Talking Tuesday’s is a mostly informal natter about just about anything honestly. This could be life, gaming, boardgaming or whatever else strikes my fancy. Pop along every Tuesday for a laid back look into the somewhat warped psyche of Toast, and my bizarre take on the world.
The run up to March 20th was one of the most exciting times I have had as a gamer for a long, long time. As a long time DOOM fan (check out my classic review for a lesson on passion), I was stoked for the latest entry: DOOM: Eternal. But that wasn’t the reason for the vessel popping levels of hype I was experiencing. No, I was losing my mind of Nintendo’s latest AAA release: Animal Crossing: New Horizons – a game so far removed from the high octane, skill reliant gaming preferences that I thought I may have been clobbered a fair few times on the back of the ol’ bonce. Now that I have sunk many hundreds of hours into this “little” game, and I have been nattering with Vanilla Brioche who is rapidly approaching four digits, I think it is time I give my opinion on Animal Crossing. Naturally, since I am finally talking about it, this makes this article the definitive article on the matter, so strap in.
As the title of “Talking Tuesday” would suggest, I have quite the Love-Hate relationship with Animal Crossing, so why not put this relationship into an easily digestible list. Quick, easy and just a tiny bit lazy – the Toast way of life.
LOVE – The Unfiltered ASMR
From the moment I took my first steps around the island of Stottie (for those not in the know, a stottie is basically a really stodgy bread bun that is the size of your head), I immediately got those ASMR tingles everyone talks about. Imagine being stabbed straight through the front of your skull, repeatedly, with a knife made of cotton candy and dreams. That is basically what New Horizons feels like at all times. This is down to the absolutely stellar sound design. The ‘Big N’ nailed every single sound, whether it be the gentle clipping and clopping of your lil’ booties as you walk around the island, the gentle crashing of the waves as they roll onto the shore, or the sound of a door opening and closing. It reminded me of visiting the country with Brioche, and being absorbed by the quiet hustle and bustle of a simpler place.
HATE – Inventory
New Horizons was my first Animal Crossing, so this little issue might not be an issue for veterans of the series, who as I have been made aware, had an even worse inventory in past titles. Like most of my qualms with this game, this was a slow burner. At first, having a fairly hefty set of pockets was fine – I could pick up plenty of sticks, bap as many rocks as I liked and even nab a few weeds. The game even graced with a small house, and the ability to store things in it’s hidden storage system.
“Beautiful” I thought to myself.
But no, this was a trick. A nefarious trap of the most wicked order. Suddenly you realise that your home storage is too small, and you have filled it completely by day two. So you upgrade your house, desperately trying to find places to put all of your random materials, tools and items of clothing…but to no avail. By the time your house has been rebuilt, the pile of miscellaneous nonsense has grown too large, you have filled your new house before you can even check out the new rooms. The cycle repeats, and you slowly go insane. Things get even worse however – some things can’t be stored in your house at all. I have approx. 30million turnips scattered across my island 6 days of the week, flowers I can’t store lying around on the beach waiting to be rehoused and an entire orchard of trees clumped together with nowhere to go. It is a nightmare. Don’t get me started on the random nature of what items can stack, and to what degree!
LOVE – Animal Buddies
I instantly fell in love with my ani-pals when I started exploring my island. They looked adorable, they had interesting personalities and their names were perfect. Pierce and Cherry were the OG crew of Stottie and quickly gained neighbours who went by Zucker, Norma, Pattie and Pietro…the evil-satan-rainbow-clown-ram-sheep-thing. Then I started to notice their little interactions with each other at different times. Some of them would be doing Yoga, or exercising at the plaza, Cherry was an avid fisher and occasionally I would hear the sound of them singing in their garden. Then I started to talk to them, and send them letters. They had a bunch of interesting dialogue which pushed their personalities to the max, and they even responded to my letters, and sent them independently without encouragement. These little guys really do bring the game to life.
HATE – Animal Buddies
As much as I love these little guys, there are a few things that really get under my skin. Firstly, the veil of personality variation is quickly lifted once you start adding new islanders to your little getaway. I quickly amassed a selection of characters who would repeat the same lines of dialogue as another character I had just talked to. They would have identical goals, aspirations, hobbies and personalities and it shattered the illusion that each buddy was unique. From what I can tell, the only unique thing about each character is their appearance, which hurts my soul.
LOVE – Early Progression
The early game of Animal Crossing is a wonder to behold. Whilst the first few days could technically be considered a tutorial for each of the various systems, it never really feels that way. You start off with a small section of your island and a few little tasks from your resident dictator, Nook. You go about your business collecting shells, picking up weeds and it’s all good, relaxing, charming fun. You get more tasks, more tools and more places to explore, with these new lands providing new materials and things to collect. Finally you are able to climb hills and your tasks more or less dry out…but you never really felt like you were doing tasks to begin with. Instead, you were just playing the game and doing what you wanted at your own pace. Once they stopped, you didn’t. Genius.
HATE – End Game
Whilst there is no real “end game” in Animal Crossing, there is certainly a point where you are given full control over the fate of your island. You become almost omnipotent in the bug collecting world more or less. The build up to this moment, the slow expansion to uncontested executive power is palpable. But when you get there, it’s a bit naff. What I am referring too is island morphing mechanics. Essentially they allow you to add/remove rivers, lakes, hills etc. and create the island layout of your dreams. You can even slap down paths. When I got here, I was losing my mind thinking of the possibilities…then I lost my mind because I couldn’t quite do what I wanted to do with the tools on offer, and the things I could do were badly implemented and were incredibly finicky. In the end, I managed to get an island that looked fairly snazzy, was roughly how I wanted, but after a month of solid play, the disappointment I felt in my heart stung like one of those bloomin’ wasps.
LOVE – Home Building
Despite being let down by the morphing mechanics, the actual home building system was exactly what I wanted. Your completed house has enough space and rooms to create and design whatever your heart desires, and even has a system that allows you to move things around from a top down/isometric view (a feature which would have made island morphing much, much easier…). The system itself is one thing, but the sheer quantity of ‘stuff’ you can put in your house is staggering. Sure, I had a bedroom, a bathroom and even a fancy kitchen…but I decided to make a underground, dingy sex dungeon with enough environmental story telling (and even music…) to make even the most stoic of visitors flee in terror. Will you make a hidden sex dungeon? Probably not, but you can, and that’s what is important.
HATE – Building, Building
Unlike house building, actually building is a nightmare in and of itself. Firstly, you have to guess where you are putting your building, and spend a fair amount of time shimmying your character around to find that perfect spot. A pain, but not unbearable at this point. Buildings take a day or two (real time) to build, which is fine…until you want to relocate any building ever. The worst case scenario – you put a building 1 pixel too far to the left, and now you can’t fit the building you wanted next to it. Well, you have to spend a whole day relocating it on the other side of the galaxy (because you can’t have a building blueprint touching any other building…even itself…) which takes a day, then move it all the way back the following day, hoping to God you haven’t messed up again, then wait a day, then slap down your other building, providing you didn’t mess up, which takes a day. That is the better part of a real life week, just to move one building to the left. Why is this a thing? Now imagine deciding you wanted to do a full island renovation and move buildings, slopes and bridges around. You could be at this for a month. Totally unacceptable.
LOVE – Shops and Vendors
Shopping in Animal Crossing is a joy in and of itself. Each of your shops restock once per day, and based on how far you have progressed, will be restocking some awesome kit to really flesh out your collection of furniture and clothes. Shopping is so fun in fact that I buy multiple outfits each and every day and still find new things to buy in every shop after hundreds of hours of play. The travelling vendors such as Sahara add an extra layer of shopping addiction giving you a boatload of exciting carpets, plants, artwork and bags, to name a few. I am pretty sure I gained a legitimate shopping based addiction.
HATE – Also Shop and Vendors
Ok, maybe not the shops themselves, but the interface provided when it comes to actually buying anything. Sure, if I want to buy a single handbag I can just pop over, buy a bag and leave. Sorted. Easy. But what if I want to buy some shoes with that? Well now you have to talk to the vendor, pick your bag, pay for your bag, go through a few lines of dialogue, watch a 5 second animation, talk to them again and repeat for the other item you want to buy. The complete lack of multi-buying is tedious. Heck, the game actually has multi-purchase vendors in the form of your brick and mortar clothes shop…but even that has irritating limitations. Things don’t end there though. What if you wanted to buy say 50 or so of each flower seed so you could brighten up your island? Well, you can buy them in stacks…of 5, and only 5. Each purchase of 5 has multiple lines of dialogue (again) and animations (again). You have to interact 30+ times, skipping hundreds of lines of dialogue and screaming at the pointless animation that plays after each purchase. This is flat out, objectively bad game design and is in no way acceptable. I can’t remember another game, in my 28 years of existence, that has a shop system this bad. Especially when other vendors, like Daisy-Mae can sell you HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of Turnips in one transaction. Why can’t the entire game be like this?!
LOVE – Multiplayer
Popping to another friend’s island is awesome. You get to see what they’ve been working on, you can grab all of their furniture and try and pull it, showing a hilarious thrusting animation, you can scream at their shop keepers – it’s all good stuff. There isn’t really much you can do together, but checking out the latest in island crafting techniques and nabbing a few sneaky pairs of socks is all good fun. Relax on an island with some friends…until…
HATE – Multiplayer
…someone decides to leave or join. For the love of all that is holy why does the entire game pause, for all players, whenever someone has to leave, or someone wants to join? You could literally just be going to the shop to buy a watering can that looks like a damn elephant and Roger from down the fricken lane could decide to join, as Lenny gets bored and leaves and then suddenly you have been waiting for approx. 30 years for your watering can and the rage inside can’t be quenched by its adorable water distribution methods. I hate it, and according to Animal Crossing pro’s, this issue wasn’t present in earlier titles, so why do it here?! I am getting vexed just thinking about it.
I think that is enough for today’s Talking Tuesday. I don’t think I could handle another bough of seething rage, so calling it a day is probably wise. It is worth noting that I don’t actually hate Animal Crossing New Horizons, and everything I mentioned can more or less be boiled down to ‘quality of life’ issues that will hopefully be patched at some point. Heck, some of these issues didn’t actually bother me until I had already invested a few days of life total lifespan into it, so that is probably a good thing.
Let me know in the comments below what you love, or hate, about Animal Crossing, and what you would like to see in the future. If you want to read more Talking Tuesday stuff, then pop back next week. This is the first one, so there aren’t anymore to read just yet…sorry.
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