It seems like I’ve always got Animal Crossing in the back of my mind. Friday night those thoughts collided with an idle hour and my DS that has somehow held its charge through months of neglect. The town of nodnoL had been pretty well developed when I stopped playing the game regularly in 2006 so there wasn’t a lot to do after I loaded it up. Of course my town was full of weeds and the shoreline littered with shells but I immediately remembered I’d done just about everything. But what was that everything?
I started thinking about what Animal Crossing is and what you do in the game. It’s always been a tough series to classify: not really an RPG with stats and quests or a simulator like SimCity. I was really daydreaming about a new Animal Crossing that would let you dig up cartoony blocks of the world when I realized — hey! — Animal Crossing is kind of like Minecraft’s great uncle. Not a direct relative, not a grandfather — I’ve never heard Notch cite it as a game he’s played, let alone an inspiration for Minecraft — but the two have a lot more in common than any other two titles I can think of.
Animal Crossing lacks the survival and combat aspects of Minecraft but both are built on the idea of letting the player explore and exploit the random worlds they’re given. “I hope Nook’s is in a good spot,” I remember thinking as nodnoL first loaded. I also remember harvesting the unique fruit in my town and collecting flowers to bring all the resources closer to my main path. I wasn’t building my home block by block but it definitely takes on the same feel as your “main base” in Minecraft. It’s a place you can expand, decorate and — most importantly — store all the unique things you find in the world.
Then I poked into my inventory and found my tools; an axe, shovel, net, fishing rod, and slingshot, most of which can deteriorate and can be upgraded to gold. User-created clothes to “reskin” your look and — oh my god, it’s still there! — a giant mural of the Prince from Katamari Damacy I painstakingly laid out near my town’s entrance. A few Question blocks from Super Mario Bros. dot the area as well and my town flag flies high featuring a turnip from Super Mario Bros. 2. Clearly the work of a nerd, just like the unexpected, inexplicably complex creations people make in Minecraft for no reason other than to see it done.
It still doesn’t help file either game under a clear-cut genre category but it does make it easier to say “if you liked this, maybe give this other thing a shot”. All this from my fleeting daydream for an Animal Crossing where you can sculpt the terrain. As if I didn’t already have high expectations for whatever Nintendo does next with the series.