Animal Crossing 011 – This Is Halloween

If my Animal Crossing avatar had been detailed enough, he’d have been sweating. Tonight was the night, after all, and while I was well-versed in the theory of the occasion, I’d had no opportunity to actually prove my skills out in the real world. Failure now, any aspect unconsidered or fumble of the controller, could spell disaster. The minute I stepped out of that front door, my safety net was gone, and all bets were off.

It was Halloween, and the clock had just struck six.

It wasn’t too many entries ago that I was bemoaning my exclusion from the villagers’ holiday antics. The Halloween festival, for the first time in my tenure, offered genuinely new gameplay opportunities – and a slew of new rewards to accompany them.

I really, really need a biscuit tin.

The rules of the Halloween ‘game’ are simple – while the village continues as normal, filled with fish to catch, bugs to collect and bells to unearth – the villagers are all dressed up in identical costumes, mimicking Jack the Halloween King. If they catch sight of you, a villager will do their best to track you down and, when they’re close enough, demand a piece of candy – the stuff Nook’s been selling throughout October.

If you surrender a sweetie, that villager will be satisfied for a little while. Refuse and they’ll play a nasty trick on you, transforming one of your items or dressing you in (actually rather stylish) rags. The rub, though, is that the real Jack is hidden in amongst the crowd. Approach him – he’s the only one of the revellers who won’t chase you – and surrender some candy and you’ll get a random, Halloween-themed item of furniture. Jack then teleports away, leaving you to start your spooky search all over again.

You're very welcome, undead hellspawn!

I soon discovered that finding the genuine Jack amongst his dopplegangers was harder than expected; the villagers had a nasty habit of lurking behind trees and springing out, or clustering around the real Jack so that I’d have to take the hit to reach him. By the end of the evening – playing cautiously, it took me almost two hours to use up the last of my candy – I’d managed to amass a decent collection, albeit with a few missing pieces and some duplicate items. That didn’t bother me, though – I had mercenary ambitions for the gifts of the Pumpkin King.

The residents of Twycross were back to normal when November rolled around, their magical and transformative powers no longer in evidence, and didn’t seem the slightest bit apologetic for chasing me through the forest the night before. Taking a photo of my spooky furniture for posterity’s sake, I loaded myself with gaudy orange furniture and headed to Nook’s.

Once there, I was delighted to discover that the furry rascal was willing to pay a staggering 10310 bells for each item – more than enough to clear off my outstanding debt! The moral of the story is clear; if you want financial solvency, bribe the undead.

Never go trick-or-treating at Ikea.

Nook promised to add an entirely new storey to my house – the final upgrade, I assume, unless my residence is going to end up teetering like a drunken spree in Tower Bloxx – and that it would be completed tomorrow while I’m out and about in the real world. In the nihilistic universe of Animal Crossing, stuff only gets done while you’re not looking.

Deciding that I’d better tidy up if I had the builders in, I returned to my house, diverting briefly to engage in a quick fetch-quest for Mitzi – one that resulted in a large table matching the rest of Robin’s house, ready for collection next time he wandered into my village.

Once home I replaced the basement’s usual items – vending machine, fire extinguisher, toilet – had a quick go on Excitebike and went to sleep. Halloween may have ended, but the promises of fishing tournaments and harvest festivals yet to come, not to mention an entirely new room to decorate, mean my residency in Twycross may last into 2012.

Wait. What’s this? Another letter from home. Let’s hope this one’s slightly more sane than last—

I'm leaving this one alone.

 

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Animal Crossing 010 – No Escape

The sun was shining softly through the cherry-dotted trees as I stepped out of my home, patted my gyroid assistant on its wooden-topped head with a cheery “Good morning” and stepped into town. This was la vita nuova – a new life, free from Astrid! The malevolent kangaroo had upped sticks to the neighbouring town of Serenity, and now—

“Good morning, my pet! You haven’t forgotten me, I just know it!”

I’m not ashamed to say that I had a mild panic attack. Wondering if Robin had somehow used treachery, a glitch or some sort of voodoo curse to return the witch to my village, I mumbled my way through a minimal amount of conversation and before calling up the map. Fortunately, there was no new cottage to be seen – Astrid was merely visiting, her decision to reappear so soon surely being one born from a desire to torment my soul and shatter my sanity. She—ooh, candy!

Yes, it was time for the daily jaunt to Nook’s shop. On the run-up to Hallowe’en, the fuzzy fellow’s replaced his usual selection of trees and flowers. (Supplanted, perhaps. A-ha, a-ha.) In their place are large, inviting orange sweets; bigger than my character’s head and almost certain to induce instant diabetes, they’re the perfect gift to give villagers who come trick-or-treating – if you don’t mind their absence in future years , given the potential lethal sugar intake you’re bestowing.

While packing my basement to the brim with candy I’ve also been engaged in a more tedious, yet necessary, renovation. In earlier entries I talked at length about the fossils I was finding – well, it had become apparent in recent weeks that the supply was drying up.

Meanwhile, in Serenity...

The problem, it seems, is that a fossil – once placed in the landscape – remains there indefinitely until it’s discovered, and it won’t necessarily appear in a place that’s visible to you, what with the game’s fixed viewpoint and all. Hidden behind tree trunks, obscured by villagers’ houses – if you stick to the obvious fossils and don’t go digging around blindly, before long the odds will turn against you and all of your buried treasure will be somewhere out of sight.

My solution: BLOW UP THE WORLD. My slightly-more feasible solution: chop down and replant as many trees as possible – converting them into valuable fruit trees while I’m about it – and replanting them in a latticework that makes them easy to see behind. (Buildings, meanwhile, get flowers planted behind them, meaning that the hidden spaces are no good for fossils.)

Tedious work and, as with so much in Animal Crossing, best tackled by doing a little every day. It can also be rather dangerous, as trees sometimes contain beehives that don’t appreciate the delicate touch of an axe blade.  It’s worth it, though, as trawling through the acres of my village allows me to search for each day’s magic rock.

One rock each day will, for reasons best left to geologists, give out a moneybag when struck. Get enough whacks in with a shovel and more valuable money bags will spew forth along with, bizarrely, the Mario 1-Up sound.

There’s a fair bit of recoil when you do this, and I’m assured that Animal Crossing aficionados like to maximise their profit by digging a lattice of holes around each rock, stopping them from being flung too far. Me, I’m a bit lazy and normally just take what I can get.

Hallowe’en is just around the corner, and certain to provide a more substantial blog update when the spooky shenanigans are over and done with. For now, though, I return to my house – I have a copy of NES Excitebike clutched in my quivering hands thanks to someone burying it at the beach in an act of slightly-unhinged philanthropy – and carefully open another loving missive from my distant parents.

Lies! I wasn't even there that Tuesday afternoon at 4:23pm!

What. What? …WHAT?!

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Animal Crossing 009 – Catcher in the Rye

It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to put together a blog post, but that doesn’t mean life’s been anything other than hectic in the madcap land of Twycross. As we start our yearly march towards Ragnarok and the Devouring of the Moon, mankind likes to cheer itself up with harvest festivals – and the animals in my village feel the same way. Time for the Fall Sports Fair!

Rather upsettingly, my character wasn’t actually invited to take part in any of the four events that’d been teased so invitingly on the town message board – Aerobics, Footrace, Ball-Toss and Tug-o-War were open to the animals but I, a newbie human villager, wasn’t able to participate in the proceedings. While it was nice to see the villagers doing something other than wandering about I can’t help but feel it was a missed opportunity for some new mini-games and a chance to win rare stuff in a manner more involved than shaking a couple of trees.

Mayor Tortimer apparently felt sorry for me and gave me an Autumn Medal just for showing up, but it felt very much like a consolation prize – pretty much like every other Sports Day I’ve attended, actually, so maybe the game’s more accurate than I’m giving it credit for.  The day after the fair, everything was noticeably more autumnal – except for the ground, which had decided to turn bright pink in defiance of botanical protocol.

Yeah, well, I didn't want to play anyway.

Local fauna’s also been affected by the change in seasons, of course, with new fish and insects making themselves felt around the village (and the first cockroaches scuttling into my home). Some of the new arrivals have made their way to the museum while other, more-familiar specimens have been traded with budding entomologists around the village (or just flogged to Nook for a tidy profit).

The strangest encounter of recent days, however, came not from Twycross but on a train to its neighbouring village of Serenity. Instead of the run-in with Rover that I’d been expecting, I found myself faced with some sort of nightmarish visage – a cat without a face, whose explanation for its absence… was that they’d scrubbed too hard.

Silent Hill’s got nothing on Twycross.

The abomination introduced itself as Blanca, and once we’d chatted I began to realise that:

a) You shouldn’t judge by appearances,

b) Blanca was actually quite an amenable sort, and

c) HOW THE IN THE DARKEST BOWELS OF HELL IS IT SPEAKING?!

Eventually, Blanca requested that I resolve the situation by – wait for it – drawing a temporary face onto their head until such time as s/he could find a permanent replacement. Unfortunately for Blanca, a chance to replace someone’s face means only one thing to an anime enthusiast of a certain age:

What I thought I'd do was, I'd pretend I was one of those deaf-mutes...

My on-the-fly editing skills not quite matching The Laughing Man’s, the result was a serviceable, if slightly stretched, hack-job.

I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry.

Blanca seemed quite happy with the replacement face I’d offered, and was later seen in Serenity wearing it proudly and terrifying small children. I felt as if I’d done a good thing, and it must have earned me some serious karma points, as when I returned to Twycross… Astrid had upped sticks and moved to Serenity! No more would I have to suffer her superior attitude and periodic attempts to scam me. With a soaring heart and a spring in my step from my adventures, I loaded up my newest K. K. Slider CDs and headed to bed for eight hours of faceless-cat nightmares and cockroach-induced panic attacks.

Sleep well, Twycross.

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Animal Crossing 008 – Shirked Responsibilities

The last human stronghold was burning.

Locust swarmed throughout the streets, cavorting and revelling in the carnage and fear they were causing. Terrified settlers raised guns in their trembling hands only to be swatted aside or blown apart by the vicious weapons of their enemies. Through it all, Anya screamed a single name over and over again, tasting her own tears as she cursed aloud, pounding her fists against the barrel-chest of the one man who could save them. “Marcus! MARCUS FENIX! Wake up!”

Marcus didn’t hear – Marcus couldn’t hear. He sat slumped against the wall like a puppet with its strings cut, eyes milky and soulless, staring at nothing. He didn’t register the door splintering behind them; couldn’t hear Anya’s terrified screams. Even if he wanted to, he’d have been unable to move his scarred fingers just a single inch towards the battered pistol – their salvation – that lay at his side.

I was off playing Animal Crossing instead, you see.

How could I stay away? I had a new goal in life – to track down the elusive giraffe that, a few days before, had parked her sporty little cabriolet in the middle of my forest and promised me an exclusive gift if I cleaned it for her. Only when it was sparkling so brightly the harvest moon was showing in the bonnet did she snottily declare that I’d missed a spot, and refuse to talk to me further.

Next time she visits my town of Twycross, there’s gonna be a safari.

At least the Harvest Moon festival itself was worth waiting for – many of the town’s residents came to stand by the lake, gazing blissfully up at the large yellow moon, and doddering Mayor Tortimer even gave me a model moon of my very own to commemorate the festival. It was large, hideous and Nook didn’t give me much for it, but it’s the thought that counts.

I decided it had been a while since I’d completed any fetch quests; unfortunately, no matter whom I spoke to, every chain of borrowed items or packages to deliver ended up focusing on Mitzi – who was asleep, and refusing to answer the door. Sulking, I instead decided to investigate the Able Sisters shop for the first time.

Inside were a lot of fabrics and a couple of hard-working hedgehogs – or needlemice, perhaps, it’s hard to tell. Having been told that I could fashion my own, er, fashion, I ended up staring at a pixel grid that made me all awash with nostalgia for Mario Paint on the SNES. In fact, I was feeling so retro that I decided to make a design loosely based on one of the borders from the Super Game Boy, thusly:

If you left the SGB alone, night would fall.

Unfortunately, the image looks a little odd when applied to clothes – there’s clearly a knack to this fashion malarkey I haven’t quite grasped yet. The residents apparently agree, as it’s been almost a week and none of them are wearing Super Game Boywear yet. Then again, they’re animals, so they can probably only see in black and white anyway.

Mitzi may have annoyed me by stubbornly sleeping the day away, but I couldn’t stay mad at her for long – she turned up on the doorstep on my birthday and said she had a present for me. I was expecting a t-shirt, so my flabber was pleasingly gasted when she pulled out NES Donkey Kong! It’s now taken pride of place in front of the TV Nook sold me – it’s not actually necessary to have a television in order to play your NES collection, but I like my village of talking animals and singing robot statues to have a certain gritty realism about it.

Most of the other villagers sent me presents, too, even Astrid – apparently she still hasn’t gotten the hint. Oh, and Mum sent me a birthday cake – one the size of a double bed, no less. Well, you know Mums… you leave home and they’re never quite convinced that you’re eating properly. That about wraps it up for this week’s adventures, which is just as well because someone’s at the door…

Hello? Oh, Anya… what are you doing he—…no, stay back! NO! DON’T F%*Ihhy?Fioo2

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Animal Crossing 007 – From Twycross With Love

Christmas has come early to Twycross! Well, if you spend your Christmases labouriously entering alphanumeric codes, anyway. As I touched upon last time, it’s possible, if unwieldy, to exchange goods with remote towns by telling Nook the item, player and town that they’re destined for and then passing along the code he regurgitates.

It was well worth the effort, of course – Robin had sent a Master Sword he’d found in Serenity’s Lost & Found office – well, a copy, more accurately. Once you’ve discovered a particular item in Animal Crossing you’re able to order as many duplicates as you like, which encourages you to share without risking your own collection in the process.

The American version of the game also came with a “grab bag” from Nintendo, which turned out to contain K. K. Slider tune and – wheee! – a couple of NESes which, when arrange in your house, let you play creaking Nintendo titles Tennis and Golf. They’re not the shining highlights of the catalogue, having been created in that post-Atari era where games crudely aped reality rather than exploring their creative potential, but they were nice to tinker with all the same. (That said, the Gameboy version of Golf still reigns supreme.)

Meanwhile, some online investigation revealed that the Nintendo Power website, while naturally defunct after a decade, was still being hosted online and displaying its most recent rare item – this turned out to be a Starman which makes you flash, Mario-style, when interacted with.  Some thoughtful soul has collated all of these ancient codes, so my intention is to use one in each blog post from now on – hopefully none of the contents have perished in the last ten years.

Out in the wild, I decided – inspired by a throwaway comment I made last time – to try planting a money tree in one of the glowing golden patches that crop up from time to time, since it had worked so well with my shovel. While I was able to rebury the money bags and summon a tiny golden sapling, none of my crimes against nature seemed to take root and were gone before long. Horticulture and alchemy don’t mix, it would appear.

My plans to send Robin a wardrobe in return for the Legendary Sword of Evil’s Bane – it’s perfectly fair, shut up – were nipped in the bud by the bane of my existence, Tom Nook. Having greedily raked in enough of my bells with his scams and extortion he’d decided to upgrade his shop, and wasn’t willing to let me in. I was tempted to write him a strongly-worded letter, but went fishing instead. Bottling up perfectly justified irritation and taking it out on helpless animals – it’s the British way!

Mitzi the cat had previously advised me to wait for a rainy day, a tactic I’d learned in another lifetime chasing the elusive Hylian Loach, so with the pitter-patter of virtual raindrops all around me I slung my fishing rod whimsically into the air, nearly taking my eye out, and plodded to the beach. Glory – or pneumonia – awaited!

Actually, coelacanths awaited, helpfully dumbed down to “living fossils” by the game. The rain had brought the prehistoric beasties out to play and not only was Blathers pellet-spewingly happy to receive one, Tom Nook was willing to buy them for a staggering fifteen thousand bells each – which, obviously, was my afternoon’s activity sorted.

An hour’s fishing was enough to completely clear the debt of my recent house extension, leaving me gloriously solvent for at least thirty glorious seconds – at which point I ventured back into Nook’s newly-opened gas station only to be forced into a conversation about which house upgrade I wanted next. Not upgrading wasn’t an option – literally. Talk about your hard sells.

I plumped for the basement rather than another house extension, largely because I was eager to have a more private location for my toilet. Not that my character can actually relieve himself, of course, but it’s the principle of the thing.  Hygiene, and that.

The following day, having returned from whatever hell my character’s plunged into when the game’s not running, I was greeted with a flight of stairs leading down into a remarkably spacious basement. I was genuinely disappointed to discover that you can’t redecorate it, and apparently its existence has no effect on the rating that your house receives – in a game all about customisation and creation it seems rather hard-hearted not to let me stick a rug down. Still, it had only cost me 50,000 bells, so I can’t complain at what amounts to the world’s largest wardrobe.

Another week in my virtual Twycross had come to an end, with a week in the real one looming over my shoulder. I couldn’t stray for too long, however – after all, the harvest moon was just around the corner…

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Animal Crossing 006 – Trevelyan

It’s been a busy week in Neo-Twycross; cats have arrived, alchemy has been performed and I’ve decided to murder Blathers the owl. Firstly, though, I need to rectify a mistake I made when starting this blog – I blithely assumed that everyone reading would be familiar with Animal Crossing already.

Not so. To that end, I thought I’d bring new readers up to speed so my wittering on about Mr. Resetti or K.K. Slider at least makes eye-contact with sanity once in a while. Ahem: Animal Crossing is a game in which you, a cutely-stylised human, arrive in a town full of animals to make a life and a home for yourself.

There are no levels to complete, no bosses to conquer – aside from an initial “tutorial” that sees you completing simple tasks to pay for your house, you’re free to pass the day as you see fit. That said, your neighbours won’t stay in a weed-infested slum for very long, so it’s in your best interests to improve the town, fill the local museum and generally keep
people happy if you don’t want to end up sitting in a swamp by yourself strumming a banjo.

The world exists in real-time; if you fire the game up at night, it’ll be quiet and dusky, with golden houselights spilling out into the trees. Pop to town in mid-winter and you’ll be rewarded with the crunching of snow under your adorable little boots. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to see everything, which is where the compulsion to communicate and share comes in.

Nintendo’s hope is that the entire family will share Animal Crossing together, each staying in one of the town’s four houses and playing the game when it suits them – the kids play when they come home from school, Mum plays late at night after a long day of bounty-hunting, and so on – and that they’ll leave each other notes, presents and practical jokes along the way. If you know the details of someone else with the game, you can convert objects into unique passwords and trade that way.

Animal Crossing has consistently sold well and has spawned a number of sequels on more modern hardware, taking advantage of voice chat and internet connectivity, but (so far) these blog posts chronicle my adventures in the Gamecube original, which passed me by when it was released because I was frozen in carbonite on the wall of Jabba’s palace.

I’ve not been in town long, but I’m starting to find my feet and it seems as though my diligent discovery of fossils is starting to have an impact upon the town. More and more new arrivals are springing up – Olivia, another cat, has moved in next to Mitzi – and now that I’ve found an axe, I’ve begun thinning out some of the more obstructive thickets and planting replacement trees in places I’m not going to smack into them – a sort of arboreal fung shui session, if you like.

What I’m not doing anywhere near enough is writing letters to people – with little to no hope of finding the special “keyboard controller” released at the time, writing anything more than a cheerful haiku to the townspeople is an immensely frustrating experience. If only Nintendo had predicted, er, predictive text a decade ago, writing in-game would be far more pleasant, albeit accidentally obscene from time to time.

Still, time spent not writing letters was time spent fiddling with the mysterious golden patches that spring up periodically around town; digging one up usually earns you a substantial number of bells to spend, but burying your shovel (using a second shovel to avoid any unwanted paradoxes) sows a special golden sprout. Once it’s fully grown, shaking it will reveal that you’ve successfully cultivated a shovel tree, and a golden spade is your reward. (I wonder if whoever keeps burying these sacks of bells is trying to
grow a money tree…)

If there’s one thing I’d particularly like to do with my new spade, it’s smack Blathers the owl with it. The narcoleptic museum curator not only goes through the same torturous dialogue every time I wake him up, but proceeds to tell me how much he hates insects every single time he’s presented with one. I’m not sure what Nintendo’s fascination with long-winded owls is all about, but it makes a trip to Nook’s with my fossils and cicadas far more tempting than another button-mashing speech from pellet-boy. Still, I’m
persevering. For science.

My errands on Saturday were far more surprising – checking my mailbox for returned fossils also revealed a flyer from Nook, informing me of a sale beginning in thirty minutes time. More of this sort of thing, please, Animal Crossing – it’s nice to be given little clues and invitations to what the game has to offer, and the short wait only fuelled my anticipation to see what was going to happen.

While I was hanging around waiting for Nook’s sale, I stumbled across a familiar blue chicken – it was Rhoda, the ungrateful wretch who’d recently upped sticks to Robin’s hometown of Serenity. Sadly, she wasn’t in town to grovel at my feet and beg forgiveness for her treacherous ways, but it was a genuinely surprising incident nonetheless. Almost as surprising as the hideous green shirt Nook had on sale, which I’m now wearing purely because Astrid had told me she wanted first dibs, and I hate her.

Speaking of Robin, some mysterious codes have just arrived. What could he possibly have sent me? Well, that’ll have to wait until the next update – I’m up to Nook’s to type in some 30-digit codes with a Gamecube controller. I may be some time…

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Animal Crossing 005 – Enslaved

Time for an update from Twycross – the one on my Wii ,that is, not the actual one which would be all about tractors and drizzle. It’s been a busy week and I’ve started to settle into an Animal Crossing routine, of sorts…

On the first day, the first thing I did when logging on was check my mailbox – a letter from home! Hooray. “Dear Chris. I found this while I was out hunting for bargains. It didn’t look good on me, so I sent it to you. –Mom.” Gee, wow, golly, etc. This is revenge for that drum kit I never played when I was 10, isn’t it?

Later I found some gynoids and was initially under the impression that they’d replace my current mailbox, perhaps allowing me to store more items, that sort of thing. Turns out all they do is sit in my house and freak me out – so off to Nook with them.

Cheri, the red bear, asked me to deliver something to Rhoda – who, of course, now lives in Robin’s town of Serenity. Unfortunately her tight time limit didn’t gel to well with real-world commitments (like shipping a game) and she eventually grabbed the package back off me to deliver it herself. Oh well.

Speaking of Serenity, the net and fishing rod I bought there let me catch dinner for a wandering walrus, capture a flag stag beetle (2000 bells, thank-you-very-much) and start the long road to populating the town museum.

Oh, I have two new visitors – one, a nervous cat named Mitzi, is most welcome. The other’s a large bunny called Astrid who seems to be doubling as a con-artist, offering to exchange my wall for a floor sight unseen, or empty my wallet for some wallpaper. I’m steering clear of her, quite frankly, even if her name IS an anagram of TARDIS.

Astrid’s dodgy deals pale into insignificance next to that bloody raccoon, however. Having paid off my debt to Nook he promptly offered to repaint my roof – neglecting to mention that he’d also drastically increase the size of my house and then proceed to charge me a staggering 148,000 bells for the privilege. It’s not all bad news, though – I found a bed in the lost property office! Now I have something to lie awake in at night and fret about
my latest debt to Grand Vizier Nook.

I’ve been consistently impressed with the game’s pacing – the limited inventory, coupled with the sheer amount of collectibles dotted around the landscape, means that there’s always “just one more thing for the museum” – and, of course, you stop off on the way back to examine something, but your inventory’s full of fruit so you need to drop THAT off…  Wait, what, it’s midnight?

Whether or not the game can keep surprising me with new content is another question entirely – I’m a completionist, but Animal Crossing might find it hard to fend off the likes of Gears 3 if all it can offer me is the promise of finishing off my butterfly collection. Only
time will tell…

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