I am a massive fan of the Animal Crossing series, having played the games starting with the original GameCube version. Granted, I didn’t originally play it on the GameCube, seeing as I didn’t own one until much later, but it was one of the first GCN games I played after getting a Wii on launch day 2006; Animal Crossing was a massively recommended game for GCN by all my gaming friends. To say that I have been deeply anticipating the next installment is an understatement of epic proportions.
When Nintendo finally teased a new release for Switch back in September 2018, in simply a “we are working on it but have nothing to show” sort of way, I was both relieved and concerned at the same time. Then the fact that they have been 100% silent on it in the meantime made my concern grow deeper, especially after what happened to Metriod Prime 4 (I’m not complaining about that, but you cannot pretend that that news didn’t suck).
And then, during the 2019 E3 Nintendo Direct, it happened; an actual trailer with actual gameplay footatge, leaving me... underwhelmed and concerned. Damnit!
Fortunately, not TOO long after the E3 Direct ended, the Nintendo Treehouse, featuring developers for the new game, went into more detail on the game and overall, that new detail calmed my fears and concerns. If you are a fan of Animal Crossing and you haven’t yet watched the Treehouse segment, I implore you to do so now:
In addition to absorbing what was laid out in the Treehouse Segment, watching the trailer over and over and over again, more and more of my disappointment has been replaced with overwhelming excitement and impatience (I think I’ve added about 100 views myself to the running total of that video, and if you think I’m kidding, go ahead and think that). Hype, expectation and anticipation are all reality twisting states that can really skew perception in absolutely unfair ways, and like so many others I’ve seen on the world wide conglomeration of computers, I definitely fell victim to this phenomenon.
Fortunately, as I said (or at least implied), I am quickly untwisting my distorted perceptions. So right now I would like to take a few moments and explain first, what I saw (and perceived) from the trailer, and how that has changed with time.
First and foremost, I saw this new game as being just a glorified version of the mobile game, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp. Pocket Camp has its charm, but for me it quickly lost appeal for a variety of reasons that ultimately simplify as tropes of a ‘Mobile Game’. I won’t go into that, as that could be an entire long and rambling post in of itself, but basically like most mobile games for me, it was cute for a moment but lacked any real substance and got old super quick.
Thinking that a mainline Animal Crossing game was going to follow in the footsteps of its mobilfied version was heartbreaking, and really stupid of me in the first place. I can only assume my own fears and my perception of those fears clouded my judgement. After all, the only real substance behind that thought is that Pocket Camp is all about camping (in a motor home for crying out loud), and here you are living in a tent! Kind of like... New Leaf. Yeah, New Leaf starts you off in a tent as well.
And the trailer clearly shows (or at least heavily implies) that that tent will eventually upgrade to a proper house, just like New Leaf.
Another thing that rubbed me the wrong way was the addition of ‘crafting’, mostly because of WHAT they showed being crafted; an ax. Before I go on, I want to explain this distinction.
The idea of crafting in general sounds great; we got a small taste of it in New Leaf in the vein of refurbishing items. But the idea that you had to craft a common tool, an ax, made it seem like everything was going to at least potentially be about crafting only. Like, you could ONLY get an ax by crafting it. You could ONLY get a shovel by crafting it. You could ONLY get a firepit by crafting it.
And even now that idea sounds bad in my opinion. Fortunately (for me at least, since I am the one that clearly does not like that idea), crafting is NOT the only way to get items. There will still be a shop of some kind and that shop WILL have a selection of items you can buy, including tools.
So it looks like crafting will NOT be the only way to get at least some items; your bells will still serve a purpose other than lining Tom’s greedy little pockets.
Another fear I had about crafting specifically was that there would be an insane amount of time spent collecting the materials needed for crafting, and that there would be a manufactured scarcity for some of those materials. This also made me worry that there would be a perverse amount of microtransactions built in for using real money to buy the needed materials, and maybe even some materials REQUIRING real money to even get in the first place.
While nothing that has been shown off so far truly eliminates that as a possibility, looking closely at the Treehouse segment and just thinking logically does temper those fears.
First of all, Pocket Camp is a free to play game where its only source of income IS in microtransactions; microtransactions are a given for any ‘free to play’ game. This, however, is a full blown, retail valued production. While some game companies do love to squeeze every penny out of their customers even with full blown retail games, Nintendo does not tend to be one of those companies. At least, off the top of my head, I cannot think of a single ‘retail priced’ game of theirs that even contains microtransactions.
Please feel free to correct me if I am wrong there; I don’t know every single game by Nintendo.
Second, the Treehouse segment clearly shows various ways of gathering a few materials, as well as at least SOME crafting recipes. Hardwood and Softwood, for example, can be found by knocking a tree with an ax a few times (too many cuts may chop it down all together, though we have yet to see that). Hitting a rock may spit out some clay or stone. Shaking a tree could drop a tree branch. Even pulling weeds will net you some raw materials used in some recipes.
Moving on, in terms of misdirected disappointment specifically, for some reason I didn’t think it ‘looked’ very good. This I cannot even explain as it looks absolutely beautiful, so why my eyes did not pick up on this is beyond me. Fortunately this didn’t really last long at all anyway, but just figured I’d mention it since it was a thing for a few seconds...
Finally, something that still kind of hurts. Initially announced as a 2019 game, Animal Crossing: New Horizons was revealed to be delayed until March 20, 2020, and I will admit that even in my already disappointed state, my heart broke in that moment. But, it happens. Games get delayed and you really do just have to deal with it. As much as I typically hate ‘deal with it’ brush offs, this is one of those cases where you really DO just have to deal with it, and that’s where I am at the moment; dealing with it.
I guess that there was one other detail (or lack there of) that bothered me, and that was the absolute absence of Isabelle. I really loved that character in New Leaf and had really just expected her role to carry over to future mainline titles and the lack of her presence just felt wrong. Fortunately on that front, at the very least, IGN
has released an interview that does confirm that she will indeed be a part of the game. What her role will be is unknown at this time, but at the very least, she WILL be involved:
Well I do believe that that covers everything that stuck me disappointing during the initial viewing of the Nintendo E3 Direct, so before I wrap this up, there are a few thoughts I’ve had, as a fan of this series, that I would just like to throw out there before I go.
A massive benefit from the crafting system as shown should be that you won’t have to wait several days in game, if not weeks, to gain all of your tools. Think about what it’s like starting fresh in a brand new town for any previous mainline title: the ability to get your tools is dependent on Nook’s own inventory, which typically only supplies one or two tools at any given time. And with the random nature of what shows up, it can take an unknown amount of time before you’re really ready to play.
I know in the past there have been times where it took a week before I even got a simple bug net!
Here, as long as you don’t also have to wait unknown amounts of time for any given recipe to be obtained, you SHOULD be able to get to crafting right away. There’s also the standard ax problem; they always break. I’ve often had to horde them for most of the game and use them sparingly before. Now, I shouldn’t have to worry about it breaking seeing as I can just craft a new one!
New Leaf implemented a really cool new feature in the form of Public Works Projects. Various items, mostly just outdoor versions of items for your house, that can be setup around your town. But these always had massive pitfalls.
First, you had to wait for a townie to actually suggest one before it could be built. Then you had to go to Isabelle during office hours and set off to find the perfect spot, only to miss that perfect spot by a few squares forcing you to kind of start over. Many times, you never can get just the right spot, especially since the camera would zoom in making it harder to distinguish exactly where you are placing it. Then of course you had to actually PAY for it, typically several million bells (if not hundreds of millions).
With this new game, it looks like you can just take any item that use to be exclusively for your house and place it anywhere in the town! No extra bells required! And if you didn’t get it quite in that right spot, just move it like you would any item in your house! What if you get bored with it? Well, just pick it up!
This is a MASSIVE improvement on what New Leaf added!
Now for a little speculation on my part. As far as I can tell this hasn’t been actually stated anywhere yet, but it at least looks like the goal of this game is to build your entire town from the ground up. As in, it almost seems like this completely empty island that you get dropped onto will eventually be a town like any other mainline entry. But this time, YOU get to decide exactly where EVERYTHING goes!
To me at least, that sounds awesome!
Anyway, for right now that’s about all I have to say. As someone who was once very underwhelmed, I am now extremely excited for this entry and the wait until March 20, 2020 is going to be excruciating to say the least!