Saturday, August 24, 2013

My 5 Wishes for the Next Animal Crossing

I'm going to put this on the table now: Animal Crossing New Leaf is one of the best game I've played this year. It's been a month since I've written the review and I still haven't even scratched the surface. It's safe to say that it's the best AC so far, bar none, but I feel some improvements can be made. Like...

5. Personalize Your Character (And Face) From the Start

It happens to practically everyone who firsts starts off on an Animal Crossing game: you pick the most ideal town, giving it the perfect name (eg. Analville); and as soon as you leave the bus/car/train you'll notice that you're character's face is...less than ideal. In fact, it's terrible. 
Of course, there's ways to get the essential face you want at the start by answering the right questions, but it's a dumb process since every facial feature has a different hair style and color. Considering you can't get Sampoodle until well into weeks in the game (longer for most players), you'll have to deal with your homicidal insomniac look for there's no other way to change your character's face other than wearing something on or covering his/her head.


Which is universally received as not very attractive.

For a series that continually gives the player(s) more and more freedom from the beginning, not being able to edit your character seems ridiculous. Why not offer some basic creation tools from the start? I'm not saying 'make the game more like the Sims, but take a page from that series' character creation and let us at least customize our character a little. You want a chubby villager? Make him bigger. Stubble? You can do that. Want the skin color darker? Go right ahead.

Even if you just let us edit the eyes, it's a lot better than naming your town 'Kawaii', and expecting your character to be equally cutesy, only to find out he/she looks like Freddy Kruger and Steve Buscemis' nightmare child.

4. More Shops/Island unlocked at the Beginning of the Game

My main biggest complaint (and mind you this was my only complaint) when I reviewed New Leaf was that it took forever for most shops to be unlocked. Most of them required you buying 10,000 Bells of merchandise or more each, and then waiting up to three days for them to upgrade or for the store next door to be built. The former waiting period was worse than the latter, since you had no where else to buy furniture that wasn't being sold in the Flea Market. It might seem picky of me to poke at something so arbitrary latter in the game, especially since there's plenty of other stuff to do, but we've unlocked these shops in the past games! Upgrading shops gives a sense of progression, but to get those shops first takes way longer than it should.

 "Maybe if you stopped compulsively selling all your @$%# archaic fossils and Sea Bass to us, we might be able to get a net profit and upgrade faster, a**hole." 

And then there's the island: want to go there and get a wet suit to swim in the ocean, maybe play some mini-games too? Well, you have to wait three days until it's available trolololol. Come on now, if there's any game that deserves waiting filler it's definitely not Animal Crossing.  

3. A Bigger Role for the Island 

When the island returned in New Leaf it evolved way beyond just catching rare fish/bugs: it offered a whole new assortment of mini-games for multiple players to gain points for exclusive furniture and items. It was fun, and somewhat ironic for making the village seem slightly more like a getaway in comparison. But now I want to see more. 

Here's a proposition: make the island the main focus of the game. I'll call it...Animal Crossing: Island Getaway. If the Tortimer Games from New Leaf were any hint of what's to come, we'll be seeing a second village with its own inhabitants that live there. It's not necessary to talk to these villagers every day, or uproot all the weeds etc., because they'll do that: this is your true getaway from the game that's already a getaway.  And here's the kicker...exploration. Journey into randomly generated ruins everyday to discover new items and one-of-a-kind furniture. If you're really lucky enough you'll be rewarded with jewels and priceless artifacts that can be donated to the museum's extended art gallery, or sold for a boatload of Bells. And it would be completely optional. It would be perfect. This is what's been missing in Animal Crossing for so very long (well, for me at least), and what better time to do it than on the Wii U? 

But that's just me. 

2. More Pocket Space 

Man, isn't the amount of content in New Leaf SWELL? There is so much stuff to collect I find my primal post-64-bit kleptomania seeping through my brow whenever I pick something up. That is, until I run out of room. But that's okay! I'll just pair these fruits up aaaaaaaand...huh, I only have one slot left after I did that? Oh well *takes off equipment* time to try on this new shirt! But first I have to take this wet suit of- MY POCKETS ARE FULL AGAIN?! CURSE YOU TAAAAILORRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!

Rule to follow, Nintendo: when you offer more content in a game about picking stuff up, increase the pocket size. This isn't a horror game where your decreased suitcase size forces you to think strategically about what to keep, therefore heightening the tension of the game- this is Animal Crossing!! The pocket size was fine in previous iterations, but that's because the previous games didn't have you carrying extra luggage like a Wet Suit, a Loudspeaker, coffee beans, etc. Whenever I renovate my furniture in my house it's a problem. Whenever I score lucky with a money rock, I have to enter my pockets almost three times before collecting all the Bells because I can't fit them all in one go. Please, for the love of God, increase pocket size for the next AC, because I'm sure it will have twice as much stuff to carry, and will probably have more new fish/bugs to catch that will never all fit in our pockets at once.

Where else would we put 10 of these other than in our pants?

1. A Pokemon Crossover

The mainline games have been fantastic thus far, but think for once if Animal Crossing had gained a separate spin-off series. No, I'm not hinting of an action/horror axe chop fest spin-off or a party game- I mean take Animal Crossing and combine it with another well known franchise. Make an Animal Crossing game, not with animals, but with:


You're a trainer who has just arrived in the Pokemon village as the town's mayor. You'll choose several Starter Pokemon to be your neighbors, and Pikachu will be your personal assistant throughout the game. You're asked to visit Prof. Oak first thing, who'll welcome you to your new home, and then will hand you a PokePal to document every Pokemon you come across. The bulk of Pokemon you'll see are wild, which you can catch using fishing rods, nets, and of course, Pokeballs in some circumstances, and donate them to the Day Care Center. You can't catch your neighbor Pokemon, of course, for you'll interact with them every day, do certain tasks to make them happy, and write them letters screaming in all CAPS demanding them to give you their furniture- it's like every typical day in Animal Crossing, only with Pokemon. It would be akin to Pokemon Ranch and Hey You Pikachu! having the cutest Pichu baby in the freaking universe. 

Also, it would sell 1 million copies every 0.04 seconds in Japan. 

Now picture this graph with Pokemon Crossing and it will spontaneously implode into a black hole of money. 

I can't even begin to think of what other niche ideas developers would come up with this game, but I would bet every one of them would be pants soiling adorable. You say I might as well be dreaming, but dammit, we need more good Pokemon spin-offs like Pokemon Snap! I would sell my clothes for this game. I wouldn't care if this were the last game I was ever allowed to buy (that is, if it was released after Xenoblade 3)- it needs to happen.   

So yeah, you, Nintendo dev...if you're reading this...great job at making New Leaf one of the best games I've ever played. Don't stop improving the series, and maybe someday everyone would love Animal Crossing- even the biased haters. Please prevent any future day when we look at a new Animal Crossing and say: "What?! You Again?!"

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