Developed by Kairosoft, Mega Mall Story is a simulation-management game in which the player takes charge of a shopping mall. The player has 15 years to build their small strip mall into a 5-star shopping mall filled with shops that customers want to visit. They are presented with investment opportunities to not only build up the mall, but the neighborhood surrounding it to build it into a community.
The game starts with the player opening a small mall with 2 basic stores and some facilities. After a conversation with the secretary, the player is given instructions on how to expand the mall with additional stores, facilities and special attractions, eventually filling criteria set by the National Mall Association. The main criteria the player is judged on are the mall's monthly revenue, the amount of stores within the mall, number of customers who become regulars, and having built certain special locations.
Customers are gained by making investments in at three locations near the mall: resident area, office area, and the park. Investments may also be made on the mall as well, but does not add shoppers to the game, instead allowing you to grow your mall with additional floors, basements, and spreading out while also adding new transportation options for shoppers such as the bus stop or train station. In total, there are 88 customers that appear with different requirements to make them regular shoppers. Regular shoppers are like normal shoppers, except they move faster and tend to spend more money while shopping. While they also tend to visit the player's mall more often, they are still free to use any competitor's mall that may pop-up during play through.
Regular shoppers are gained by viewing their customer info. The customer info states the condition quality for each customer to become a regular with a hint for which store they are speaking of. For example, one customer info reads, "Store Quality of 15 to be a regular," with the speech bubble underneath reading, "I like stores where you can buy groceries." In this example, the 15 is how high the quality points of the store needs to be for the customer needs to be a regular, and groceries indicates that the customer is speaking of a supermarket. Upon becoming a regular, the customer will give the player one of five different types of rewards: a new store, a new customer, new staff, money, or hearts.
Hearts are used for three different gameplay aspects: buying plans for new stores, holding sales to get customers to buy more at specific stores, and adding new services to stores. Services are used to boost a store's quality, reputation, and/or stock, depending on the service boost. Services also cause the monthly maintenance fee for stores to go up a set amount, however once unlocked the new services can be disabled and maintenance fees returned to normal if the player chooses to do so.
Upon leveling up a shop, the store's price and reputation automatically go up and the player is able to allocate an additional set amount of points to quality and/or stock. Leveling occurs when a set number of customers have visited a store and is not influenced by the number of items each customer purchases. Each store's rate of leveling depending on placement, services, and other factors that affect their attributes. Stores reach their level cap at ten.
Along with standard placement, and services, weather and the state of the economy also affects sales. At the beginning of each month, the player's secretary announces the state of the economy, which ranges from depression to economic boom. As common sense would dictate, a depression means less sales and a boom means lots and lots of sales. Sales are at their peak during the two sales seasons per year: winter and summer sales. Sales also rapidly increase for a one month period once a mall hits fever, meaning the mall has hit a popularity of 100. During this time, not only do shoppers buy a lot of goods, but with each customer that enters the mall, a heart is gained. Hearts are also gained when customers interact with mall employees and use facilities that boost store stats. Fever usually occurs after major milestones, such as building a train station.
Popularity is dependent on customer satisfaction with service at the mall and random events, but is mostly affected by advertising. Advertising measures vary between five different mediums and costs a set amount of money per month with the cheaper costing forms of advertising being less effective as time wears on.
Investments are proposed by potential customers, existing customers, and the player's secretary. In addition to new customers, investments also create new stores, mall expansions, economic stimuli, and walkways to allow customers to walk to the mall during the rain without worries.
The game classifies the shops into six different categories.
Food: Shops that have food products such as fast food, butchers, and candy stores.
Home: Shops that have goods for the home. This includes home goods, dollar stores, and real estate.
Electronic: Shops that sell electronic equipment. This includes stereo shops, PC shops, and mobile shops.
Beauty: Shops that sell items of beauty. This includes hair salons, clothing stores, and spas.
Entertainment: Shops that sell entertainment items. This includes video rental, cinemas, and aquariums.
Facility: Facilities are not directly shops, but are used to boost the reputation of other stores on the floor. Facilities include restrooms, leafy plants, and vending machines. It's important to note that certain facilities do not boost reputation, such as the service counter and anything that allows customers to move from one floor to another like stairs.
There are certain buildings that can only be built once per mall, such as the cinema and observation deck as well as the three advanced transportation modules: the bus station, subway, and helipad. The modes of transportation do not directly affect any store's stats on that floor, although customers do tend to visit more stores on the floors they are located.
As in Kairosoft's Hot Springs Story before it, certain combinations in Mega Mall Story create a stat boosts to stores. For instance, a combination of a toy display, candy store, and vending machine constructed directly next to each other will produce a Kids combo, which adds a reputation of 10 and a price of 15 to each store. Unlike facilities, these boosts are limited to only the stores within the combination, so while the toy display will gain the boosts, an adjoining store that not part of the prerequisite for the combination will not be affected. However, a store that is part of more than one combination will get the benefits of all combinations it is party to.
Like the other Kairosoft games, after completing the first play-through the player is able to start a new game with bonuses carried over from a previous play-through, such as:
- Fast game speed
- All unlocked store and facility plans
- All unlocked combos
However some things are not carried over:
- Levels of stores
- Plans for specials
- Staff and regulars