Animal Crossing (GC)

jeep 04/01/2003 

Fun for the whole furry family...until it drives you to kill and eat them.

Tick Tock Tick Tock...

In the modern age of console gaming, each company tries to support its consoles with games that show off the devices' strengths while hiding their weaknesses. This game is made primarily to take advantage of the Gamecube's snazzy "clock" feature, and also involves some fishing. It's in real time, which means endless waiting, or as I like to call it: "Saving, Quitting and Changing the System Clock." It really does highlight that feature, and while the PS2 may have great games and the Xbox may have better graphics, the nice people at Nintendo have the whole clock concept NAILED DOWN.

The Adventure Begins...

I can just see little Japanese Kindergardeners shrieking in horror at being squeezed in a protection racket by a corrupt dry goods salesman / Yakuza warlord.

You pick a name and are dropped off by train in a town, which you also name. The first thing you notice: for a game that revolves around time, it's bizarre that you live in a town with no clocks. The first thing you do is get a place to stay from Tom Nook, a process that's a lot like buying a house from Microsoft. He gives you the house, then tells you that it's $20K, but since you don't have it, he takes all your money and tells you that you owe him $1000 a week...and then the juice starts.

So now the fear sets in: How does a dog with opposable thumbs and no marketable skills make jink in a town with no industry to speak of? Luckily, there are a few people around to help:

  • you can get a job from Tom, but once you're in...
  • If you see a tree with fruit, you can shake it and sell the fruit. Peaches in my town are worth $100, to show you how badly the economy can be affected when the yakuza own everything. You can also pick up seashells on the beach. Your inventory is so limited you have to run back and forth for like 4 hours to make any money at all.
  • You can buy a shovel, a fishing pole and an axe and use them to get other items. If you dig up fossils, you can have them identified and sell them or donate them to the museum. You can also donate fish to the museum, which leads you into the most graphically interesting area of the game - the aquarium. It's like the New England Aquarium but with less sharks, so remember to wear white.
  • You can go to the police station and take things from the evidence locker. This serves to get you a small amount of money and ensure that the yakuza dry goods store owner will never lose power over the puppet mayor and police force. Congratulations, you're a useful member of a corrupt society...but back to the game.
  • ...and I quote: "Thanks! This will get me all the chicks!"
    ...Not as long as you're wearing that dress, moron.

  • I found this drunk bird lying on the beach talking about "Atolla" something or other. I asked him for a job and he had me deliver a Red Hawaiian Print to some guy named Bob. Bob turns out to be a self-loathing transsexual in denial. Can you hear John Ashcroft warming up the Homeland Security Inquisition Force over this game's E rating yet? Anyway, there are a couple other furries who will let you do delivery jobs for them, and you get items from them you can sell for money to pay the mob. The mob sets the price on the items in question and gives you 25% of book. That's quite a racket Tom's got.
  • You can go trash picking at the dump. No really.
  • Finally, and this is perhaps the most horrifying aspect of the game: you can send letters to the little furries, and attach things in your inventory to the letters. You have to tell each person what a great person they are and what a great town you live in, and then give them a great gift (like a cheap seashell you found on the beach). You have to spell everything right and make each sentence short and to the point...some person at Nintendo actually programmed a spell checker and grammar checker into the game, and the other furries will taunt you if your letters suck. Just when you thought the worst part of console games was when you had to type a name for your character in at the beginning using the controller...they rolled a whole mini game around it. The more and better letters you send the more people will move to the town, so you have to send MORE letters...
  • Tom provides me with a steady supply of hash to keep me "happy" while I fish...the Japanese is translated lyrics for "Freebird."

    Now I realize there's a whole suspension of disbelief necessary to play these games, but let's step back a second and look at what we're doing: running around talking to everyone to keep their spirits up. Sending notes to everyone to keep their spirits up. Being sickly-sweet so people will beg to live here. Pinching every penny for the company...This game is a Human Resources Management Simulator with bright colors. If you buy this game for your children, don't expect them to grow up to be astronauts.

    Day Two...

    I actually came back and played the second day, letting the clock run up to this point normally. I think the point of the game may be to have 2.6 children who make characters and then you make a character and everyone's actions effect the town. Not that I'm comparing this to the Chinese moving whole families to spend generations building useless dams or anything, but I'm pretty sure about the game being designed to turn your children into middle management "betas."

    Nothing like spicy Udon on a cool autumn day, but the tape loop of the beheading scene in Ran really hurts the atmosphere of eating at Tom's dry goods store.

    Anyway, new day, new horrors: Once I caught some fish to sell to Tom (and dropped a few repeats off at the aquarium, they're fun to look at.) I had some noodles and went tromping around town, digging up fossils, fishing, shaking peach trees, doing odd jobs for furries, and giving myself RSI trying to write them all letters (I did it all for you, dear reader). Anyway, someone asked me to drop off a pacifier necklace and some leather chaps at Bob's, but he wasn't in. I wander around town a bit and there's an...igloo. Inside Bob's off his meds, and is cooking some kind of stew, so he proceeds to alternate between enticing me into playing "What's in my pocket?" guessing games and shrieking at me to "stay away from his chowder." He will not accept the chaps under any circumstances, and the police will not lock him up. It has to be seen to be believed, but I have no screenshot there. I'm not losing a monitor on screencaps just so you can suffer, too.

    It's just not a game without AMWAY-style turnip triangle schemes.

    I finally paid off my blood debt to Tom, and he promptly builds me an even bigger house, for which I now owe him a cool half million. Let's see...ten seashells a day, at $40 a seashell...jesus christ.

    But wait, Joan is here to help me. Joan has something Tom will buy at outrageous prices, even more than the peaches, and you can raise them around town if you hide them carefully from the cops. Of course I'm talking about turnips. Just buy them, bury them, and wait for the cash to roll in. Hey kids, can you say "giant speculative bubble"?

    Day Three

    It's Peter Benchley's Scyphomedusa! Everybody run!

    This is the end of the line for me, folks. I'm not sure what happened or how it happened, but the game goes from being about getting stoned, decorating your house feng-shui style and fishing to suddenly becoming this horrible nightmare...the mayor left town, he asked me to turn on the lighthouse at night, I wasn't around to do it...sea monsters...broken bodies everywhere...the horror.

    That's this game's actual value.

    I didn't return the game, but I couldn't bring myself to play it again afterwards. I had let the little furries down, and worse than that, my hands still hurt from typing them all the same letter over and over again. This guy over on the right is correct, it's pretty painful and tedious, and I just can't recommend that you not play it highly enough.

    In fact, just in case you didn't get the message clear enough, I'm linking to a page from someone who played for a whole week. I warn you, it's not pretty.


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