Mega Mall Story Review: Fun but Familiar
Kairosoft, makers of cute, casual 8-bit sims such as Pocket Academy and Game Dev Story, have brought another game to the English-language stable: Mega Mall Story. This Tiny Towers-esque sim has you racing to the top of the retail market, vying for a coveted 5-star rating. Like its predecessors, Mega Mall Story is light and fun, but it leans a bit too heavily on the Kairosoft formula.
There’s two ways I could frame this, and I’m torn between them: either Kairosoft has once again managed to leverage their cutesy sim formula into a successful mall management game; or, Kairosoft has once again recycled their standard formula into a mall management sim that feels a lot like the last three English-language releases.
On the one hand, Mega Mall Story is a really fun game. Taking a bit more from Hot Springs Story than from Kairosoft’s other titles, MMS challenges you to build a successful mall complex. To win, you need to offer high quality, well-stocked stores that appeal to the varied tastes of the customers who come through your doors. As you grow, so do your options. You start out with pedestrian stores like a Bakery and a Greengrocer, but late in the game you’ll be adding casinos, planetariums, and even a helipad to your massive shopping center. The place gets pretty wild, and if you do things right you’ll soon have a flood of regular customers practically throwing money at you. It’s all done in Kairosoft’s bright, bit-sized graphics and chirpy chipset soundtrack, which just makes anyone smile.
On the other hand, there’s nothing here that Kairosoft fans will find unfamiliar. Store locations must be purchased; once purchased, they can be upgraded to perform better, and they also level up; certain combinations of stores, built together, provide benefits and improved performance; and little characters with names like “Gil Bates” have needs that can be tended to to make *them* perform better, which in MMS means spending more money at your mall. There are also civic improvements you can invest in to draw customers; a traveling salesman selling plans and secret combos; and an outside organization that routinely ranks your performance. Make that last sentence a bit more generic, and I could be describing Hot Springs Story.
In the middle of these two views is the fact that Mega Mall Story simplifies things. It’s not quite the game that PA or GDS were; there aren’t so many variables to track, nor actions to take. There’s two in-game “currencies,” money and hearts, and both of those generate in one way, via shoppers; and once things start rolling your way, it’s really hard to lose. Early in MMS you’re stuck watching things go by, waiting for your resources to build up so you can take some action; and by Year 14 you’re stuck watching things go by because you’ve already done everything except reach the end of Year 15. I suppose Kairosoft’s other sims suffered this to a degree, but it felt more noticeable in MMS. The game also lacks any more challenging levels, like Kairosoft’s last game, Pocket Academy, did, and so the incentive to play through a second time is less.
I liked Mega Mall Story, and I suspect that any fan on Kairosift’s games will likewise enjoy it. But ultimately, I fall on the side of Kairosoft perhaps leaning a bit too much on their formula for success here. I hope that Kairosoft can take their light, fluffy formula to new places in the future, instead of merely applying it to new settings.
Our Score: 4 Out of 5