Animal Crossing, It's a fantastic game. You start your life as a small disfigured character and wander aimlessly through fields of lush grass, small buildings and flowers. But I can't help feel that over the years Animal Crossing has lost its charm. When I first picked it up in 2004, I was subjected to a burst of colour so great I lost at least 4 months of my life to my GameCube. Back then, and to be honest even now, I as a person, love collecting. Back in the good old days I loved unlocking everything in every game I had and Ocarina of Time almost killed me but needless to say Animal Crossing was right up my avenue.
The amount of things you could do, the things you could collect. You could hang out in town, do chores, go to the lost and found for a quick buck and look forward to what would be in Nooks Cranny every morning. One other thing you could do is play video games. Yes, NES games in a GameCube Game.
Not only could you do pretty much anything you wanted from fishing to bug catching, you could play The Legend of Zelda. How awesome is that? You can keep your Gears of War.
Among the other things you could do, was dig up fossils. This was also a fantastic thing to do. The wait between mailing off the fossil and getting it back seemed forever and the disappointment of getting a repeat fossil was disheartening... of course you were cheered up as you sold of an 3 million year old piece of priceless rock.
As much as this is all opinion, a lot of what I have said is true from even a design perspective. I am a game designer myself, and I can only hope to create such an addictive game in the future. But I digress...
Now, what is the point of all this? What is the point of this fan-boy-ish blog? Well, I don't want to tell people who don't enjoy these games that this is the best game in the world, because even I don't think it is. Instead, I am trying to communicate the feelings I had for this game.
Why would I do that? Because the point of this blog is to illustrate how bummed I am about where Nintendo has taken the franchise.
Let's look at AC: Wild World, the Nintendo DS port of the original. I almost exploded in a fit of happiness when i found out (which at the age of 21 probably isn't that good), but on a serious note, I couldn't wait to have the original in my hands on the go all the time.
What I got was nothing short of devastating. The game had instantly lost its charm. It looked and felt different. No more Zelda-esque transitions between areas was the first thing I noticed. This was a minor thing of course, but was still one that took some of the charm away. Additionally the original NES games that put so much excitement into Christmas, birthdays and item swapping in the original were gone. No reason why, just gone. The houses the player starts in were also moved and placed randomly. There was no Gyroid near the house either. Booker was moved and now at the back of the town was a huge ugly gate.
Apart from that however everything was the same but the charm injecting features had been removed and the damage was done. Another thing that got me as well was the "Wild World" focus. What was that all about? Animal Crossing: Population: Growing was an awesome title and that should have remained, but maybe with a suffix such as "The world in your palm".
What's more is that the music stayed the same which wasn't such a bad thing but by the time the Wii version was released, the music hadn't changed. Yes, City Folk, a shambles of a game. The almost pathetic insult to the franchise. The games, still gone, the music, still the same, the core gameplay mechanics still the same.
Nothing new had been added at all from the DS version, except one thing.
The game now had an emphasis on the big city. A hustling bustling place of wonder and fantasy. What I had envisioned in my head was another huge town but with a city look and feel. "Ok" I thought, "maybe this won't be so bad, just hang out there at night, that'll look awesome".
What i was actually "treated" to for £30 was nothing short of outrageous. For a game that put all the focus on a city, the city contained a cash machine, a few NPCs that said the same thing all the time, A balloon seller that randomly appears, 7 buildings, two of which are pretty much useless and a shoe shine boy. Visually, it looks really small and could never be described as a city.
Hong Kong in Shenmue, now THATS a city, this, this is a precinct. And to be honest, If they had all of this inside of a mall rather than outside and called the game "Having a Mall" then that would make more sense.
Needless to say, the Wii version also brought in one of the most flawed game design choices ever... pathing.
You see, in Animal Crossing, a lot of the visual recognition is in the floor, the grass. It looks colourful and is highly stylised, however, Nintendo sees it fit to now allow people to have it after a while.
Pathing is Nintendo's great idea (that works IN THEORY). If a player goes from their house to another house all the time, day after day, a small path appears on the ground in the grass. This creates a nice aesthetic path for others to follow. What happens in practice however is horrible looking paths, random areas of blotchy unattractive ugliness where the player occasionally strays, and the dreaded desertification.
Desertification is something that has riddled players and it is where all the grass in their towns disappears after a lot of use.
There is no option to turn it off.
Now, I'm not ranting at all, I am merely putting over a point, and that point is that Animal Crossing is a million miles away from what it used to be back in 2004. And that is sad, very sad as I have a lot of fond memories of that game.
Needless to say I will not be buying any more of the franchise and am actively looking to buy the GameCube version again and playing that on my Wii cause I'm too lazy to drag the GameCube out of the attic. At least the Wii is good for one thing eh?...