Monday, January 20, 2014

Ghost's Angry Reviews - Top 6 Improvements Animal Crossing Needs

This is Ghost, thanks for joining.

As per usual this is going to end up being longer than originally anticipated.

Animal Crossing... It's not very often that you see people talking about this game series, however if you ever actually met a fan you'd wonder why.  For those of  you who don't know, Animal Crossing is a Nintendo series that is basically "My Chibi Sims with animals for kids!" ...for lack of a better word.

In Animal Crossing you are a new resident to the town of Whatever You Want To Call It.  And as a new resident there you get set up with a brand new tiny house that you can decorate to your liking.  You can upgrade your house by earning money and purchasing expansions; you can meet and become friends with all your animal neighbors.  There's fishing, bug catching, fossil collecting, flower breeding, tree planting, an island to explore, stores to see and upgrade, and in the newest game you are the Mayor and you can customize your town with new attractions and chose where they go.   It's really a town ready for you to mold it into your own little paradise.

If that description seems rather boring to you, well, there's a reason for that.  Animal Crossing is one of those strange entities where there is very little standard "excitement" that you would normally expect out of a video game.  It's very laid back and kind of "cutesy."  A fairly large majority of modern gaming audiences either don't know or don't care anything about it but those people who do love these games love them with a passion that is hard to contest against.

Ultimately it is that passion that drove me to start reviewing and talking about video games and movies in general.  I love Animal Crossing.  I have been playing it since my parents randomly bought it me one Christmas.  It's hard to explain what's so wonderful about these games but it's the driving force behind this.

That's enough intro, let's dive right in to ..

The Top 6 Improvements that Animal Crossing Needs

Why top 6 only?  Well I'm glad you asked.   The Animal Crossing developers and programmers are always seeking to make improvements to their games.  The original game for the Gamecube was very nice but somewhat crude in its execution.  With each installment they add new things and fix existing problems.  If they were simply making carbon copies of the same original game then this would easily be a top 10 list.  Before we jump into the improvements that need to be done, I think we should take a look at some of the progress they have done and measures they have taken to make these games better and better.  Let's take a look back at the four big ones that they have already fixed.

The Town Being in Small Grids 
OMG the original Gamecube game was great but it was such a pain in the butt.  Why?  Do you see the little grid lines on the picture?  You could move freely within the box but then you had a small camera shift into the new box when you wanted to travel around.  Not only that but to make your town "perfect"  You had to make sure there were the proper amount of trees and flowers IN EACH BOX.   Now they have upgraded it to not only have a smooth fluid motion across the whole map, but getting a perfect town only counts for the ENTIRE town not each box.  Excellent Work!

Axe Gambling
You can purchase axes in the game for the purpose of chopping down trees to make your town better or do whatever you need to.  Unfortunately the axe breaks after a very small amount of uses.  The way to get around that is to get the GOLDEN AXE!!
*sigh* NO... NOT THAT
There that's better
As you can see in the second image there, the gold axe will never break!  You can chop down as many trees as you would like.  In the old games you'd have to toss an axe into a fountain.  The figure on the fountain being some sort of Animal Crossing god will get annoyed and ask you what you threw in.  The result of what would happen was random.  You could be truthful and she'd give you a golden axe for your truth.  You could be truthful and she just give you your axe back.  You could be truthful and she keep the axe cause she's pissed.  You could lie and get all three outcomes as well.  It was all up to chance.   Now however you simply get the golden axe by purchasing 50 saplings from the garden shop.   Easily done and not left to chance.  Excellent work again!

Paintings Left to Chance
Just like Axe Gambling but even worse.  For those of you who don't know, there is a museum in your Animal Crossing Town that puts on display fossils, fish, bugs, and famous paintings for all to see.  You simply find something that's not in the museum and donate it.  The slowest one to fill is, of course, the artwork gallery.  

You can come across the artwork by many ways.  Friends giving you stuff, fellow neighbors selling you their painting, or more commonly purchasing them for a large sum of money from Crazy Redd the fox.  The only problem is that Redd is a swindler and will quite often sell you forged paintings that the museum will not accept.  They become effectively worthless so you've just wasted hard earned money for nothing.

What made it worse is that it was all up to random chance.  You just purchased the painting and had no clue if it was real or a forgery until you took it to Blathers in the Museum for him to inspect.  However thankfully in New Leaf this has changed.  You can examine semi-closely the paintings and statues and can see notable differences between the real work of art and the forgery meaning it's no longer up to random chance.  Yet another step in the right direction!

Mr. Resetti
Throughout your adventures in Animal Crossing, you come across many colorful characters that are generally very nice and serve a purpose in helping you.  These animals are as follows: Tom Nook the Raccoon and his nephews Timmy and Tommy who run shops, The three porcupine Able Sisters who run the clothing store, Pelly the Pelican who runs the post office, Tortimer the turtle who can sometimes be the mayor.. or just some lazy elderly guy on a beach, Blathers the Owl from the Museum, and a whole slew of more fun and imaginative characters....
Mr. Resetti's only purpose in the game is to yell at you.  Seriously.  That's IT.  The production team of this game wanted to discourage people from stopping the game without saving and re-setting the world.  You can see the obvious appeal.  You accidentally sell that good piece of furniture or you destroy your rare blue roses so what do you do?  Just start the day over again.   The production team want you to play carefully and live with your accidents as well as victories so they created Mr. Resetti.   When you quit without saving this guy pops up and starts screaming at you.  I mean literally screaming.  Sometimes his dialog takes up half the screen!  He scared children by being so mean and petty.  I remember one time I lost power at my house briefly which was enough to shut off my game.  Next thing I know, here comes Mr. Resetti not only yelling at me, but forcing me to repeat an apology to him with EXACT punctuation and capitalization.  If you missed something then you had to do it all over again.

In New Leaf however, he is a much more humble and sad creature.  The first time you quit without saving he shows up and kindly asks why you didn't save. He's understanding of whatever choice you select and explains that he's down and out because the world has been rough and he's out of a job.  This will be the one and only time you see him unless you save up the money and build him a Surveillance Center in which he'll show up in his usual angry behavior.
LOL YEAH RIGHT  keep dreaming and enjoying that unemployment check, jerk!

But you all weren't here to see what changes they have already made were you?  You all are here because of what the title says... or because I linked you to this article with the expectation of you reading it.  Well... on to the main coarse. 

6. Make the Dream Suite Worth Something
Those playing New Leaf will notice a brand new feature that was added. the Dream Suite.

The Dream Suite allows you (for 500 bells) to hop into bed and dream of another town.  Within this town you can see what other people around the world have done with their town either by Luna picking one randomly for you or you searching for a town yourself.  Within this town you can run around, utterly destroy the place, or just generally hang out and see what other worlds look like.  It doesn't matter what you do, it's just a dream..

And There lies the problem with it.  The only thing you can do is look around at what other people have done.  You might be able to get a pattern if the creator of the town has any on display, but if there are items on the ground, you can't take them home.  You can't even catalog anything.  It's completely useless.

How to Fix it?  Well making it worth anything would be a start.  Let's say for a moment that instead of it being a dream it's like the world is frozen.  Frozen in an instant of time.  Safe and hidden away... exactly...

Sorry... been watching a bit too much Doctor Who again

However the idea of Time Lord Art would be an excellent one to make the Dream World worth something.  Let's say for example that you could bring back something other than a pattern from your excursion.  You could easily make it so that you couldn't exploit it too much.   
Here's an example.  Let's say the Dream Suite works like a bit of time frozen (till it's updated)  Whatever is lying around on your town and whatever time you update your town it stays that way any time that a person visits the town.   So I create a town and place 10 pieces of furniture outside on the grass and it's spring time.  You can come there and fish all you want and pick up all 10 pieces of furniture but you can only bring 2-5 items back with you.  Or perhaps you can only bring non-droppable items with you such as bugs and fish but any furniture you get will be cataloged so you can order it.  Something like that.  ANYTHING to make it actually worth something instead of a waste of 500 bells!
If it's so utterly useless then why was it placed so low on the list? 

Well, it actually comes down to the fact that Animal Crossing has some brilliant (albeit twisted) imaginations around here.  It is the community and the occasional random town you can encounter that makes it all worth while.  Just take a look at this.
 Creepy and awesome at the same time

5. Stop disabling single player aspects in multiplayer
One of the greatest things in these games was the inclusion of Multi Player.  Granted you can't do a WHOLE lot in multiplayer still but it's much better than single player only.  Single Player Only can get very tiring and the game gets old fast.

That being said... One of the continuing annoyances with these games is that once you open your gates and allow people into your world to play with you, many of the single player aspects just stop working.  You can't scan a QR Code or create a fabric whatsoever.  If you have a guest animal in your town, many of them won't work whatsoever such as Gulliver.  Meaning that if you want to do anything that has anything to do with single player action then you have to boot everyone out, do what you need to then let them all in.
WHY?  There is absolutely no reason for it.  If there is more than one person in a town what I'm doing with my game shouldn't affect the ability of another person to do whatever they want to.   This needs to stop and you need to have full single player ability during multi player.

4. Make the Island as Customizable as the mainland
New Leaf added what is, to date, the greatest enhancement to Animal Crossing... being the Mayor.  What does that mean?  You get to start public works projects to add things such as coffee houses, pyramids, bridges etc to the town wherever you wish.  It adds a great level of interest to the game and a great level of customization.

And then there's the Island which made its debut in the original game and didn't appear again till New Leaf.  The island is an awesome inclusion that helps you with exclusive items and gaining a lot of bells.  However the island is tiny...absolutely tiny and there is absolutely no customization at all.  Things would be so much more amazing if you could customize the island or even have a summer home on the island that you could decorate in whatever manner you wish.  This would increase the playability of the game as well as overall enjoyment.

3. Wifi Marketplace
One of the most exciting parts about Animal Crossing is getting to go to another person's town via Wifi and looking through their stores to purchase items not in your town.  Or even greater is the ability to just simply trade with other people across random towns that you don't even know by utilizing places such as Animal Crossing Community.  You can find just about anything your heart desires becoming a member of one of these communities.

However what if that was eliminated all together?  What if there was a marketplace you could go to where people had items up for sale or trade so that you can search for whatever item you need without having to hunt around and ask people for things?  

Pokémon decided to include this functionality back in 2007 so why couldn't Animal Crossing.  Amount of data shouldn't be a problem because there are far fewer details to keep straight than that of a standard pokémon.  Sure there's going to be some jerk asking 9 Million bells for one item just because they can but I believe the overall addition would be an excellent one in helping people get the items they want.

 In fact, they included something in City Folk that could have been utilized for this purpose if allowed to grow.  The Auction House in City Folk was where items would go up for sale and you as well as people who visit your town via wifi could bid upon them.  Whoever bid the most would receive the item.   Well this could have been upgraded for New Leaf (or the next game) to be a wifi action house where you could search for items and the like.   Don't you hate when they remove stuff that could have been utilized?

Speaking of that...

2. Stop Removing Good Features
Don't you hate it when there are excellent features or parts of a game that get removed for no reason whatsoever??
Don't get me started...

Few things drive a fanboy/fangirl crazier than when a company just decides to remove a feature, character, item, or any of the like for absolutely no reason whatsoever that they can tell.  This list would have been a longer one but since three improvements are actually just bringing back old things I decided to combine them.

A. Wifi Mail System
Have you ever been playing a game and you found a really awesome item or set of items that you'd like to give a friend just because they are your friend or some other simple reason.  So you keep these items in your inventory till that point that you can give it to them.  However then comes the long road of nothingness.  They don't get on the game at all.  They disappear entirely.  They don't respond to your Skype messages for days and days and days and when they finally do talk to you it's about how they've played another game at nights with some dude from Florida instead then start ignoring you for days on end again... not that I'm speaking from experience here

But anyway... where was I?  Oh Yes!

Animal Crossing allows you to send mail to your future self, animals in your town, or other people IF you are in their town via wifi.   Wouldn't it be so awesome if you could just mail the items you found for your friend to their game WITHOUT them being online?   Oh that's right... you could in City Folk!   Now i realize the Wii system is one that would more or less be online 24/7 and the 3DS is not but if the wifi mail system acted similarly to the pokémon GTS or some other way to store them till the person gets online to check them.

B. Voice Chat
If you've spent any time on Animal Crossing you'll realize that the character limit for talking with the keyboard is atrociously small.   Heck, I even had to call my own town "Galifrey" rather than "Gallifrey" because of the character limit.  It's ridiculous.  People need a better way to communicate over these games.  City Folk gave us that with the Wii Speak, an accessory that was basically built ONLY for Animal Crossing in all reality cause that's all anyone used it for.  It was great!
With the Wii system giving an additional item JUST for speaking on Animal Crossing City Folk, you'd think with the game going to the 3DS which already has a microphone built in to the system they would have voice chat there as well right?

WRONG!   It got cut from the game entirely for again no real reason.  I suppose you could go so far as to say that it was to help avoid creepers showing up and talking to your kids but you should be watching your kids more closely... and plus if they included the Wifi Marketplace then there would be even less of a need to visit with random people!.   They even included an ITEM that would have been perfect for the use of voice chat!
But nope.. no voice chat for you

C. Classic Games
This is one I don't see making a return but I had to mention it anyway.  You wanna know what made the original Animal Crossing for the Gamecube absolutely AWESOME??!!  It was the inclusion of classic NES games as furniture items THAT YOU COULD PLAY
That's right.  Once you found one of these NES games you could load up Animal Crossing, go to your house and play any of the following games: Balloon Fight, Baseball, Clu Clu Land,  Clu Clu Land D, Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong 3, Donkey Kong Jr., Donkey Kong Jr Math, Excitebike, Golf,  Ice Climber, The Legend of Zelda, Mario Bros, Pinball, Punch Out!!, Soccer, Super Mario Bros., Tennis, and Wario's Woods.

 At this point in my gaming life I hadn't played many of these games so I can't tell you how many hours I logged to Animal Crossing because I was busy playing Balloon Fight, Donkey Kong, Ice Climber, and Super Mario Bros.  It was mind blowing that they would include these things in the game.

File sizes for the old games is infinitely tiny and wouldn't fill up that much space at all.  So why don't they include these??    OH THAT'S RIGHT

Yup why on earth would Nintendo decide to just give you these old games and be awesome like they used to be when they can charge you money to purchase them again.   From a business standpoint it's genius.  By putting things up for sale on the E Shop rather than putting them on Animal Crossing you're still making a profit off a game made from the mid to late 80's that you literally had to do NOTHING with... and still make profit from it.

However from a consumer standpoint....

Anyway, I'd love to see the old games come back but I know they never will.

1. Hairstyle and Color Selection
This is probably the #1 complaint I hear most often (now that Resetti was sent to the bench.)   In the later versions of the game there is a poodle hair stylist that runs "Shampoodle"  For 3000 bells you can change your hair style and hair color.   It sounds pretty awesome and can be awesome if you can decode what all the questions and lever bars mean.

In order to get a new hair color and style you have to select on a bar how formal or how casual you want your hair.  How high up depends on the styles that you can end up with.  How you answer each question she asks you narrows it down to a single style.  The color is then selected which is either a question or another side bar.   The result can be quite gorgeous/handsome if you know what you're doing and you get what you want.  But more often than not... you don't get what you're hoping for.
No it is NOT spectacular.  I look like Grandpa Cranky Kong's butt

There should honestly be a  "I know what I want" setting where you just TELL HER what color and what style you actually want rather than playing trial and error or trying to decode a guide online.  I mean if you go to a hairdresser in real life you don't sit down and go "yeah i want something kinda casual that's stylized and I can't tell you whether or not it's for a date" and suddenly you get a haircut.  NO you tell him/her exactly what you want and that's what they attempt to create for you.  Simple and easy.   So honestly Nintendo  make this change.  I'm tired of wanting this

But ending up with this

And that's it for my admittedly longer than I intended list.  If you have any ideas of stuff that you think they should include then write a reply and let me know.

This is Ghost fading into the darkness.
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If you want to see my other Video Game discussions and reviews, click here!