Animal Crossing is one of those games that many people gloss over while at GameStop, kind of along the lines of Harvest Moon and The Sims. Arguably, the game display cases look like major reasons to skip the Wii and DS sections at Target, but for those keen on a couple of hours of peace and quiet in between virtual rounds of murderous destruction, I tentatively recommend Animal Crossing. Despite its latest edition, Animal Crossing: City Folk, having been released as “recently” as 2008, here are 5 reasons people still play Animal Crossing, other than the “fine be a douchebag” reason of writing them off as losers.
1. Animal Crossing satisfies a compulsive desire to hoard.
Many games, especially RPGs, really like adding some element of collecting to turn a 20-30 hour game into an 80-hour game, whether or not collecting assists in completing in-game missions. In Animal Crossing, there’s no mission except to live, preferably while paying off a mortgage for a bigger and bigger house. In this realm in which animals and 1-4 humans live in a small town in harmony, collecting comes in the following forms: clothing, furniture, flowers, fruits, fish, bugs, fossils, bizarre animated statues called gyroids and special holiday items. In a Nintendo way, it’s consumerism for people who may be financially challenged in the real world, and thank goodness. The idea that you can pay for virtual items with real money like in WoW can totally screw me over so let’s keep that idea on the down low.
For some people, this game is a way to fight their natural inclinations to clutter up a real house with useless junk. Hmm, or it could feed their hoarding tendencies and possibly ruin their lives. Let’s just assume the former.
2. Animal Crossing is an all-too-convenient way to feel sociable while still having some alone time.
Frankly, sometimes real people are too high maintenance. A boyfriend or girlfriend can be too demanding, whiny or just an all-around buttface, and these adjectives can sum up whole swaths of family and friends too if your mood is particularly funky. In Animal Crossing, you can get away from the jerks in your day-to-day life by hanging out with talking animals. Okay, so that last sentence sounds particularly pathetic and mildly crazed, but unlike the latest lousy talking-animals Hollywood movie, these animals are significantly more well-rounded, entertaining, and they behave like regular people with ups-and-downs. Luckily, the downs of this life simulation game are super toned down, with the occasional “help me find my house-key” favor or task of grabbing a neighbor some medicine from the local general store. You don’t need to listen to someone bitch about their coworkers/ex/boss/bills/life in Animal Crossing, and just get the good stuff: some laughs and maybe a meaningful one-liner every now and then.
It’s a nice game to play if you’re not in the mood to go to the bar after work for the third night in a row or if you want to procrastinate on college papers without feeling obliged to hit up a party.
Of course, you can visit other people’s towns, particularly in Animal Crossing: Wild World and Animal Crossing: City Folk, but usually that’s just a short jaunt of hanging out with new neighbors that doesn’t drag out much longer than half an hour. Sometimes, that’s all the socializing you need on a long day.
3. For deprived metropolitan types, Animal Crossing is a shadow of a way to connect to nature.
Before I played Animal Crossing, it didn’t occur to me to be anything close to interested in activities like fishing or bug-catching. Those things sounded like dull things that hicks do, especially hicks in counties with less than a million people. Well, Animal Crossing definitely corrected my ignorant and assholey assumptions.
The makers of Animal Crossing made a pretty solid attempt at showing accurate sizes of fish in relation to the size of your in-game character. This makes catching a tuna fish that much more amazing when the tuna is so much bigger than your character. When you submit all your fish into the town aquarium, you can see all your fish together and get a feel for how tiny that guppy is. The game also accurately reflects which fish are in season.
You also learn about different types of fish, especially when you donate your specimens to the museum. It makes visits to IRL aquariums that much more awesome!
4. Animal Crossing presents a mellow semi-utopian world.
Just as it provides a way to get away from jerks in your life, Animal Crossing is a peek into a world free of serious political strife. While it’s arguable that there’s political corruption in the form of Tom Nook nickel-and-diming you every chance he gets and Crazy Redd selling you counterfeit goods, stepping into pitfalls doesn’t mean your life is over. Nobody’s going to run up to you and hack you to pieces like in other games (or really bad neighborhoods IRL) and you don’t have to be watching your back all the time. Your in-game character won’t starve and die, even though it’s mildly unsettling that eating is more of a hobby than a necessity in Animal Crossing, but then that’s a common game element.
To underscore this mellow semi-utopian world is a soundtrack that is super mellow and lullaby-like. Honestly, I’ve listened to the OST a few times before bed and it’s pretty chill. Some may find K.K. Slider’s nonlanguage babbling really grating, but the background music while walking around is pleasant.
5. Animal Crossing has quality, funny-as-hell dialogue. And lots of it.
There’s a reason that a game about living-day-to-day and interacting with others manages to be so fun, and that’s because Animal Crossing is the best game ever super awesome possum funny and really well written. In the latest game, City Folk manages to have over 200 possible neighbors that can live in your town. (Unfortunately, they can’t all live there at once.) Although these neighbors can easily be grouped into several “types”, that still leaves countless opportunities for great dialogue, from day-to-day interactions to dialogue reserved for holidays, special events, seasons and more. I can pester the same character multiple times in a minute and they can keep saying different things unlike in RPGs such as Pokemon, in which minor characters repeat their one line ad nauseam.
It just can’t be denied that the makers of Animal Crossing put a lot of heart and soul into creating this series of games. While their evolution over time leaves much to be desired, it’s still a great series of games that you can play for years, especially if you’re waiting for certain characters to move back into your town. It also means this game is super addictive, and some people who play Animal Crossing are not gamers at all but strictly play Animal Crossing, which is why I only tentatively recommend the game. For those hoping for action from minute 1, don’t even bother with this! However, it’s still a lovable game and I can’t wait for the 3DS version to come out later this year.