I’ve gone and done it again. I’ve bought Animal Crossing. I don’t like Animal Crossing, but I keep ending up buying them. I think I know why I hate them. I think I know why I keep bloody buying them.
Based on my love for all things shoot-y and fight-y, its a wonder why I ever bothered with Animal Crossing in the first place. The Gamecube one was my first. I took out my loan, paid off Tom Nook a few times and collected a handful of NES games. It was alright, but I found the whole experience to be a bizarre combination of boring and stressful. Once I’d found a decent, reliable way of collecting loads of bells in one go, I’d just repeat that and pay off Nook’s constant demands. Dull. Repetitive. Didn’t make me want to play it. On the other hand, knowing that if I didn’t play it for even one day the inhabitants would get pissed at me was enough to keep me begrudgingly coming back - just in case it suddenly got amazing.
It didn’t. Same old shit, every day. Once I’d made a clumsy and ill-advised S.S. uniform for my villager to cut about in, that was the lot.
This is where what can only be described as the Animal Crossing cycle began. I’d made my mind up that I really didn’t get on with the game. I found it tiresome, repetitive and really felt like a chore whenever I picked it up. So, when a sequel was announced for the DS, I didn’t care. Then comes the fucking Animal Crossing defence league...
“It’s handheld this time so you can play it more casually!”
“It’s got online play! We can TOWN TOGETHER!”
“Loads of other improvements!”
They said all of these things, and I believed them. Those were things that would address a lot of my major issues with the game, so I caved. I bought Animal Crossing on the DS. Was it any better?
This time I had other issues. My life had changed and like most people, I had a job that took up my days. The time I would spend with Animal Crossing, there was largely sod all to do, as the shops in my town would be shut. I ended up having to fiddle with the DS internal clock to even get some enjoyment out of my purchase. Was the gameplay different enough to pull me in, though? Nah. Same old shit, every day. Again. It should be, by this point, absolutely baffling to you that I picked up the 3DS version. Again, I was convinced by the ACDL. They cooked up their bullshit propaganda once again and I swallowed it down.
“The DS didn’t have great online but the 3DS is much better so it’ll be great this time.”
“You can dictate the opening hours of your shops so you can actually play the game!”
“There’s a QR code scanner so you can make posters from pictures of your balls!”
“You’re the MAYOR this time! Imagine what you can do as the MAYOR.”
SOLD. Any lingering doubts I had about the game were ditched when I realised, due to Nintendo’s excellent ‘Too Many Games’ promotion, I could get it for free! A free, downloadable, easily accessible Animal Crossing with improved, streamlined multiplayer? Surely this is the one?
I ran out of steam almost immediately with this one. I went straight to the Able Sister’s shop to start knocking out some daft custom t shirts using the QR code reader and a generator app I had found. I was then informed I had to go to the shop and speak to one of the little hedgehogs that ran the place EVERY DAY for TEN DAYS. TEN. DAYS.
I did it, mind. For the first few days, I’d go about and collect things to sell and take part in the little things the game asked of me - speaking to the inhabitants and finding specific items for them and other tedious requests - but by the end of the first week my play sessions with Animal Crossing: New Leaf went like this...
- Load game.
- Walk to Able Sisters.
- Talk to sister that I have to in order to unlock the QR code reader.
- Save and Quit.
I eventually unlocked the QR code reader. It is pretty rubbish. It barely works, and any pictures you want to make into a poster look like a blurry mess. There ends my time with Animal Crossing: New Leaf. My 3DS has remained off ever since, closed and out of battery. My town, as always, continues. Growing weeds, townsfolk getting increasingly frustrated by the mayor leaving. Anger rising. I bet it’s like fucking Sodom and Gomorrah in there right now.
I realise now that my problem is with the fundamentals of the Animal Crossing experience. Get money, buy stuff. Only the ways you make money are terminally dull and the shit you buy is, largely, shit. It’s a similar problem to the one I have with the Assassin’s Creed games: try as they might to bolt on loads of ‘cool’ extra stuff, the core of the game just doesn’t appeal to me. People tell me you only need to play it for twenty minutes a day to get everything done and keep things ticking over. Thing is, most of that time is spent wandering around, so if I’ve got a spare moment to squeeze in a bit of gaming, I’ll spend the time playing Super Hexagon on my commute instead and get some instant gratification. If I’m at home, and I’ve got some actual real time to spend playing a videogame, it’s not even getting a look in.
At no point do I think playing Animal Crossing is me making good use of my increasingly limited time. If I pop on a game like The Last of Us or something, I feel like I’m heading toward a prize; the ending of the game. With Animal Crossing, my ultimate goal is get money so I can collect items. All of these items are absolutely useless. They do nothing. This doesn’t excite me. They’re token trinkets that make a room look nice. You can invite friends over to see this room, where they too can stand in it and do fuck all. Imagine if all those NES games you dug up could be played in multiplayer with friends you’ve invited over to your place? You can have that one good idea for free, Nintendo. The social side of the game is rubbish. I went to one town where someone had unlocked a nightclub. I had heard people talk about how cool it is, so was obviously intrigued. Get this - It is a room that you stand in and press a button and you dance. That is it. The 3DS is a console with something resembling a working online infrastructure but you cannot send mail to other friends’ towns, so you’re left interacting with a bunch of weird A.I. animals. I’m sorry, I just don’t get it.
Animal Crossing is just as much of a time sink as stuff like World of Warcraft, only your reward for all the hours you put into the game is a different coloured table you can invite your mates over to look at. In real life, I could at the very least sit on the thing, or powerbomb them through it. Give me a gun, some quad damage and a couple of headshots over this any day.