Animal Crossing New Leaf – The Nighthawk Review

(Also check out day 0 and day 1 impressions of the game on my blog from two weeks ago!)

Animal Crossing is a strange Video Game.

Animal Crossing is an insanely Cute Video Game. It takes the well known Nintendo charm, coats it in icing sugar and injects it with cuteness steroids. You occupy a primary coloured world of bizarre anthropomorphic animals living in harmony. There are no “fail states” in animal crossing. The worst thing you can fall victim to is being stung by bees – a whole hive of bees no less! – endowing you with a bug-eyed character for the rest of the day. But even after being stung by a swarm of bees your character shrugs it off and smiles inanely, getting straight back to business. Evidently, anaphylactic shock it not a concern in this world.

Animal Crossing is a surprisingly funny game. That is, assuming you like puns and amusing, random situations created by an off-kilter Artificial Intelligence (I do, on both accounts!) At one point I caught a Zebra Turkey Fish while fishing in the ocean. The game congratulated me, but asks of my catch “Make up your mind? What are you?!” Small touches like this abound, meaning the average play session brings a smile or two, or sometimes an actual chuckle. At one point I was asked by a villager to return a Dishwasher that a fellow villager had left behind at their house by accident. How exactly does one misplace a dishwasher? Granted the quest item was randomly generated, but it was (in)organically funny nevertheless.

Animal Crossing is a relaxing Game. The game has no rush to it. Everything is at your own pace. You have debts to pay, but no time limit. You can catch bugs and fish that are seasonal, but don’t fret if you miss some – they’ll be back next summer. In fact, the game entirely wants you to play a little each day, rather than for extended play sessions. You run out of things to do after 30-60minutes, and really should call it a day at this point. So many games we play nonstop for days/weeks, then shelve and never touch again. This game wants to be your friend for months, nay, years. This is rather genius. Quite possibly an evil genius. It does however lend itself to late night gaming, a time when anything more aggressive or thought provoking would stimulate then senses when I want to wind down. Animal Crossing should perhaps be prescribed to the over-stressed masses.

Animal Crossing is a social game. I say this when I haven’t even properly explored the multiplayer options. I want a better city before I start to share. I want better topography. I want a better, larger house with better stuff to show off. I have no idea why. I find myself reading Animal Crossing blogs and listening to Podcasts to relax. I care about other gamers experiences. Perhaps, because more than many other games, the experiences are each unique. Everyone has a different town with a different set of villagers and items. We build our own saccharine second life and there is something engaging about sharing them.

Animal Crossing is pointless. But then, so are all video games. This argument is largely moot. Some games may sharpen our reflexes or makes us better strategists, but ultimately gaming is downtime, a pastime, entertainment.

Animal Crossing is sometimes a chore. Collecting fruit every day. Grouping my inventory after every dozen pickups. Trekking back and forth across the same areas. At times I was wondering why the hell I was playing this game. Life is plenty full of obligations; why I am willingly adding to my list?

Animal Crossing is a sly beast. An entirely un-slutty game. She teases you with a little something new each day. Just enough extra ankle is shown under her long dress, combined with a suggestive, coy wink, to make you think that tomorrow, tomorrow I will have more fun. And, in fact, you do. The more you play, more options open up and the game comes alive. Once you unlock the tropical island, a run of minigames that seem to be far more conventionally “gamey” are yours to play. In an era of dwindling attention spans, the fact that a slow-burn Coquette of a game can be so popular is, well, kind of refreshing.

Animal Crossing is a game I am entirely unsure if I even like or recommend. I have played 15 hours in under two weeks. It is already one of my most played games on the console. But the boundary between game and chore is blurring. While it is utterly relaxing there is an undercurrent of near-addiction. If I miss a day, I may miss an important fossil for my museum. I may upset villagers, or miss some weeds. I hope this fades and I can visit and relax in my own time, leaving the positives to shine.

Animal Crossing is a strange Video Game.

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