Category Archives: rainmaker97

Doing “Chores” In Animal Crossing

Animal Crossing

Boy, I’m sure getting a lot of mileage out of that header, eh?

I’m not a morning person at all. When I wake up, it’s a struggle to get out of bed and get in the shower, no matter how much sleep I got last night. I also tend to wake up an hour or so in advance of whenever I actually need to be up, so I can either risk getting another hour of fitful sleep and praying I’ll be more awake after some additional pillowtime, or I can just sit there miserably, slowly waking up. Neither option tends to make me particularly happy, so what I’ve been doing lately is sitting in bed and playing some Animal Crossing: New Leaf before I go about my day.

For the last few weeks, I’ve had an Animal Crossing “routine” that I developed to minimize my playtime while maximizing my town maintenance. When all the dust settles, my chores usually take me less than a half-hour, which is perfect for slowly waking up in the morning and then putting away the 3DS to go shower and eat breakfast. The chores are a combination of preventing natural town decay and adding to my collection of emotions/furniture/clothing/museum crap.

After staring at the ceiling for a few minutes and picking a random deity to help me through the coming drudgery of the day, I’ll reach over to my bedside table and grab my 3DS. I’ll then put my phone back down when I eventually figure out it’s not my 3DS (takes a while when I’m groggy), and I’ll grab that instead. The first thing I do is make a complete circuit of my town, pulling any weeds and watering any flowers I may come across. Whenever I see a rock, I’ll hit it with a shovel until I’ve found both the money rock and the gemstone rock. I’ll stop in at The Roost to get a coffee, despite this being a total waste of money with no tangible effect on gameplay and despite the fact that I don’t even drink coffee in real life (although given my issues with waking up, I probably should). I’ll also stop by Lloid’s public works project and spoonfeed him a few Bells to build a vastly overpriced park bench or whatever. I’ll continue with my circuit until I’m sure I’ve found both special rocks, plucked all the weeds, watered all the wilted flowers, uncovered all four fossils, and picked an apple for Dr. Shrunk. After that, I hit up Main Street.

I always head to the right side of Main Street first and get my fossils appraised by Blathers. I only have like six left to find, so he usually gives ’em all back to me so I can get dat sweet $$$ from Reese. I also pop upstairs while I’m at the museum and drop off any gyroids or gemstones into one of the exhibit rooms I’ve set up solely for gyroid/gemstone storage. Next, I check Kicks, the Able Sisters’, and T&T Mart for any clothing or furniture I think I might want. I always buy out all of the flower seeds in Leif’s garden shop just because I’m trying to make my town faaabulous, even though it’s more plants to water later on and they’re all just going to die when I eventually put my character into cryosleep. Tom Crook’s store also gets a visit to see whether there are any fancy new exterior renovations available (although my house looks damn fine as it is, thank you very much), and then it’s over to da club where I give Shrunk his fruit and he programs a new emotion into my robot soul. I exit Main Street, sell all my extraneous crap to Reese, add my new purchases to my home or to storage, and then that’s it. Thirty minutes or less every morning, and my town looks great.

I’m still adhering to this routine fairly rigidly, but a few days ago, I paid off my entire mortgage. I usually view this as a “completion” of Animal Crossing (despite the fact that there’s still a crap-ton of stuff I could save up Bells for), so I’m unsure how much longer these chores will hold my interest. Eventually, I’ll take a deep breath and consign my town to the ravages of time, allowing weeds to proliferate, flowers to die, neglected villagers to move away, cockroaches to colonize my mansion, and so on. I’ve done this many times before with many different Animal Crossing towns, and it’s never an easy decision. To date, I’ve spent over a month’s worth of playtime on making my town beautiful, and to let that all go to waste…sigh. On the other hand, playing a few minutes of Animal Crossing in the AM sure makes my mornings a lot easier, so it’s possible I’ll keep doing my “chores” even when there’s no longer any point to them.

Summer Games


I try to play games as little as possible in the summer. I live in a place where it’s cold eight months of the year, so once the sunshine rolls around, I make it my duty to get outside as much as possible. Granted, sometimes I end up just lounging around outside as much as I do inside, but there’s still something about the beautiful summer weather that makes me feel really guilty if I’m locked up inside playing video games. On the whole, I still end up gaming more during the summer than I do during the rest of the year, mostly because I’m far too busy and stressed out during school to sit down and allow myself to unabashedly enjoy an hour of video game time. So I’ve worked out a system: during the summer, I do outsidey things during the day, and late at night, I fire up my game consoles. Guilt-free!

The beautiful weather actually does have an influence on the types of games I want to play during the summer, though. Around June every year, I always get the urge to play a few certain games because of their ties to the season. I don’t know, man, it’s just a mood. These seasonal urges aren’t entirely uncommon for me; for example, I always want to play Final Fantasy Tactics Advance in the winter because of the snowball fight tutorial, and I always want to play Knights of the Old Republic II in the fall because…okay, well, I haven’t figured that one out yet.

Every summer, I can feel Super Mario Sunshine calling to me. Practically everyone I know considers the game a huge misstep, but it came out when I was at a very impressionable and optimistic age, and I loved the hell out of it. Mind you, I had never played Super Mario 64 at this point, so I had no comparison (today, I would admit that Mario 64 remains the better game, but I still don’t consider Sunshine a misstep). The setting of Isle Delfino is probably the biggest thing that draws me in; picturing it right now in my mind’s eye, I can see the neatly European architecture of Delfino Plaza, the idyllic greenery of Bianco Hills, the gentle pastel colours of Noki Bay, and even the dusky calmness of Sirena Beach (even though the hotel was haunted, I still found it to be pretty cozy). When I first played the game as a youngster, I would sometimes make Mario go for long swims in the ocean to “cool him off,” because I genuinely thought the water looked immensely refreshing. Basically, the entire setting looked like a beautiful resort island that I desperately wanted to visit and just relax on its sandy beaches, play in its theme parks, and chill in its villages. Isle Delfino remains one of my favourite settings in any video game, and its summer vacationy design is undoubtedly the reason why I get a hankering for it every summer.

Animal Crossing is the other game that I always want to play in the summer. Hell, thanks to its real-time seasonal system, every season reminds me of Animal Crossing. It was bright and sunny the other day and I remarked how it was “perfect Animal Crossing weather”; a few minutes later, it started raining, and I noted how nice it was to watch the rain because it “felt like Animal Crossing rain.” As I’ve written before, the game is my current obsession and I may have a problem. Releasing New Leaf in the middle of summer should’ve been a death sentence for a niche game like this one, but it was the best way to ensure that I picked it up. Apparently lots of other people felt the same way, because at half a million sales in a month, Animal Crossing’s days as a niche series may be quickly coming to an end.

The summer is always the best time to play Animal Crossing. There are a lot of town events, the rarest fish come out, the bugs come out (period; try finding a good crop of bugs in the winter), and the whole town generally looks and sounds lush and pleasant. I think nothing of taking my 3DS outside with me and playing some New Leaf on the back porch because, strangely enough, I often feel Animal Crossing is meant to be played while surrounded by actual nature. It’s a game of chores, and somehow, being out in the grandeur of nature or whatever makes the most tedious Animal Crossing tasks go by a little faster.

I know gamers get urges to play certain games all the time. It’s how digital distribution services make a killing; by having a selection of impulse titles (usually repackaged nostalgia) priced to move and ready to snap up any customer who wanders in and says, “Oh man, you know what I really have a craving for right now?” It would imagine that I’m not alone in having certain seasons trigger these impulses as well. Are there any summer games you have a hankering for right now?

Animal Crossing: My New Obsession

Animal Crossing

The last game that completely dominated my life was Fire Emblem: Awakening. I bought it in late January due to a shipping mishap and didn’t stop playing it until about mid-May. Since then, I’ve been going back and forth through a few different time-wasters like Final Fantasy Dimensions and Star Wars: The Old Republic, but nothing’s really grabbed me since.

About two weeks ago, a friend of mine intimated that he was considering purchasing Animal Crossing: New Leaf. This took me by surprise, since he’s never played any Animal Crossing games in the past and has never shown any interest in the series whatsoever. The two of us play a lot of obscure games together, even some that would be considered casual, but I didn’t think a game about interior decoration and fuzzy animal neighbours was really his jam. When he took the plunge, I found my excuse to pick up the game for myself.

I didn’t really need New Leaf, because I had just bought City Folk for my sisters and we were knee-deep in that particular iteration at the time (still are, in fact). But boy, was buying New Leaf ever a great idea. This game is by far the best version of the series, so much so that it makes the broad leap from 2002’s Animal Crossing to Wild World look much smaller by comparison, while also making the pitiful jump from Wild World to City Folk (the latter game being basically a slightly enhanced Wii port of Wild World) look downright pathetic. If you’ve ever considered buying an Animal Crossing game, and you’ve never played one before, you’re in for a treat with New Leaf. In the past, I would’ve said that if you’ve played Wild World then there’s no point in playing any of the others, but New Leaf is worth double-dipping now (or in my case, quadruple-dipping).

I tend to play a lot of games solo, even if they have online multiplayer. Yet for some reason, I really enjoy the online multiplayer in New Leaf, so much so that I genuinely look forward to visiting other people’s towns. I like seeing how they’ve customized things, which residents they have, how far along their Main Street has come, what their native fruit is, what their home is like, what they’re wearing, etc. I went to my Twitter pal Milin‘s town a few days ago and really just screwed around; I didn’t really do anything that helped me progress in-game except steal a bunch of his fruit. Yet we had 4 people in the town, partied in his pad, dug holes around his house, and despite none of it really making an impact on our in-game progress or really consisting of much other than just hanging out, it was still a memorable experience. Pictures were even taken to document the occasion. Altogether, it was an oddly compelling online experience, and one I admit I kind of prefer to traditional multiplayer.

So, with that being said, if any of you have the game and want to get some multiplayer New Leaf going, I’m totally down to play. You can follow me on Twitter and DM me your Friend Code, or just email it to me at Sound good?

Alan Wake: A Missed Opportunity


The bread and butter of Remedy Entertainment is making highly cinematic games with interesting storylines, and Alan Wake is no exception. However, the game also had a troubled five-year development cycle before its eventual release in 2010, and it shows in much of the actual gameplay. So what we have here is a game with an above-average, mature story that is dragged down by dull, repetitive combat sequences, pointless collection quests, and disparagingly linear level design.

The story is thus: the titular main character is a bestselling thriller author who is currently suffering from a severe case of writer’s block and is coaxed into taking a relaxing vacation with his girlfriend. Wake finds himself in the sleepy Twin Peaks-esque town of Bright Falls, where his rented cabin overlooks the foreboding Cauldron Lake. When the lights go out, Wake’s girlfriend disappears into the lake, mirroring the drowning of a girl some years prior. Wake dives in after her, then wakes up a week later behind the wheel of his crashed, flaming Ford Escape (yes, the product placement is egregious, from Wake’s Verizon cell phone to the ever-important Energizer batteries he collects for his flashlight). As he walks into town, he finds pages from a manuscript of a horror novel that is clearly his, but he doesn’t remember writing; the pages predict grim events, like the abduction of Bright Falls’ townsfolk in the night and attacks on Wake’s own life by a dark force, and all the predictions come true almost immediately after Wake finds them. If the plot sounds ripped from a Stephen King novel, then don’t be surprised that the first line of dialogue in the game is a King quote.

The game’s best sequences are during sections when Wake is visiting key locations around Bright Falls, such as Bright’s Diner and the police station. It’s usually at these locales that key plot points are slowly revealed, and the story is so complex and intricate that it’s always a treat to peel another layer off the mystery. Also, these sequences usually take place during the day, meaning that much of the tension and horror of the night-time combat sequences evaporates, allowing the player to de-stress before the next series of battles. The cast of characters, from Wake’s bumbling but loyal agent Barry (whose voice actor seems to be trying his hardest to channel Joe Pesci), to the hard-boiled but helpful sheriff Sarah Breaker (perhaps the only sane person in Bright Falls), to the rattled, lantern-wielding Cynthia Weaver, the cast remains mostly strong throughout the course of the game. Perhaps the best story sequence takes place at Dr. Emil Hartman’s psych ward, where it is suggested that Wake’s experiences of his girlfriend’s death and Bright Falls being usurped by darkness are merely symptoms of his insanity. When darkness rolls over the peaceful mountain asylum, the line between reality and fantasy becomes intriguingly blurred for the remainder of the game, and Wake’s motivations and mental stability lose their solidarity. After the psych ward chapter, you constantly wonder whether you’re actually working toward saving Wake’s girlfriend or if you’re simply descending further into madness.

The game begins to fall apart whenever characters aren’t talking to each other. Each set of cutscenes is immediately followed by an endless trek through the pitch-black forests and mountains of Bright Falls; every few steps, you’ll be dogged by the same group of creepy enemies over and over again. The fights aren’t very difficult, particularly if you abuse the dodge button, but they are a huge pain to slog through because they change very little from your very first encounter. One section of forest took me almost two hours to get through without so much as a hint of story. The combat sequences are worsened by the fact that the forest paths, despite looking like a maze of trees and rocks, are extremely linear, forcing you down a narrow path through a gauntlet of shadowy enemies. This actually takes a lot of the horror out of the game, since you know that if you keep walking straight forward and fighting enemies, eventually you’ll reach the next story sequence; how scary would it be if you could actually get lost in that seemingly infinite forest, walk too far off the intended path, maybe find a group of terrifyingly overpowered enemies? Alan Wake feels like it was intended to be an open-world game (Remedy tried to make it work for six months before eventually scrapping it), and it suffers under the weight of its own linearity.

Because the forest sequences take up so much of the game’s total running time, they seem like little more than filler designed to turn a five-hour game into a ten-hour game. They feel somewhat novel the first few times as the developers steadily add new enemy types (although they differ little from the standard drone; “the fat one” and “the fast one” and “the one that throws things” could adequately describe them), but by the time you reach the game’s midway point, you’re dreadfully tired of them. It’s difficult to say whether the game would’ve benefited from a complete omission of combat altogether (in the vein of Heavy Rain), but when your game has no multiplayer mode, it’s a very tough sell with a campaign only a few hours long.

Then there’s the ending. While I did appreciate what it was trying to do, and indeed Alan Wake‘s story is far too complex to be wrapped up neatly, I still felt that it left a lot of holes open that wouldn’t have hurt the ending’s impact if they had been closed. One character you meet about midway through the game is a hotheaded FBI agent (who is constantly referred to as “drunk” by other characters for reasons unknown, as his voice actor certainly doesn’t sell it) who shoots at Wake and then disappears entirely for the remainder of the game. He’s set up to be an integral part of the story, and then…nothing. The fates of Barry and Sarah Breaker are similarly left in limbo, as well as all of the patients at Hartman’s clinic who were supposedly swallowed by darkness, including the doctor himself. There’s also the game’s bizarre metanarrative involving a mirror author to Wake named Thomas Zane, whose name doesn’t anagram to anything relevant so it’s impossible to tell just how much of an impact he has on the game’s ending. The two pieces of downloadable content released in the game’s wake, as well as the standalone expansion Alan Wake’s American Nightmare, do little to clear up the matter.

Alan Wake has flashes of pure brilliance, but most of the time, it doesn’t feel like a game that took Remedy five years to make; rather, it feels like a game that they struggled with for five years before ultimately releasing as a gimped version of their original vision. The excellent story sequences are often overshadowed by the excrutiatingly tedious combat marathons. It’s clear they designed the story sequences first, then spent a large amount of time trying to decide how to connect them. Their eventual decision (a large volume of repetitive, skill-less third-person-shooter sequences) would ultimately end up holding the game back greatly.

Having a Backlog is Painful


I’m one of those people who can’t not finish a game once it’s been started. As a result, I have to be very careful about which games I start. If I have too many games on the go without finishing them, I begin to feel guilty for some odd reason. I catalogue my ongoing games on my Backloggery account, which could probably be more accurately referred to as a wall of shame. Sometimes, I look at my long list of half-completed games and sigh, not knowing when I’ll ever have the time to give them enough attention.

The feeling of completing a game and putting it on the shelf is super-satisfying to me. When I approach the end of a game, I hate stringing it out any longer; I just want the damn thing to be done and over with. I know some people dread the fun being over so soon, but trust me, I rarely feel that way, even regarding games that I love.

I’ve been chipping away at Final Fantasy Dimensions for about seven months now and it’s been slowly eroding my soul. The game kinda sucks, which certainly doesn’t help, but the excruciatingly long running time (I believe some speedruns place it at 40 hours; I’m currently sitting at about 55 and I’m on the second-to-last dungeon) and the incredibly high random encounter rate have done their best to really make me resent my policies on completing games. Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door recently found its way back into my life, and I’m really itching to give that one a go, but I’ve got FFD, Kirby’s Return to Dreamland, Alan Wake, Lost Odyssey, and Xenoblade Chronicles all awaiting completion. All these 60-hour RPGs are making me cry.

Ideally, I should be playing one console game and one handheld game at a time. That’s what I’m trying to work my way down to, anyway. I’m really hoping to finish off Lost Odyssey before August, FFD before the end of the week, and the rest of them before the summer is over. I’m also playing a few games that don’t really have defined “ends” per se, like Star Wars: The Old Republic and Animal Crossing: City Folk, so that’s probably not helping either.

As I write this, I’m sitting in a hotel room watching the Stanley Cup Final. I already decided that a good chunk of my travel downtime is going to be spent catching up on my writing, as well as finishing up Oliver Twist (that’s a book, not a game, of course). But hopefully I can spend a few hours on the toilet finishing up FFD too, y’know?