Sex And The City Folk…Or How We’d Spice Up Animal Crossing
If you’ve read our review of the latest Animal Crossing you can probably tell we’re just a little disappointed by the lack of innovation in what is one of Nintendo’s biggest franchises. Not ones to rest on our shiny laurels, we put our heads together and came up with a few ways to put some extra spark into the AC experience, while keeping to the core values that made it a success in the first place.
*cue wibbly-wobbly ‘what if’ effect*
After shrinking the towns in Wild World, Nintendo have returned them to more or less their original size in LGTTC but left out some of the locations trimmed for the handheld release. It made sense for some of the features to be condensed for the DS worlds and made daily visits a tad quicker, but now the bigger townscapes feel a bit empty. Places like the fountain, town dump and lighthouse could have been reinstated and the observatory and café could have broken free of the museum and gone it alone somewhere else in the town. Brewster must have made enough from his extortionately priced coffee in WW to pay for a new shop in the city or somewhere.
Speaking of which, where was the bustling metropolis we were expecting? Considering the rolling perspective it’s understandable that the city was never going to be a mass of buildings – you’d lose your character amongst skyscrapers. But it could easily have consisted of several areas, each the size of the plaza present in the final game. There could have been a large open-air market, selling rare and exotic items, with the stalls changing daily. An entertainment complex with a cinema showing off some of the video trailers available on the Nintendo channel. How about a mall, encompassing a bunch of themed clothing or furniture stores? Or a city park to visit during festivals, full of snowball fights, kite flying and the occasional funfair?
AC rewards players for interacting with the environments, from shaking trees to finding the money-spouting rock every day – your town is full of daily secrets. Buried treasure is always marked by a small crack in the ground but what if that little signifier was removed for some of the rarer treats? What device could be added to help you find these elusive goodies? Well how about a metal detector? The pointer and speaker functions would be perfect for this task – equip the tool, point at the screen and listen out to a beep from the speaker. Then it’s just a case of whipping out the shovel, digging in the right spot and reaping your reward.
The furniture in your house is mainly there for show but there are a few items that have a less superficial purpose, like the Hi-Fi, cupboards or lights. But what if you could do a little more with the furniture you’d worked so hard to raise the cash for. TVs could be used like Harvest Moon, to show you a weather report or get some hints via a TV show.
Then you have the pinball tables and arcade machines – what if you could actually play on them? Nothing fancy, but enough to give you something to do in the absence of the NES titles last seen in the cube game. Imagine if they were initially housed in Brewster’s Café (which, lets face it really needs some extra raison d’etre), but awarded as a present if you beat a high score so you can practise in the comfort of your own home. Then there’s the competitive and communication elements it would bring with it; set a high score on Pinball, then go online to check out how you fare against others on your friends list or discuss tactics. Nintendo could make these a prime candidate for the DLC content they’ve touted since the Wii version was announced.
It’s probably fair to say that Animal Crossing has reached a plateau in terms of number of collectible flora and fauna (dead or otherwise) and that any more additions would propel the franchise to the same heights as Pokemon. Furniture is a different matter of course it would be great to see a whole plethora of new styles to kit out your home. One thing we’d like to see is an expansion on the Nintendo themed items, with a different set for each of Nintendo’s best loved franchises. On our most wanted list would be DK barrel seats, a TV shaped like Samus’ helmet and a bed that looks like the Blue Falcon.
Remember the GBA card-reader? It was a short-lived peripheral released around the same time as AC in the US and let you scan small pieces of code printed on the edges of sets of collectible cards. Each contained part of a small mini-game (or a level for Super Mario Bros 3 on GBA) or in Animal Crossing’s case, items and bells. It never managed to make an impact in the market and so was scrapped very early on but it forms the basis of our next idea. Taking inspiration from the Pokemon trading card games and eschewing the unpractical and expensive hardware, it would be great to have a set of collectible cards within the AC game world. You could trade or battle with the town folk or your friends, and have rare cards given out as rewards from the Mayor and other characters. If we had to pick a theme, it would definitely have to be based around Nintendo characters and items from yesteryear (what else) which would fit nicely alongside the retro Nintendo items.
With a bit of tinkering AC Wii could have been a great multiplayer title, as it stands it’s extremely limited in what you can do, especially with just four visitors (come on Nintendo, at least make it eight at a time). The thought of fishing with a mate or hunting for treasure may have seemed wonderful in Nintendo’s mind but in reality it’s a superficial addition and the novelty soon wears off. As a rule, we normally we wouldn’t advocate bolting on mini games to a single-player focused title but Animal Crossing could have been one of few titles to have benefited from them, seeing as friendly competition is a running theme throughout the series. As a simple starter, Fishing would have been more competitive if you could see just how big a fish was when caught. We’d also love to see a mixture of mini-games based around sports (2 on 2 basketball, five a side soccer and swimming) and playground favourites (hide and seek, kiss chase and beat the letter, or anything else that involves a lot of running). And maybe some traditional games like hangman (with a stuffed Nook in the noose) or paper-rock-scissors.
Transferring a character from your DS game was a bit of a no-brainer but the handheld could have been far more useful. Imagine if it had been an item itself, passed off in-game as a personal aid mimicking the GB color’s appearance in Luigi’s Mansion. For instance, information on your catalogue, museum donations and bug or fish collections could be displayed on your DS, available to browse on the fly. Or it could be used to show your town map so you can see at a glance where the other villagers are and keep track of any errands they may have asked you to run?
Ok, so a map isn’t exactly the most original use of the DS we admit, but the personal organiser idea can be taken even further, if the other animals have one of their own. You could send and receive emails from them (and maybe some spam from Redd) or, if you link your hotmail account for instance, view any real world emails while you’re playing. Maybe you could upload your collection of KK Slider songs and have them playing in the background, turning your DS into a temporary music station. Photos could be transferred and edited in a similar way to the feature included on the DSi.
Integrating Wii Features
Posting photos to the message board and letting you get a Mii makeover for your character are a good start, but the Wii has so many more features that could have made LGTTC more than a simple port. Take the channels for a start; Wii Fit and Mario kart can get their own channel but why not AC? Presuming Nintendo had allowed your town to carry on in your absence (and that any visitors could be trusted not to deface it) an AC channel could have been a quick way to see if anything had happened since you last loaded it up. Headlines could scroll in the channel window to let you know if a character had moved away or to give you the results of a fishing tourney. Delve deeper and get a list of your achievements in your town or take a look at up and coming events (Booker would be a great character to handle these reports).
And how could Animal Crossing have interacted with the existing channels? Well, your town-folk could mention some of the games you’d rated via the Nintendo Channel, or discussed how they’d voted on a recent Everybody Votes poll. Pics from the photo channel could have been imported and used as wallpaper, floor tiles, furniture or appeared on billboards in the city. Then there’s the virtual console. While removing the NES games in light of their availability on the online service made sense from a financial perspective, Nintendo could have still let you play your downloaded collection within AC. The original shipped with a robust NES emulator so it isn’t a stretch to imagine the same being possible on the Wii, especially as Smash Bros Brawl allowed a handful of Nintendo gems to be sampled.
These are just a few things we’d have loved to have seen in the new Animal Crossing, or future versions (if you’re reading this Miyamoto…)