All For Naught

24 Nov

Now this a record…

With the previous Animal Crossings, I called it quits after a month or so. With City Folk, I’m throwing in the towel after just one week. Actually, it’s more like five weeks since I played this game back when it was called Wild World.

Animal Crossing: City Folk offers no innovation at all; not one bit.

I won’t hold it against anyone if they continue to play this game for years to come, but I will offer this: You have no room to complain about Nintendo’s pandering to the casual and ignoring the core if you’re satisfied with City Folk.

More of the same, even of a good thing, is not a good thing, especially when we’ve seen it before, earlier and cheaper. Still, City Folk would have at least been passable had we received more of the same instead of just all of the same. There are so few new additions to the game’s catalog of furniture (Animal Crossing‘s main focus) compared to the amount of returning pieces that you’ll be very much underwhelmed at how little difference there is from Wild World.

What’s worse is Nintendo’s signature refusal to stray from their formulas. Animal Crossing has always been about furniture. Every thing you do, every mundane task that would otherwise be unacceptable as a game’s core gameplay, is all for furniture. The problem is that there’s only the smallest level of interaction with said furniture that all of the gameplay amounts to nothing more than a shallow display of how efficient you are at accomplishing boring tasks.

When your house is finally furnished the way you like it, you can finally sit back and…look at it. You can sit in a chair or lie in a bed if you like. If you’re lucky, some pieces will make a noise or move around. If not, I suppose you can appreciate the idea that if it were somehow real, it would serve a practical purpose…

No, that’s not where the game is. The actual game of Animal Crossing is in doing business with the people who are somehow satisfied with the understated goals the game sets forth. Animal Crossing is an economy game, and the first few weeks after the release of the last two installments are the most enjoyable.

By going online in those early weeks and interacting with real people who are desperate to get their hands on choice furniture, you set the price. It’s fun to see how much you can get with so little to give. By completing the game’s only concrete goal, paying off your mortgage, as quickly as possible with money you swindled from real people, you’re achieving the penacle of fun in Animal Crossing.

Other than that, why do people play this game? From various message boards, I get the idea that some fans form attachments to the humanoid, animal neighbors. This is fine if they’re children, but anyone of the age to remember what Nintendo used to be like, and undersatnd how they’re forgetting their audience, should be able to tell that the neighbors in Animal Crossing are insane, manic-depressives addicted to interior design and gift giving.

What Animal Crossing needs is fiction. Not a lot, but just enough to give the game purpose. The Terrible Secret of Animal Crossing did it best, casting Tom Nook as the evil bastard he is. With some changes here and there, Animal Crossing could become something great. Begin the same as always, but eventually have the town’s opinion shift in your favor before you eventually challenge Tortimer for his position as mayor so you can overthrow Nook’s dictatorship. From there, the game slowly relinquishes control into your hands, allowing you to do what it has done to you to others. It’d be up to you to form a feudal empire like Nook or a hippie commune where there are no houses or furniture and everything is free.

Animal Crossing is one of those games that makes you ask yourself, “Why do we play games?” While I was able to answer that in this case, I shouldn’t have been able to. That’s because people shouldn’t play the game in the first place.

There are far better diversions that could still be considered wastes of time.

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