Monday, March 9, 2015

Caution: Animal Crossing

I recently got back into Animal Crossing: New Leaf. It was sort of an accident. I've been playing MH4U, which is basically the opposite of AC, so I'm not sure what happened.

monster hunting
butterfly hunting

If you've never played Animal Crossing, the wiki page sums the game series up pretty well...
Animal Crossing is a community simulation video game series developed and published by Nintendo, in which the human player lives in a village inhabited by anthropomorphic animals, carrying out various activities.
Yeah... a real action packed game.

AC:NL was released in 2013, which is when I got it, and I was super happy with it, especially considering I actually kinda really disliked the AC that was released for the Wii. I hadn't played it since forever, so I was hesitant to even start up the game again considering your town decays while you don't play. However, when I started it up, my town was missing entirely. My save file was gone. Well, easy way out I suppose - so I started a new town.

I got the first Animal Crossing for Gamecube when it came out during ancient history in 2002. I'm not sure if I knew what it was when I got it or if I just picked it up because I'm super into animals. I didn't put a lot of research into games when I was a kid, which sometimes didn't work out well for me.

but it's how I found one of my favorite games, Cubivore

There are a few things about Animal Crossing that set it apart from any given simulation game - the main one being that it occurs in real time. The time set on your system is the time in game, and villagers mingle, shops open, and events occur within realistic limits of real time. As in, it's pretty dull to play at 3:00am because everyone's asleep and all the shops are closed. You can still do anything else, but considering a large majority of activities requires interaction with some of the game's NPCs, there's not much else to do.

Now, it's not so advanced that it knows if you're adjusting the time on your console system - which is to say, you can totally cheat. I adjusted the time on my Gamecube system coooonstantly.

I'm very familiar with this settings screen

You could change the time within the game file itself instead of on your gamecube system, but when you did it that way, the game kind of bugged out - like it knew what you were doing. Those in the know always adjusted the time via the system settings.

As with any form of cheating, it makes the game kinda less fun. I mean, you're removing an intentionally included aspect of the game. The thing is, once you start cheating the real time, it's hard to just stop. The real time aspect, if you don't cheat, does two things - it artificially restricts the amount of time and when you can play a day and it encourages you to play the game at least for a bit every day. I definitely adjusted the time on my DS when I first played AC:NL but this time around I decided to experience the real time aspect as it was intended to be experienced - by actually experiencing it.

AC:NL is a fantastic evolution of the game I played in 2002. New Leaf has a strip of shops in a separate area from your town instead of having all the stores and the museum inside the gates of your town, making it less cluttered. You're also mistakenly made mayor of the town, and even though the opening dialogue only allows you to say things like "I'm definitely not the mayor you guys need to calm down," the townspeople are incredibly trusting of you and you're totally the new mayor so deal with it, which allows you to customize your town in very in-depth ways.

like uh adding fire hydrants

For being a cutesy game with adorable, trusting animals that all catch fish and bugs for a living, the currency values are astronomical - your down payment to simply construct your house so you aren't living in a tent is 10,000 bells, the actual loan for your 6x6 unit house is 39,800, the following loan to expand over doubles to 98,000, followed by your third expansion slightly doubled at 198,000, the base home expansions finishing with your second floor at 298,000 bells, totaling 643,800 bells for the base, linear home upgrades. I won't go on and on and list the prices for all of the remaining upgrades, but suffice to say the total to upgrade your house to entirety is 7,595,800 bells.

this racoon will take everything from you

This is considering that the normal fruit that grows in your town sells for 100 bells each, most little fish and bugs sell for under 100 each, with only some rare and exotic creatures selling in the thousands, plus you can find four fossils a day that sell for ~500-5000 each. The absurd prices were similar in the original game, but AC:NL made it easier to make bells, which is the most appreciated upgrade from the original game that I love about this version.

There's an island you can go to at any time where it's perpetually summer, and in the evening it's a gold mine. The island is a small patch of land bordered by a beach with trees on it, and on said trees you can catch beetles that are valued between 6000 to 12000 bells each. There are also tropical fish in the ocean surrounding the island, and if you see a fish shadow with a fin above the water, that fish is guaranteed to be worth either 4000, 8000, 12000, 13000, or 15000 - if you can catch it.

donating the first catch instead of selling them is tough, but this tank is awesome

You can also catch a coelacanth worth 15,000 if it's raining, but there is no fin to distinguish it - the shadow for it is, however, the biggest possible sized shadow you will see without a fin attached to it.

You can only bring back a certain number of items with you from the island and you can't sell anything for full price until you return to your town, so a highly itemized trip with only expensive goods may take an hour, but each trip to the island and back can net around 350,000 bells. This is highly lucrative compared to your options in the Gamecube version.

Gamecube options: an endless, tireless grind

Your town will slowly wither away without you. Each day you don't play, more flowers die and more weeds sprout. If you're gone for awhile, your villagers will start to miss you - once you finally talk to them again, they talk about how much they've missed you and say things like "I've been waiting every day for you to return!" just to make sure you get the picture that these people literally don't exist without you.

While the real time aspect and town entropy aspects of the game are entertaining, it can get easy for the game to feel like a chore. Once you get to a point where you haven't played for a month, the prospect of even loading up the game is terrifying... you'll have so many additional duties to attend to if you haven't played for a long time - letting everyone know you aren't dead, killing roaches in your house, picking an ungodly amount of weeds, replanting your gardens - but at the same time, farming seven million bells a second time is also unappealing. It makes it easy to just never play again.

The game is actually incredibly in-depth for what it is. Your town can be customized to an incredible degree - you can compose your own tune and flag, you decide where certain things are built, your town can have its own personality that can dictate the things you can build, your house gets huge with tons and tons of in game furniture - including 'sets' i.e., beds, cabinets, couches, tables, chairs, etc. that all match - and doodads, including the ability to place art on the ground - which means you can create roads or patterns just on the ground so your town can look basically however you want, to an extreme degree.

you can control everything you are supreme master

You unlock the ability to copy QR codes from the internet (or like wherever) that automatically translate into well made tiles created by people more talented than you so that you can do stuff like this without having to painstakingly create things on your own. In the Gamecube version, you could print out color coded pixel graphs of cool designs to make yourself pixel by pixel, so the QR codes definitely make things easier.

I made my own cat face because I haven't unlocked QR codes yet

Animal Crossing seems like it's intended for children (and, I mean, it is, I guess) but it has a pretty high complexity for being a brightly colored, cuddly simulation game. Shops and features slowly unlock by doing certain things that may not always be obvious, and those high priced fish and beetles require good timing and practice to capture without them getting away.

Animal Crossing falls into the Harvest Moon category of games - which is one of my favorite kinds of games. I'll capture the hell out of some beetles, spent 30 minutes making my town tune perfect, and meticulously decorate my house with adorable little furniture right alongside slaughtering giant monsters with gargantuan swords and saving Azeroth.

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