon for distribution in the states, and the occasional video game staring these kooky monsters surfaces from time to time. The most recent, Tamagotchi Connection: Corner Shop 3, is obviously the third in this specific series, which basically sees you keeping shops for the Tamagotchis. Keeping shop, you’d be unsurprised to know, translates to playing lots of mini games.

More mini game madness? On MY Nintendo DS? It’s more likely than you’d think, but you’d be surprised by what a little personality, a lot of charm, and cleverly dressing up of mini game grinding can do for such a title.

Story:

Though that’s not really a story so to say, the premise for Corner Shop 3 is as follows: The mayor of Putchi Hill is in dire need of economic stimuli in his happy little Tamagotchi town. It’s up to you, the player, to assume the guise of a Tamagotchi, and run a series of shops which offer various goods and services to the all to eager citizens of Putchi Hill. This concept exemplifies the idea that the Tamagotchi are the ultimate in consumption. From key chain to portable game, these little creatures love to be consumers.

Besides this initial plot, there really isn’t any other kind of plausible development to be had from Corner Shop 3, and to be honest, it’s really not in need of any.

Story: Mediocre

Graphics:

Though virtually identical to the sprites and backgrounds seen in Corner Shop 1 and 2, the bright, colorful, and cheerfully eclectic visual presentation of these Tamagotchi games is right on the money. The 2D graphics certainly aren’t taxing on your DS, and the sprites and environment pieces often lack any real expression of detail, but simplicity is obviously a key ingredient in the charming and endearing depiction of all things Tamagotchi, and it truly works in these regards.

The art direction in the Corner Shop games , much like the art involved with the franchise as a whole, has always inspired a certain kind of child-like aesthetic in the ways things are portrayed. Some Tamagotchis assume the likeness of robots, ghosts, and even ninjas, while others appear to be nothing more in their design than a lopsided smiley face. Regardless of how they’re presented, some kind of magical unity exists in the collective design of these little critters that just works, and even simple animations, such as a change of expression, will usually garner smiles.

Tamagotchi, bottom line, obviously have some kind of Japanese visual magic that has pulled along the franchise a considerable ways, and these games are wonderful outlets for said magic. The graphics are adorable and captivating, and the Tamagotchi themselves are always worth a chuckle or two.

Graphics: Great

Sound:

The soundtrack to Corner Shop 3 is upbeat, catchy, and quirky, much like the creatures who share the game with it. The little ditties that accompany the shop games always flow nicely with the task at hand and seldom get on the nerves, even when playing at a particular shop for a long time. The Tamagotchis, as in the previous Corner Shop games, speak in their own form of gibberish which is similar to the characters’ voice effects in Animal Crossing. Sound effects are also oddly emulated by a similar concoction of various pitched bleeps and blips.

The elements of audio definitely compliment the visual elements in Corner Shop 3, and work a similar, though not quite as potent, kind of magic to that of the art direction and visual presentation.

Sound: Good

Gameplay:

The mini game formula is quite the commodity for video game developers as of recent, and the current Nintendo systems are indeed the Meccas of the genre. In most cases, the quality of the contained mini games is the only thing that can label the game as worthwhile or worthless.

It’s interesting to see a game like Corner Shop 3 and its predecessors actually apply an ongoing purpose to the traditional mini game gallery experience. Though not unlike similar games such as Carnival Games or WarioWare in its general execution, Corner Shop 3 sets up the experience, via it’s concept, as something other than simply “playing games”. As mentioned earlier, the idea behind Corner Shop 3 is to boost consumerism (more or less) in the Tamagotchi inhabited burg of Putchi Hill. It’s through this simple concept, and the help of the ever present Tamagotchi charm, that the game carries on collectively as something that feels a little more special and purposeful than your standard mini game mash up. There are a total of 13 shops you can propitiate in Corner Shop 3, each one being a sort of mini game to undergo, with each effectively offering an assortment of goods or service to your customers. Though there’s only 4 shops available to you at the start of the game, the others will become unlocked upon doing enough business in the existing shops.

By successfully serving your customers, the mayor of Putchi Hill will offer to increase the size of the specific shop to offer more services to the customers. What this translates to as far as gameplay is concerned is a more complex mini game to play, IE recycling trash at the recycling center turns from merely dragging and dropping cans and wood from a conveyor belt into the appropriate canister to introducing the need to saw and crush trash accordingly to fit into the bins. In most instances, the games do not simply get harder, or require you to move quicker within their own context, but rather incorporate new elements into the existing game. Though this is not enough to save the game completely from the obvious monotony that will ensue upon playing it more and more, the approach is without a doubt a good one, and has genuinely kept me interested in plugging away at certain jobs I wasn’t excited about with the idea of being able to use the larger palette of options when the shop expands.

Though I was unable to find a shop to rival my favorite shop from Corner Shop 2 (working at the hilarious and weird sushi bowling alley), the shop duties in this Corner Shop installment are all definitely amusing, each with varied degrees of fun and all portrayed with much of Tamagotchi novelty. The piano studio will have you teaching the Tamagotchi masses their favorite classic compositions in a simple, but effective, rhythm game, and working at the treasure hunter shop will see you finding, digging up, and dusting off various buried items for clients… while they wait! Later on you’ll be pampering customers in the day spa and throwing them a party at the event coordinator shop. The games themselves all work great with the DS stylus interface, and everything is usually very responsive and easy to work with.

There is reasonable variety to be had between the shops, and all of the shop duties as they are contain more details than your typical mini game collection. Though all 13 of the games are fun out of the gate, some do get more monotonous at a faster pace than others, which can make getting all of your shops to the forth and final “Royal” expansion a test of endurance. Though cute at first, the chatter between the customers and your partner can get bothersome, once again, during the treks to expand shops further, as you’re required to touch the screen to advance the captioned dialog boxes before and after services and goods are exchanged. It’s also tiresome to do the same exact job for three different customers in a row, which happens more than it should when playing most of the jobs that require you to make a product as ordered. This becomes especially annoying when one realizes that there are plenty of other options the game could use in combination to freshen things up in these circumstances, but for some reason, the customers insist on the same ice cream cone three or more times back to back.

Unlike the previous Corner Shops, which had you pick from one of three Tamagotchi at the start of the game, this installment features four of the more popular little creatures as constant companions you can partner up with as you choose. These Tamagotchi act as the host / clerk in whichever shop you work in. Each of these adorable little monsters has their own personality as well as a series of different outfits you can unlock, purchase, and dress them in as well.

There is also a park in Putchi Hill, which is a new addition to the series. Here you can adorn the grounds with various ornaments and architecture as they become available for purchase, plant various flowers and plants which you care for via a mini game played at the gardening shop, dig for treasure, which also plays like a mini game, and treat your partner or any other visiting Tamagotchis to various treats and snacks you can buy. The game also offers a cute, but generally uninteresting, journal feature that lets you assemble pictures from an assortment of graphics and add a small amount of text as an entry. It’s possible to compile and share these journals with your friends, which kind of defeats the traditional purpose of a journal or diary, but hey.

Gameplay: Good

Replayability:

Though there is a considerable amount to do in Corner Shop 3, there isn’t really an end or an ultimate goal as I’m sure you assumed at this point. Eventually, if you grind through the games enough, you’ll unlock all the various outfits, park decor, snacks, and other aesthetic paraphernalia to be had in the product. You receive money for each successful shop transaction, which always winds up being a sum greater than you could ever spend on all of the games or purchasable odds and ends when all is said and done.

There’s no multi player of any kind, which pretty much leaves the Corner Shop experience’s staying power resting solely on the fun to be had with the 13 mini games and the various alterations they may go through as the specific shops expand. It certainly has the potential and definitely has the charm to keep you busy for awhile, and while I whole heartedly admit that the game’s set-up and concept gives it a certain longevity that most comparable products don’t possess, it’s only a matter of time before the unfortunate monotony of the game will begin to set in.

Replayability: Above Average

Balance:

The game flows reasonably well, with a certain wash, rinse, repeat premise. There isn’t really a way to lose, so to say, however. If you take to long fulfill an individual customer’s order, they will simply leave the store, allowing the next in line to be served. Even with a rating of 1 of 3 for your job performance, you will still receive full payment for your product/service. Your Tamagotchi customers are always happy to pay, even if you give them chocolate ice cream instead of vanilla.

It’s apparent that a younger audience was kept in mind with this mechanic, and though some of the mini games can be down right harrowing whilst working in the Royal versions of the shops, this passive nature actually works well in the game’s favor and lets you concentrate on having fun while fun is available to be had.

Balance: Above Average

Originality:

As wonderful as the visual presentation is in Corner Shop 3, it is literally a carbon copy of the two previous games on a gameplay standpoint. That being said, even three editions in, Corner Shop is still is a terrific take on the mini game formula and an extremely effective usage of the Tamagotchi franchise. Though we’ve probably played many a take on the mini games offered in the Corner Shops in similar games already, not many examples come to mind when I think of a comparable product that offers the simplistic fun of a mini game gallery, without totally coming off as just a bunch of short diversions.

Originality: Good

Addictivness:

Like any good collection of enjoyable mini games, Corner Shop 3 is quite addicting out of the gate. However, expanding shops and unlocking new ones really adds to ones overall desire to serve as many customers as necessary. Once you have all the possible shops unlocked however, your desire to play any further might potentially take a nose dive.

Addictivness: Good

Appeal Factor:

At the height of their popularity, the Tamagotchi virtual pets were literally banned from certain schools as they were a constant form of distraction for students who had them. Now, though the Tamagotchi excitement has not been anything close to what it was back in the day, the franchise still piques enough interest to have items carried in the toy section of most major retailers.

Though fans of the previous Corner Shops will undoubtedly embrace this title with open arms, as they should, it’s hard to imagine this specific sequel of a sequel winning any considerable amount of new fans based solely off what it is.

Appeal Factor: Above Average

Miscellaneous:

All in all, Corner Shop 3 is very much like Corner Shop 1 and 2, and like comparing 1 to 2, 3 simply offers more to the clever formula these games utilize. Instead of 3 total expansions for shops, the shops in this installment can be expanded up to 4 times. Cute little attractions like the journal feature and the park are amusing, but really do nothing but offer extra diversions from the core gameplay once it starts wearing thin. The inclusion of 4 Tamagotchi partners that can be swapped in and out at any time adds a small amount of extra variety to the mini game grinding, but once again, this feature does nothing to change the game experience any.

Miscellaneous Rating: Poor

The Scores:
Story: Mediocre
Graphics: Great
Sound: Good
Gameplay: Good
Replayability: Above Average
Balance: Above Average
Originality: Good
Addictiveness: Good
Appeal Factor: Above Average
Miscellaneous: Poor
FINAL SCORE: ENJOYABLE

Short Attention Span Summary:
The vibrant presentation and the undeniable Tamagotchi charm are as persistent as ever in this third Corner Shop title. Eventually, the inevitable monotony that finds its way into most games of its kind is too much for even the quirky and adorable visual direction to quell, unfortunately. Collectively, and much like the preceding games, Corner Shop 3 does a terrific job of masking the usually underwhelming fact that it’s core gameplay is little more than a mini game gallery, and all in all offers an endearing and fun experience.

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