This month in Link’s Burden…the lovely Princess Zelda acts helpless and pretends she doesn’t remember how to bust out ninja style like Sheik. In the midst of all this, she somehow sends secret messages via her wolf-like compatriot about her newest gaming obsession: Animal Crossing for the Nintendo GameCube.
(Disclaimer: Intended to offend anyone who likes Twilight Princess or Okami.)
I thought by now you would have easily destroyed all the peahats and keese in Castle Town and figured out a way into this damn Twilight-ridden castle. There isn’t much to do but write you these sappy little letters. I am hoping the little midget and wolf who keep showing up at my doorstep will get these messages to you. But since you are nowhere to be found and they are my only hope, I am left with no choice but to send you my secret encoded messages that are hidden in between the lines of this seemingly useless gaming article.
With hope and gratitude,
**Zelda places the letter and its cryptographic key into the bottle. She drops the bottle out of the barred window of the high castle Ganon is keeping her in against her will. The bottle splashes and travels down the rushing stream toward Castle Town. In Castle Town, a wolf-like creature and his small little goblin midget compatriot see the bottle floating around.**
WOLF LINK: Woof. Woof Woof.
GOBLIN MIDGET: What? What’s that Lassie? There is a secret encoded message that has been sent by Princess Zelda from her castle dungeon? Well, jump in the water and start paddling doggie style!
WOLF LINK: WOoooo! Woooo! WoooooooOOOooo!
GOBLIN MIDGET: No, Lassie, open up the bottle using the Y button. Don’t do your moaning song until we get to the castle.
WOLF LINK: Grrrr. Grrrr.
GOBLIN MIDGET: I didn’t compare you to Amaratsu yesterday! You are soo much cooler than that wolf. You’re ears are softer and you don’t have gay ass flowers following you everywhere. Anyway, I think on this scroll there is a hidden message. But let’s take a look at it anyway!
**Goblin Midget opens bottle and reads secret encoded message.**
My first thought on learning about a game like Animal Crossing was “boring and not interested.” But, pleasantly, I was surprised by a uniquely open-ended gameplay structure and a quirky but supremely strange presentation that had me hooked for life. You start out as either a swollen-headed boy with a gimpy Viking hat or a swollen-headed girl with a gimpy dunce hat…suffice to say, this game was originally released in Japan as Animal Forest by our, as usual, high-on-peyote friend Miyamoto. (In fact, the swelling head phenomenon almost proves the drug behavior for our beloved creator since Zelda’s Windwaker later on suffered from this same swollen head syndrome.)
So N64 was going the way of a shooting star, but the sales of Animal Crossing in Japan had been huge and really there had never been anything quite like it before. A year later, the game was re-released in America on the GameCube, and voila! Addiction began for the masses in droves!
LINK USE THE HAMMER TO OPEN THE GATE TO THE CASTLE
After choosing your character and naming it, you are given the option to name your town. Each town has an area of about thirty little squares and randomly generates different hills, valleys and rivers for every town you create. There is even a GBA connectivity and memory card options where your character may visit an island or other people’s towns. If anything this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the amount of customization and virtual madness you’ll be able to create for yourself in this essentially virtual town.
You come to your new town as a stranger who’s essentially broke and looking for work. You take a job with the local store owner Nook, a squirrel who likes the idea of you selling everything you find to him and then he sells it right back to you. (It’s a symbiotic relationship the small market economy, don’t try to understand it. ) But at least he’s nice enough to set you up with a shovel for gardening duties and an empty house so you have something to show for in all the hard work and running around you’ll end up doing for the town’s lazy animal inhabitants.
A caravan of animals, from grumpy Wolfgang to an absurdly egotistical cat named Olivia, will start living in town depending on how well you maintain it. They all want to talk to you and be your friend but are weird and eccentric—all need you for personal assistant duties demeaning as something out of Devil Wears Prada, and they will all insult you in multiple ways. The idea is…they have real little virtual lives that are important as your own. So respect them…or something. There are weeds to be dug out of the ground, flowers and trees to be planted and host of objects to collect from fossils you dig up to fish you might snap out of the lake. They may be donated to the local museum in town or sold for the local currency, which are called “bells,” and that really is the cutest name one could ever think for money as far as I’m concerned.
**Goblin Midget looks at the useless gaming review for the secret message. She can’t seem to find it. She decides to continue reading it.**
Every town has a police station where you can find free stuff, a post office where you can actually send letters to your useless animal neighbors, and a tailor shop where you can create custom patterns for your clothes, parasols (I like that word better than umbrella. Excuse me!) and front door.
But what’s the point, you might ask? What’s the goal? There is no goal. You make your city as crazy or as nice as you like. You treat the inhabitants as well as you would like or as bad as you would like. You have total control of this cute little virtual world. But it should be said there are a few events and things that can’t be changed. The game is linked to the internal clock of your GameCube. So although it is touted as the game which is always going on even if you aren’t there…really this is a misnomer. If you set the clock for a summer date, you can catch insects with your net and play like it’s the summer time, even if in real life it is cold winter.
AVOID GANON’S SHIELD! IT HAS SPECIAL MAGICAL PROPERTIES.
Holiday events are observed and, in fact, I found it incredibly weird I was watching New Year’s fireworks on my television at my friend’s apartment while they were watching the fireworks show on the Animal Crossing for their DS this past year. In truth it is the ultimate virtual pet, since you can always change its look and there is always something to do for someone in your town. But I do have complaints Yeah, I know you didn’t see this coming; I’m usually always so giving.
The game does take up a lot of memory card space, which is why my boyfriend bought me the Player’s Choice version for Christmas which includes the memory card just for the game. The high pitched voices the animals have, even if you can turn it off, are mesmerizing yet at the same time annoying. And sometimes, there is just something too reminiscent about my own sad childhood about Friga the Penguin not being able to get his Game Boy Advance back from Olivia The Cat who lives on hill. But otherwise, get to building your town. You, after all, have only one chance at building your virtual life.
GOBLIN MIDGET: I think I found the message Lassie! It says we should Use Animal Hammer at Olivia’s Gate on the Hill.
WOLF LINK: Grrrrr. Grrrr.
GOBLIN MIDGET: What Lassie? What’s that? You want to bite my head off? Oh, don’t be silly Lassie.
WOLF LINK: WOOOF! Grrr. Grrr.
GOBLIN MIDGET: What did you say? You’re the special hero Link who is the savior of Hyrule who can save us all from Ganon and you know how to get into the secret castle? We have to avoid Ganon’s Shield because it has magical properties? Well let’s go, girl! I mean, boy.
Animal Crossing’s Rating: One magical potion.