Sit down, lads n’ lasses, and I tell ye a tale of two games. Not just any games, two of the best for Nintendo 3DS: New Super Mario Bros. 2 and Fire Emblem: Awakening. I’m not focusing on the games themselves, but rather peripheral experiences: that of paid DLC. Both of these games are some of Nintendo’s first attempts at such paid DLC, and they’re a tad questionable in places, which I will explain here.
(Before I begin, DLC stands for Downloadable Content, extra game content such as levels or characters offered beyond what is initially offered in the game. It is often used in games to extend gameplay and can be offered for free or for money.)
First, New Super Mario Bros. 2. NSMB2 is a standard Mario game with a rather unique twist: one of the goals of the game is to collect 1,000,000 coins. Yes, one million coins. If that sounds hard, it is. In normal stages, usually there is no special effort made to load the levels with coins (you have a couple methods of earning them that are not present in other games, most notably the Gold Flower powerup, but it’s not like the levels themselves are teeming with coins).
In normal stages, that is.
In Coin Rush mode, a special mode that has you running through three stages in a row in an effort to collect as many coins as possible, the DLC comes into play. You can buy specialized Coin Rush courses to play. The very first one is called the Gold Rush pack, and offers insane amounts of coins. The goal is to collect 30,000 coins for this pack – incidentally, 30,000 is the maximum you can collect in any one Coin Rush sequence. I had the DLC since it came out last Fall, but I just yesterday achieved that course record.
Now, we must note a few things. First off, this DLC pack costs $2.50, which isn’t too bad of a price. The interesting part comes when you consider how many coins are usually earned in normal Coin Rush stages – getting 3,000 coins is respectable for those. So you can get x10 as much coins as you normally would, just by paying an extra fee. That can make that 1,000,000 coin mark come so much faster.
But wait, that’s not even all of it! In NSMB2, you can StreetPass people (pass by others in real life who play the same game) to get their Coin Rush record on your game. If you beat their record, you can get a one-time bonus added to your coin total. The bonus? Their record! So if they got 30,000 coins, and you ALSO get 30,000 coins, that’s 60,000 coins for you! That’s still not everything – there’s also a 1,000 coin bonus for beating someone else’s record for the first time! So that’s 61,000 coins in all when in the normal game, you’d be lucky to get past 7,000 (3,000 your record + 3,000 other person’s record + 1,000 bonus)!
Granted, since it is paid DLC, not everyone has the Gold Rush pack, and you’d have to have it yourself too, but I do have some records from other people for this pack, so it does happen.
Next, there’s Fire Emblem: Awakening, a turn-based strategy RPG. This game has only been out for a couple weeks in the US, and already has a fair amount of DLC. One of them is the Golden Gaffe pack, which gives you the opportunity to score big on gold and costs $2.50 on its own or $6 in a pack of 3 maps (the other two maps, while yet to be released, give you massive EXP gains and super-powerful weapons respectively).
This is actually worse than the Gold Rush pack for NSMB2. Why? Let’s examine the map first. No complete picture seems to exist of this map online, so I’ll describe it as best I can. You can put a total of 10 of your units into battle, scattered across the sides of the map. At the top, there are 18 enemies, each carrying 1,000 to 7,000 gold, and varying in level (the stronger the enemy is, the more gold they have). In total, they have over 80,000 gold to collect. The enemies have only one goal, and that is to reach the bottom. When they do, they are removed from play, taking their gold with them. This happened in five turns during my first playthrough of the map. So you have five turns to defeat as many of those enemies as possible.
Ok, but what about the difficulty? ‘You said there were stronger enemies, right?’ I hear you ask. Well… yeah. Kind of. The rub here is that unlike every other map in the game so far, the foes won’t actually attack you. Like I said, they’re only interested in escaping (however, if you attack them, they will counter-attack you, but that’s it).
So on my first playthough, I got most of the enemies at amassed 60,000 gold. How much does that disturb the normal flow of the game? Well, I believe that’s not too far from what I’ve made throughout the course of the entire game – and I’m 3/4ths of the way through the main storyline. That much money will buy you 24 Master Seals (powerful items needed to promote your units to advanced classes).
What about units? You can recruit powerful units from previous Fire Emblem games to join you (or you can actually fight them in battle if you’re strong enough). One of the most powerful units (I got Ike and King Ashnard from the Path of Radiance set) costs about 21,000 gold. Those two units are the strongest in my party right now. Again, I’m 3/4ths of the way through it.
The game is now effectively broken for me – there’s no challenge anymore if I continue to use this map (you can play it as many times as you want).
These DLC in particular offer a somewhat distressing alternate method of victory for players – that of ‘pay to win’. By paying an extra $2.50, it is now ten times as easy for you to beat the game you spent $40 on in a quarter of the time. Satisfying now? Maybe. In the future? Not so much…
Should paid DLC really be like this? Admittedly, when some of my units died in other Fire Emblem DLC maps, I felt cheated, for when units die in Fire Emblem games, they are lost forever (at least in Classic mode for Awakening). Should I be penalized for buying DLC either? I thought about it some more, and yeah, I prefer it this way. It’s keeping with the spirit of the game (and besides, I’m just bad at strategy. Plus, you can easily turn off the game before the end of the battle to be reset to when before your units died). It’s kind of heartbreaking to see this game-breaking kind of DLC, then, and especially from Nintendo, who just recently entered the area of paid DLC (other game companies have been doing it for years). Hopefully this is not indicative of a trend to come.
Okay, I’ll put away the soapbox now.