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An Ode to Animal Crossing

Animal Crossing: New Horizons comes out this Friday, March 20th. Early reviews have been favorable. I am not fortunate enough to get early or free games but you so my early review is just “is it Friday yet?”

The original Animal Crossing on GameCube was my favorite casual game growing up. I played it every day to avoid FOMO. I even played it on Christmas to capitalize on the Jingle series.

What makes Animal Crossing fun? Truthfully, I have no idea. I’d like to imagine it’s the feeling that I’m part of one giant inside joke.

Animal Crossing for Gamecube feels like satire of the American dream. Players accumulate debt at the hands of a capitalist tanuki/raccoon dog. Once your first shack is paid off, you’re encouraged to upgrade. This is not unlike American real estate where as your income and equity increase, the size of your home is expected to follow suit.

You can accomplish your goals in Animal Crossing by being a respectable fruit farmer and helping your friends but that takes forever. Get into flipping via the town dump or the Police Department’s Lost & Found. Steal bells that someone carefully hid in rocks, trees and the ground. Maybe you’ll even make it big playing the stalk market.

How do you improve upon perfection? Animal Crossing: Wild World.

The main downside to Animal Crossing is that it is a Gamecube game. No TV = no game. Wild World fixes this problem by bringing Animal Crossing to the Nintendo DS. The game is mainly played on the bottom screen (the ground) but the top screen enables the use of a slingshot to snag some balloon gifts. FOMO would be no more because the DS could be played anywhere.

Other games in the series have failed to excite me the way Wild World did. Maybe I named my town “Hell” too many times. Maybe I was too committed to the kiddie series. Either way, I barely put any time into City Folk.

City Folk’s key features were: Wii speak and riding into the city. I only had one friend who owned City Folk and we were never on at the same time. Truthfully, they should’ve skipped the Wii and developed a game for the Wii U, which could’ve had the amiibo as the main selling point. Instead, they brought Animal Crossing back to portable with Animal Crossing New Leaf for the 3DS.

New Leaf was the dawn of a new era. Hell was now under my regime. Tortimer finally reached retirement age (which I’m assuming is at least 67) and moved to a private island with the money he most certainly embezzled from previous iterations of Hell. I made new friends (Beardo, a bear with a beard who really should wear pants), spent way too much time at the local coffee shop (both in game and IRL), and passed town ordinances that made Hell Heaven on Earth.

Then came the spin offs. Animal Crossing Happy Home Designer is the first Animal Crossing game I did not play. I considered it but opted out. Beardo can decorate his own home. I neglected to buy Amiibo Festival because party games are for people with friends.

Truthfully, when Pocket Camp came out in 2017, I was worried that Free-to-Play would be the death of Animal Crossing. Pocket Camp, like any other Free-to-Play mobile game, is addicting. I would log on whenever I had a spare moment to take care of my campers and craft new furniture. I would feel a sense of disappointment if the 3-hour timer reset before I was able to clear all of the requests. I quit playing soon after gardening was introduced because it was just another reason to obsess.

Until Animal Crossing: New Horizons was announced. It’s been 8 years since the last proper Animal Crossing game, 19 years since the original. I am moving to a deserted island, which is actually my American dream, and am going to decide who gets to join my commune. I promise there will be plenty of flowers and absolutely no Kool-Aid.

But what have I been doing to hold me over until the release? I redownloaded Pocket Camp. There are even more things to monitor so my phone’s battery is perpetually dying. In between timer resets, I watch my new favorite Twitch stream: Animal Crossing 24/7 – Let’s get choppin’! ThatsMyTrucks/Fred streams Animal Crossing so fans can listen to the music and watch the occasional villager run across the screen. It’s silly, I wish I would’ve thought of it, and I absolutely used my Twitch Prime free subscription this month on it.

How are you spending your countdown to New Horizons?

Lisa Kellogg
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