Every gamer has one or two games that they shouldn’t enjoy, but shamelessly do. It’s okay though, there’s no need to be shy, I enjoy Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball too. But that’s another article, my ultimate guilty pleasure is Animal Crossing and a lot of people don’t understand why. Let me show you what’s just so damn good about it.
Simulation games are kind of my thing. I can’t play them all the time, that would be boring, but they are designed to be the ultimate escape from the dullness that is real life. All video games are arguably an escape, but sims give you direct control over virtual peoples lives. Whether you’re playing God, building a city or controlling a specific family, sims let you do almost anything. You can be kind to your people or leave them to drown in a swimming pool, the choice is up to you. Animal Crossing is an example of a sim game, one that’s suitable for all ages. There’s no death, sex or violence, your town is a happy joyful place, and all the residents are cute fluffy animals. What’s not to love?
Yes, in Animal Crossing you play the only human. Much like other sim games, there’s no story or even a specific point to the game, other than watching your town grow and interacting with the other residents. Most Animal Crossing games start with you deciding if you’re a boy or a girl, what the town you’re moving to is called and then you arrive. Towns are randomly generated, so every ones is different but there will always be a clothes shop, furniture and tool shop, museum and town hall. Sadly, you arrive with no money but you are given a house which, similar to real life, puts you immediately in debt. The notorious money-snatching raccoon Tom Nook is whom you must pay the bells (that’s the currency) to, but the good news is every time you pay off your debt, you’re house is upgraded to be even bigger and better.
So how do you make money in Animal Crossing? The easiest way when you first start out is fruit. Shaking fruit trees means fruit will fall from them, which you can then sell to Tom Nook. Shaking normal trees can sometimes be beneficial too, it’s possible to find random pieces of furniture in the trees branches, as well as bags of bells. However, tree shaking can also result in bee hives falling out too and if the bees catch you, you’ll get horribly stung and the other villagers will be scared of the ugly lump on your face.
Which brings me to talk about the villagers, which are clearly the reason why anyone would play Animal Crossing. Much like the town’s layout, villagers are also randomly generated and can move in and out of your town any time they like. There are a huge amount of villagers, there were 210 in the Wii game for example, and they each have their own personalities. You can get a variety of animals living in your town, anything from dogs to lions and there are eight different personality types. Male characters can be cranky, lazy or jock and female characters can be snooty, normal or preppy. You can only have a handful living in your town at once, some you’ll love and some you’ll hate, but they’re always fun to interact with. If a villager wants something from you, an exclamation mark will appear above their head and they’ll run over to you. If you choose to talk to them, they might want to play a game or to give you a present or they might even want to you run an errand for them. Sometimes they’ll just want your opinion on something, but some personality types are quick to anger, so you might get shouted at if they disagree with you.
Building a relationship with these characters is what makes me keep coming back to Animal Crossing. Once a character really likes you, they might ask you to type out a catchphrase for them which they’ll use and other characters might even start to use it too. Yes, you can start your own fads! Similarly, you can design your own clothes patterns in the clothing shop, if residents like your design, they’ll start wearing it.
If you would rather focus on developing the town, you can do that too. You can pick weeds, water flowers and try and grow rare breeds of plants. Plus, if you spend your money on the town itself, instead of paying off your mortgage, the mayor will eventually build features such a bridges or a fountain. All the while you can fill up the museums exhibits; catching bugs, digging up dinosaur fossils and fishing all result in you collecting items which can be donated to the museum.
Your town changes with the seasons too, which means seasonal events. For example in winter, it snows, and two snowballs will randomly spawn in your town each day. If you roll these snowballs to make them bigger and place them on top of each other, you build a snowman who can talk to you. If you didn’t build him right, he’ll be depressed but if you make the perfectly proportioned snowman, you’ll get a rare piece of furniture from him. Other events include New Years, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, Groundhog day, April Fool’s, Bunny Day (Easter) and much, much more.
The point is, you can do whatever you want in the world of Animal Crossing and it never feels old. The villagers always have something new and hilarious to say as everything is affected by you, what you do and what time of year it is. Even if you haven’t played for weeks/months/years, villagers will miss you and ask you where you have been. Life continues in Animal Crossing, even when you switch your console off. As you may have heard, Animal Crossing: New Leaf comes with some significant changes to the AC series. This time you’re the Mayor, so no more debt plus you have complete control over what amenities you buy for your town.
Animal Crossing may seem like a pointless kids game but once you play it, you’ll be sucked in. Perhaps it’s not for everyone, but personally I cannot wait for New Leaf to come out, as it’s the main reason I bought a 3DS XL. Roll on June 9.