Would you order the chicken parmigiana if you knew the meat came from the bottom of some cave? That’s just how things roll in the world of Adventure Bar Story, a curious and highly anticipated tycoon sim/JRPG crossover ZigZaGame is slated to release any week now. We spent way more time than we bargained for with a near-final build as we got sucked into its intricacies, but we’ve managed to tear our thumbs away from the touchscreen long enough to write up some impressions.

As ZigZaGame’s Ryan Kelley informed us in an interview a few weeks back, the player’s mission is to help Siela manage her sister’s restaurant and deflect a hostile takeover. It’s a Mom and Pop shop-vs.-corporate giant setup against a medieval fantasy backdrop, and that alone is enough to tug at the player’s heartstrings more than your average JRPG can. It’s not just the game’s story that benefits. Absolutely nothing goes to waste in Siela’s inventory: food and drink are not only the player’s main income generator, but also the key to leveling up the player characters and earning bar reputation via cooking contests. A constant scramble for resources motivates the JRPG fan to scour dungeons and towns more thoroughly than he or she has probably ever cared to before! Any treasure chest or bookshelf might contain a new high-value recipe that could accelerate the bar’s revenue stream.

Here’s the real kicker. Siela’s bar has to open once a day, and the player gets only one trip out of her home city before it does — so you have to choose your destination very wisely on Adventure Bar Story’s point-to-point overworld map. A dungeon crawl is a great way of gathering free meat and a ton of miscellaneous ingredients, but shopping trips to satellite villages are more efficient ways of exploiting the highest-value recipes known to the player so far. In fact, one can spend hour-long stretches without getting into a single battle by focusing on trade! However, story events require Siela and co. to push boss monsters off merchant routes so more goods can flow into the capital city, and to forge into new territory when it’s clear the bar won’t survive without exotic dishes. Suffice it to say Adventure Bar Story balances the sim aspect with the usual JRPG elements so that they’re both integral to the player’s experience — and that’s just how we like our genre mashups here at iFanzine!

We’ll have lots more to say about Adventure Bar Story after it hits the App Store. It’s already clear that this is a game to watch out for in March if you’re an RPG fan, so keep an eye on the developer’s English website and ZigZaGame’s Facebook page for the latest announcements. Word is that Adventure Bar Story will launch at $0.99 USD (this is a meaty, full-length JRPG by the way!) and will retail at $2.99 USD once the release sale expires.

PS: If you were worried ZigZaGame wouldn’t put the “bar” in Adventure Bar Story, fear not — the liquor flowed aplenty in our preview playthrough. Quite a turnaround since the SNES era, eh? Please level up responsibly!