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Animal Crossing Series: Redux Series Overview

Animal Crossing is one of those games that I used to have a strong passion for growing up. For those who are not aware of the series, Animal Crossing is a life sim (or at least it's described as one since the earliest games up till the recent release) where you play as a human avatar who lives among a bunch of ~~furries~~ animals with human-like characteristics. You can do all sorts of relaxing activities like fishing, bug hunting, collecting furniture and collectables, decorating your house, doing tasks for your animal neighbors, participate in holiday events and so much more. I can't emphasis enough how much time I spent on Animal Crossing: Population Growing or Wild World (and even New Leaf to a certain extent), but the series sort of went downhill in terms of quality and fun factor in my opinion. I am sure I can't be the only who feels like this considering how much of a fan I have been for the series since the first release of the game in North America.

For starters, it baffles my mind how the latest game in the series "New Horizons" is receiving all sorts of awards and praise for what is possibly the worst game in the entire franchise. Maybe not as low as that weird spin off Wii-U game that I didn't even play, but for a mainline Animal Crossing game, it fails to deliver on what made the original game great in the first place. While New Horizons introduced a lot of new gameplay features like a crafting system and some quality of life improvements like an auto-save, the core game itself along with the "life sim" aspect had nearly been completely thrown out the window.

To elaborate on what I mean, we have to go back to the very first North American release of Animal Crossing titled: "Population Growing". In this game, you are just some ordinary human villager starting a new life in a relatively unknown village. Just like in reality, you aren't going to be treated with a red carpet like the later games in the series. In fact, your animal neighbors will mock you for being the new guy, some will be rude to you initially, and some will start off reserved at first. It's not until you start talking to them daily and helping them out with chores and tasks that they'll start to become more receptive of you. The original game was pretty much a reflection of the kind of society you would see in real life. There's a random aspect to the game where sometimes your favorite villager could just move out without notice and though it can be sad, assuming you were on good terms with them, they'll probably write you a final and heartwarming letter before they leave. In many ways, the original game had a heap of life lessons that translate well into reality. That doesn't mean the game wasn't relaxing like the later series of games, it just meant that there was more excitement and wonder in terms of the gameplay aspect of living in a new community and making a name for yourself.

They did away with that starting with New Leaf on the 3DS when all of a sudden, you were made Mayor of the entire village. While this presented a new gameplay aspect and some could argue a change needed for a series that might become too derivative, it also strayed away from the core aspect of the previous games. With that said, the multiplayer was improved from the previous games in the sense that you didn't have to use a friend code to meet new people online. There was this Island feature where you would go to a random island and meet some random people without the use of friend codes. I have met a couple of online friends from France, Japan, and Canada through this feature which was nice for the time.

New Horizons didn't have this feature nor did it have any of the good qualities of the first game. Villagers are literally no more than town decorations that say nothing but nice things about you to the point where it just comes off as creepy and unnatural. The entirety of this game just feels like it's doing it's very best not to offend the player and it make the game as a whole feel soulless and very boring once you pretty much seen and done everything. You were treated like a god and even given god-like powers over the general look of the island right down to which villagers can stay on your island. In other words, it's more or less a designer simulator than it is a life sim. There is no mystery to what the next day will bring. Rather, you are forced into a routine of doing the same thing day by day and it gets boring really quickly. There are no surprises apart from the occasional update that Nintendo does every couple of months or so. The online feature allows up to 8 people to be on one island though this can only be done through some sort of short island code (which is superior to friend codes but still doesn't allow interactions with strangers). You're going to need to know some friends, online or offline that are willing to visit your island and hang out, defeating the whole purpose of me buying the game in the first place.

It's sad to see the series go down this path. Maybe it's just me growing out of gaming in general, but I recently went back and started playing the original Gamecube release for a bit and couldn't help but be baffled at just how much better that game was compared to the newer titles of the series. Sure it may not have the handy features like a quick tool switch menu, or the advance customization options of the later games, but it has charm, depth, and emotional investment. In terms of a single player experience, Population Growing is unmatched compared to later games in the series. It did what a life sim was supposed to do, simulate life and socializing in a video game format. And just like in real life, you have times where you find that rare item or make crazy amount of bells, or you lose it all when you place a bet in a mini game with a villager who is giving away that one item you desperately want for your home. No matter the result, you are expected to keep on going until you save your game only to comeback the next day and try something new. There is nothing like that in the newer games and it's a terrible shame that it ended up that way. Hence why I won't buy any future installments of the game from here on out.

Note: New Horizons got a HUUUUGE update that's going to be released early Novemeber alongside some DLC pack (which is basically Happy Home Design or whatever it's called but actually relavent to the base game. I'll post an update to this review once I have some time behind these new features.
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