Sunday, June 30, 2013

E3 2013: My Thoughts

Another year, another E3. I personally found this year's Nintendo conference very interesting in that I can't  remember the last time the reaction was so divisive, if ever! Many people are in love with Mario's latest 3D platformer, but an equal amount scorns it's existence. Meanwhile, while Retro Studios' newest title draws abundant cheers, they are rivaled with boos.

For this year's E3 review, I thought it'd be interesting if I didn't just provide my thoughts on Nintendo's newest games, but mix in my opinions on these so-called controversies. To properly present this, I'll be returning to the What I Liked/What I'm Not Sure About/What I Didn't Like model from the first times, as opposed to last year where I just separated games by their respective systems. I'll only be picking the games that've generated the most arguments. Not only that, but guess what I happened to attend recently?

Eeyup, that's me playing the demos at Best Buy! While I only got to play two games out of the four, I'll be incorporating my brief impressions where appropriate.



What I Liked

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

this game rules.

Tropical Freeze is an oddity in that while this is the one title I have absolutely zero qualms with, the internet threw quite the shitstorm over it's reveal. Why? Because everyone wanted Retro Studios to do something different. Many Nintendo fans believe that Nintendo's lack of newer IPs have rendered their typical sequels to run dry of inspiration and freshness, and thus had their heads turned to their most talented sub-studio to crank out an original hit. Unfortunately, the announcement of a sequel to 2010's Donkey Kong Country Returns quickly destroyed their hopes, and Tropical Freeze was instantly branded by the community as being unoriginal.

Let's make this clear: is Nintendo an unabashed sequel factory? Yes. However, I don't see the problem in this case. While not a new IP, Donkey Kong Country Returns is a newer, fresher property that went above and beyond to differentiate itself from its SNES cousins (and, in all honesty, is far superior to). Not to mention...why hate something that looks incredible on every level? Much as I love that they brought back composer David Wise, am I the only one who finds it sad that's what it took to turn around people's opinions?  Bias, bias everywheerreeeee.

But I digress. I got to play a quick demo of Tropical Freeze at Best Buy, and I found the level design to be as tight as one would expect from a Retro game. Swimming was a blast, the new camera angles made a huge difference, and I found myself wanting more. November can't come soon enough.

Pikmin 3

Neither can August.

I actually planned to place this in the "Things I'm Not Sure About" category (shocking, right?!?), but thankfully I had a reversal within the past few days. See, I've followed Pikmin 3 very closely since its reveal, and while the game looks gorgeous and all, my problem with the provided information/videos is that I never felt like I had a proper perception of how the game worked. Yes, I know that the main objective is to siphon the juice from fruit to feed our starving protagonists, but I'm more curious as to how the game differs from its predecessors. For example, how does the scope of the game compare to the first two? Is switching between the captains any different? Even the juice system hasn't been explained all that well, and my hype was smothered by the confusion. Simply listening to Miyamoto gushing about the game isn't enough for me, as much as I adore the man's antics.

Was I worried about the game's quality itself? While I had Skyward Sword/Sticker Star-esque flashbacks when I realized I didn't have a proper context of understanding, Pikmin 3 is quite different from those two in that it actually looks, y'know, good. All the misunderstanding in the world can't hide the fact that Pikmin 3 flourishes with the very same inspiration and creativity that was so abundant in its Gamecube brethren, not the least of which are the INCREDIBLE wildlife design!. Despite my fears of Alph ultimately replacing Olimar in the next Smash Bros., I'm looking forward to the narrative perspectives he and the other two characters will supply (as opposed to Olimar's scientific mentality, with a drop or two of whimsicality). What we've seen of the overworld maps also hint at further building the world of Pikmin (walking up trees!), so I suppose it's better that I can discover these for myself.

But even then, thankfully there've been additional videos in the weeks following E3, and they've done a decent job of describing the game. Granted, it's not quite up to my pre-hype tastes, but I've felt the excitement gradually drumming within me over the past week. Can't believe it's only over a month away!

Mario Kart 8

Now this was a pleasant surprise. A Mario Kart game that not only looks to have significant game-changing effects, but with a graphic quality that surpasses Super Mario and Smash Bros.? I'm kidding, look at this!

I've seen that screen tossed around in the past couple weeks and I keep doing double-takes when I realize it's not promotional artwork! It looks incredible in motion, too, but this screenshot grabs me above all else.

So, what's going on with Mario Kart this time around? Well, apparently it seems the Mushroom Kingdom has finally discovered the use of anti-gravity systems! Of course, rather than permanently transform everyday life as Mario & co. know it to be, they took a hint from F-Zero and decided its only worthwhile use would be to slap them onto karts. To make the courses more compatible with this new technology, they decided to magically unearth the kingdom's various landscapes and morph them into twenty-story loops that allow for mid-air racing.

This is the only game here I can't really pin a "controversy" to, as everyone seems to be on-board with it; interesting, given how Mario Kart Wii and 7 divided people (the latter to a lesser extent). Personally, I enjoyed Wii a lot despite the flood of weapons, but wasn't crazy about 7 and its lack of content (why I put that and the Street Fighter 3DS port in my Favorite Games of 2011 post is beyond me). Mario Kart 8 is quite a visual feast to behold, what with its Galaxy-esque track design and the return of bikes and kart gliders, but gameplay impressions indicate at a greater sense of speed and a proper balancing of items. Now, I don't particularly like to go too in-depth with multiplayer games and what not, but Wii's Thunder Cloud item really did piss me off and most of 7's tracks just weren't that exciting to play on.

As opposed to 7's rushed schedule, though, Mario Kart 8 is on course for a 2014 release, allowing for plenty of time to fully round out the game's features. Here's to hoping for a MKDS renaissance!

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

Can't forget the 3DS!! Just about everything previewed for the system looks incredible, such as Mario & Luigi: Dream Team and Pokemon X & Y, but I'd like to focus on the newest Zelda. A Link Between Worlds serves as the sequel to A Link to the Past, where...wait, A Link to the Past? Really? They're making a sequel to the series masterpiece, complete with the same world map and incredible OST and all that? While announced earlier this year, I still can't get over that.

In any case, people are all up in arms over A Link Between Worlds being composed of the same world map. Such a decision would lead an overtly familiar, tired feel, but I feel that it's is successful in offering a fresh blend of both nostalgic fanservice and new mechanic. The enemies and the interactive puzzles squirming and fidgeting 16-bit style? It's there. Being able to transform into a hieroglyphic drawing and maneuvering across walls? Check. The return of that awesome dungeon theme? Oh yes. While a full grasp of how games hasn't been revealed, that it's based off the same world of ALTTP is enough to have me excited to witness all the changes, not the least of which is the Eastern Palace's mysterious renovations.  Most enticing of all? Series director Aonuma has teased a "huge surprise" to pop up around the game's beginning, and we can only wonder if said bomb will be dropped before launch.

My hatred of Skyward Sword left me worried for the future of the franchise. Have my fears been erased with A Link Between Worlds? I'm still left a little unsure. Obviously, the top-down perspective is now only reserved to handheld titles like these, so there's no telling whether or not we'll undergo another cannibalized overworld slogfest on home consoles? As a sequel, though? It looks pretty awesome, and I can't wait to see how they'll build upon the world map and lore of the original (Aonuma also hinted at the return of the Dark World, which is curious considering how it was returned to its original state as the Golden Realm).

...okay, I just have one gripe. Nintendo, get rid of the Young Link voice clips. No one liked that shit on the GBA port for A Link to the Past, and we don't like it here. He is well into his teenage years. The artwork from the original proves this. The artwork FOR THIS GAME proves this. Ditch it. Now.

Super Smash Bros. For Wii U and 3DS



So, Smash Bros. for Wii U and Smash Bros. for 3DS! Uninspired names aside, I'm quite excited for these two and their characters and trailers and stages and aauuuuuugh. But most of all, there's the new characters they've brought with them! Animal Crossing's Villager is by far the runaway favorite, having been a character I pushed for quite some time, and the creepy, violent memes that arrived with him only prove his worth (kudos to the hysterical "put it in my pocket" move). To call the trainer from Wii Fit "unexpected"would be a vast understatement, but quickly grew to be an unexpected source of hilarity. Can't wait to try them both out.

And Mega Man! While his guest character status isn't quite as shocking as Solid Snake in Brawl (and how could it be?), his inclusion is still a godsend. Plz include the Crash Man theme k thx.

So, of course, the huge division created during Smash Bros. Brawl's era still exists. While excitement is still active over a good majority, the competive crowd remains burned by Brawl's more casual atmosphere. With Sakurai back in the helm, they're not sure what to expect. Does the game lack hitstun? Is it too floaty and slowly? Will there be half-decent balancing of the roster? Here's my thoughts on the matter: I don't give a shit. You can rant about how terrible tripping was (personally, it never bothered me), but Brawl was still largely constructed of the same core gameplay system I know and love. No one picked up Smash Bros. because of how amazing the hitstun was. So long as the games supply the same system supplied with an ample amount of Nintendo fanservice, I am satisfied.

Granted, I still have some issues.The potential of the 3DS version limiting it's Wii U cousin goes with saying, but I'm not really crazy about the graphical artstyle or the new main theme. It's not that the new focus on primary colors was a bad choice, but it comes across as a moderate upgrade to Brawl's realistic artstyle (which I was looking forward to being improved on). As for the latter...yeah, it could just be for the trailer, but I'm honestly having difficulty remembering it and it feels like a step back from the grander songs of Melee and Brawl.

Of course, we've only witnessed the game's early stages, so the two will no doubt grow on me. Overall, Smash Wii U and 3DS look fantastic and I'm looking forward to what Sakurai will bring.

What I'm Not Sure About

Super Mario 3D World

Mario's latest third-dimensional adventure is...not as ambitious as his previous home console efforts? Well, that's what the internet's saying. To be fair, it's not hard to see where their complaints are coming from. Whereas Mario 64 and Sunshine featured sprawling worlds while the Galaxy series supplied an endless stream of ambitious level designs, 3D World is more interested in retaining the sequential structure of the older Super Mario games of yore. Well, that, and the obvious inspirations from 2011's Super Mario 3D Land (which was on a handheld). While most people (myself included) thought that game was incredible, not everyone is happy to see that 3D World seems to be a carbon copy of its handheld cousin.

I feel that the core basis behind these complaints is structured from a potential fear, in which hypothetically Nintendo has realized that no matter how amazing the Galaxy games were, they could never amount to the astronomic sales numbers that the two-dimensional, multiplayer-filled New Super Mario Bros. has provided. With Super Mario 3D Land set to realize the same potential, Nintendo believes that if a sequel was produced for the Wii U (while infused with NSMB's acclaimed multiplayer), it would finally render the 3D Mario games accessible to the same wider crowd. The result if it reaches success? No longer would gamers see anything rivaling the ambitious levels of Galaxy or 64, just never-ending series of 3D World-esque sequels, just like NSMB.

A valid fear, especially considering that the justified claims New Super Mario Bros.'s uninspired aesthetics/design (of which have largely fallen on Nintendo's deaf ears). However, 3D World has some advantages in its favor. First off, it's made by the guys who made the Galaxy games. Second, 3D Land was incredibly creative with it's level design, and there's no reason not to believe the same magic will happen here. Third, and I'm saying this even though I have the largest cat bias in the world, the new Cat suit is quite possibly the gut-busting power-up I've ever laid witness to. You cannot watch that video and not laugh at Mario's frenzied meows, it's impossible.

Having played the game, I've found that much like NSMBWII, a good chunk of its strength can be found in the camaraderie. Multiplayer is a blast to play, and it's amazing how quickly you can accidentally screw over your friends (tip: watch out for the lift in the eel boss level). Music was also incredible and I actually heard the Slider theme from Mario 64! Let it also be known that playing as Cat Mario was one of the greatest experiences of my life.

Even so, it's an odd choice for a home console, and the toned-down ambition from previous 3D titles is, admittedly, somewhat disappointing. It may be a bit too soon to judge 3D World on its own merits, but will the game actually introduce an unwelcome trend? Time will tell. Personally, I'm more concerned if it'll have enough meat on its bones.

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD


A Link to the Past is Zelda's masterpiece, but the game that started it all for me still remains my favorite Zelda title ten years later. Yes, it's been ten years since The Wind Waker and all of it's controversies-- whether it involved its cel-shaded graphics or easy difficulty or fetch quests and purging Hyrule from existence--and the world still isn't sure what to think of it. To make things more confusing, now we have a remake coming that no one knows what to make of!

Disclaimer: I am very harsh on remakes of Nintendo games. It all began with my immense hype for the DS remake of Super Mario 64 many years back, which ended in backfire as the game provided uninspired new content and nonsensical restrictions. Since then, I've become quite nitpicky with how Nintendo reintroduces their games, and often get caught up in the tiniest of details. Case in point: I actually had to put down Kirby Super Star Ultra for a bit recently because I couldn't get over how bland the backgrounds were.

The complaint here is pretty ubiquitous, although I'm not sure what to feel about it. You know what really sticks out in that trailer? The bloom. Look at how bright all that bloom is. There's bloom everywhere, and there's so much of it! I can't elaborate enough on this. Is it really necessary? I guess I'll have to play it to find out.

Personally, I'm wondering how much of the game's atmosphere is retained. While the new graphics certainly produce a grander scale, the straight-out cel-shading of the original is missed, and I'm worried that it won't be able to exude the pure loveliness of the original game. Rearrangements of the soundtrack have been confirmed in the gameplay videos, and I'm wondering if it does the original OST justice. I'm okay with no changes to the game (you're talking to the only person on earth who liked the Triforce Hunt), but I fear the game's soul could be stripped. Call me skeptical.


What I Didn't Like

Game and Wario

This game pisses me off.

You know what I'm against doing? It's not new concepts, it's taking a successful formula and reversing it into everything it's supposed to not be, thus resulting into a product that is only related to its predecessors in name. This disturbing trend began with Nintendo back in 2010 with the black hole known as Metroid: Other M, which was the very first video game I unable to form any opinion on despite playing it all the way through. Not satisfied with their inoffensive first effort, Nintendo cranked up the shittiness with Zelda: Skyward Sword and Paper Mario: Sticker Star, and now we've come to the latest offender: Game and Wario.

Did the WarioWare formula get a little stale? Yes, but I found it became so only by the mistakes made by entries following Twisted!. Smooth Moves was fun, but lacked replay value. D.I.Y was an interesting experiment, but limited its appeal through the complicated process of making micro-games (and even then the pre-included microgames weren't all that hot). Game and Wario takes things to another level: instead of featuring a multitude of in-game collections of addictive, rapid-fire microgames, it fashions itself out as quick n' dirty mini-game collection.

To anyone familiar with WarioWare, I'm just as flabbergasted as you are. The whole distinction between WarioWare and games like Mario Party was the former's ability to capture the player's attention by throwing five-second microgames one after the other, all gradually accelerated in speed and difficulty while being presented with quirky Japanese humor. Now they're suddenly shifting the direction towards Wii Play?  I can at least understand why they may want to fiddle around with something like Zelda, but why completely reverse WarioWare? What's the point?

And you know what sucks? Hardly any of these games look entertaining in the slightest! Scream "oh but they have difficulty levels" all you want, it doesn't change the fact that they look boring and are mostly composed of barebones concepts that are barely elaborated on. What's the fun in just slinging arrows and snapping photos of townsfolk? Even the more decent concepts like the Ashley shmup game lack action and interactive input. They seriously had to get the guys who worked on Metroid Prime and Kirby's Epic Yarn to step in? I don't believe it. Just look at the below video:

What exactly is the point of this Bowling game? Didn't we do that enough with Wii Sports? Why is it so benign and straightforward? Where's the zany creativity? Shouldn't there be some kind of potato monster lurking behind the pins? What exactly does this have to do in the context of WarioWare?  Because the pins are characters from the series? Why am I playing this in a WarioWare game?

Maybe I'm being too harsh on something that was originally born to be built-in demo software on the Wii, but that's exactly my problem: for a game that transforms the concept of WarioWare, it possesses absolutely zero ambition in what it tries to do. Instead of aiming for a well-balanced amount of content, the games only provide brevity with their few levels. Granted, I'm not expecting a Smash Bros. Brawl level of content here, but if Nintendo Land can provide a multitude of missions for its Metroid and Pikmin sub-games, why can't Game & Wario do the same? Hell, why not higher? If they're suddenly going to the mini-game route, why not infuse some of the WarioWare energy? Go crazy with the bowling concept! Make me shoot arrows in nonsensical ways!

Do I fault Intelligent Systems for making something new? Of course not, but experimenting with non-broken formulas is only successful if it builds upon the original in a fun way. This isn't it. And while Nintendo's screw-ups with the Wii U's "launch window" are by no means Game & Wario's fault, that we're expected to be satisfied with yet another mini-game collection maybe eight months after Nintendo Land during a drought of nothing is quite ridiculous.

Why am I suddenly up in arms on this? It's because of this lovely Kotaku review. Look at this. Look at all the videos the reviewer provides. They are genuinely funny shit! The humor is off-the-wall! The Gamer title is hysterical! The Japanese humor is intact! Better yet, the little extras provide awesome use of the gamepad! They got really creative with some of these! I am actually laughing and imagining myself enjoying playing these! You know what this means? Intelligent Systems STILL has it in them to make a highly entertaining WarioWare that succeeds on every front! It can be fun to play! It can be funny! And yet it makes it hurt even more when you realize this talent is stuck making this piece of trash software that is inferior to the older games in every way. How insulting is that?

Truly tragic. Here's to hoping WarioWare can find itself again.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Biweekly Music Wednesday! No.5: ~8 PM~ (Animal Crossing)

Origin: Animal Crossing (2002)
Composer: Kenta Nagata
Plays in: Every night from 8 PM to 9 PM when your character avatar is outside. 
Status: Original Composition

They say nostalgia is a hell of a drug, and I suppose that saying isn't so far off from the truth. Drugs are capable of granting euphoric highs, but their use only leads to suffering and a hollow existence. While nostalgia isn't quite as life-threatening, it can be equally cruel in breaking one's heart. It strikes suddenly, maybe upon the discovery of a long-lost photo album or the sight of an old friend. Gradually, the sugar-coated days of childhood and yesteryear flood your memory, along with the bitter realization that they are now a fantasy that can never be repeated. Get sucked into it too much, and you start living in the past. You know that feeling? I know it all too well.

For a while, Animal Crossing was the poster child of this tragic nostalgia for me. Animal Crossing is unique in that each game possesses a "you had to be there" quality to them. While the same could easily be applied to the earlier Pokemon titles, the melancholy associated with Animal Crossing is what makes it stand out to me more (that, and there was no mass exodus from the fanbase like Pokemon suffered from after Gold/Silver). With every new game, people flock to the latest entry and abandon their old towns. You have virtually the entire community shifting from one game to the next, and any form of villagers experiences immediately outdated. Of course, the games can still be played by newcomers, but I imagine there'd be a distinct loneliness to the experience (odd, given the large amount of intractable critters)

Much as I loved Wild World and dig New Leaf, the original Animal Crossing remains the series classic for me. It being an unexpected, overnight success in America eleven years ago remains one of my favorite childhood memories of Nintendo, and I think so much of it has to do with that the style of the game hasn't really been replicated in future entries(since Wild World, every new Animal Crossing has followed in its footsteps). While the "scrolling world map" shift never bothered me like it did some people, the Gamecube game represents to me a version that is undiluted. I freaking adore the horned hats your player character wears .The village personalities are not the diluted pansies found in WW/NL, and will flip their shit at the drop of a pin. The soundtrack has only been finally rivaled with New Leaf's, and even then I don't believe it topples the masterful blend of eccentricity and forest life the original had.

Yet I can never play it the same way again. It's a completely different era now. No one trades furniture or NES game codes anymore. I'm no longer in fifth grade. I'm no longer interested in spamming the villagers' mailboxes with letters straight from my hyperactive mind. Not everyone who participated in the joys of Animal Crossing with me is in my current life, and I'll probably never speak to them again. Even with the references in New Leaf, I wonder if Nintendo even remembers it exists.

This song used to scare me recently. Before, the ten year old me sighed softly at it's entrance, knowing he was blessed with the mysterious reveries that soothed his heart, the presence wonderful friends, and the existence of the greatest cartoon comedy in the history of the world (that is, Spongebob Squarepants). It was beautiful. As a young adult, it's haunting. It makes me wonder if the magic of my youth was just fiction, something I just dreamed up. Was I really, in secret, a wistful old man trapped in a child's body? What if I was the only child in the whole country who reveled in hanging out with the internet "in-crowds," and knew that no one else at school would understand? Questions repeatedly flashed across my brain, and each one hurt more than the last. It didn't help that over the past year, I parted ways with my best friend, who loved the game just as much as I did, and I couldn't really bear to the think of Animal Crossing during the same period. Not since Mario Kart DS and its relation to the fiasco with my brother's drug addiction had I so desperately avoided a game.

Playing through New Leaf these days, I went back to my old Gamecube town recently to face my fears..Things weren't quite the same. Weeds and cockroaches flooded the fields and homes. Not every villager who'd been around before was still present. Out of the four people who made player profiles in the game, only three are still alive.

This song was playing, but I wasn't scared. I was laughing at how much I kept inducing the grumpy neighbors to endlessly scream at me, how Michael's memory was kept alive by the letters said neighbors were showing me (and who else would be? Admiral, the green bird he kept trying to piss off), closing my eyes in a familiar frustration as they were still mentioning that "Bob" happened to visit town just the other day (yeah, try ten years ago), wistfully shaking my head at the eye-assaulting, demented nature of my house, and smacked the shit out of Pompom the duck with my bug net. I wasn't really a kid again, no, but there's a certain joys to playing it with the mind of a matured adult.

Does 8 PM still haunt me? A little, but now I find the memories it evokes now resonate with fondness; in other words, the good kind of nostalgia.To this day, Animal Crossing is the perfect time capsule of who I used to be.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Animal Crossing: New Leaf ~Leaf 1~ Moving In!

Hello, everyone!

As you may remember, when I outlined the year's plans for the blog, I noted that the previous system for discussing video games (that is, to write a series of posts for every game I would be discussing) would now only be reserved for specific types of games. I'd already gone over the reasons why, but the old system has yet to resurface (unless you count my Year of Kirby feature).

Welp, now I'm ready to introduce the first game to undergo the previous posting system, which is Animal Crossing: New Leaf! The latest in the Animal Crossing series arrived last week for 3DS, and I''ve once again found myself addicted into its life-simulator throes. I'd already decided long ago that New Leaf, what with it's 24/7 progress of time PLUS the ample amount of new content, would be perfectly suited to reviving the ol' thing.

To make the experience even sweeter, the game features a camera system that saves snapshots onto the SD card, which means you will be able to visually experience my shenanigans as the town mayor! I didn't quite figure out how to use it until my character was searching for a home, so I'll be using official screenshots from other sites until then. If forced to, I may have to use images with Japanese text. Please understand.

Yeah, let's do it!

A new town, a new life. The life of Woody, as I have dubbed my character, is shrouded in mystery. Who is he? Where is he from? Such answers will never be shared with me, for they are not important. All I am to know is that he is headed for the town I have named Hocotate (from the Pikmin series of games), to start a new life filled with new people and experiences. As the controller of Woody and a long-time player of Animal Crossing, I am looking forward to witnessing how his journey unfolds. 

Ah, so the game begins on a train just like the origi-OH SWEET JESUS CHRIST NOT YOU AGAIN

For those unfamiliar,  this is the Rover the Cat. Now, while I happen to love cats, this guy's rubbed just about Animal Crossing player the wrong way. Ever since the dawn of time (that is, 2002), Rover frequents the interiors of public transportation vehicles to help introduce the realm of Animal Crossing to the game. The problem? He's always there. Every time you visit another friend's town via Memory Card? He's there. Every time you ride a taxi cab? He's there. Every time you start a new game? He's there, with the same exact dialogue. Every time. He will not let you go.

Alas, not even a minute into the game and, much like its predecessors, I've come across the first conspiracy of New Leaf: Why is Rover still stalking us on the bus eleven years later? The guy even mentions "I feel like I've been doing this since 2002!" Sneaky douche.

In any case, I quickly make my escape into the train station and step into the fresh air of Hocotate. While I plan to stick around and smell the flowers, immediately I am ambushed with vocal cries by my new animal friends. The yellow Shih Tzu pictured above introduced herself as Isabelle and informed Woody with some rather overwhelming news: he was to be Hocotate's newest mayor!

While I knew beforehand, my avatar wasn't so lucky. I can only watch as he squirms in confusion, wondering why these furry creatures were establishing him as their new ruler. All protests he raised were tossed aside with Isabelle's gleeful certainty, who revealed that she was the town secretary and would assist me in all the ordinaces I would establish. Before that, though, I would have to make a visit to Tom Nook, the series mafia boss salesman, to purchase a new home.

Screw you, lady! While there's no escaping my new job, I figure I'll take things at my own pace, so I decide to explore the town a little. After some beachcombing, I found that directly to the right of Town hall rested a building lavishly decorated with the color pink, adorned with the name "Re-Tail". Intrigued, I made my way inside.

Why, if it isn't one of Tom Nook's nephews! Before you ask, no, his eyes aren't lacking pupils. His family just has the innate habit of closing their eyes in affirmation. After doing business with the lovely alpaca on the right, he revealed to me the existence of Nookling Junction, home of all the Cool Shit I Can Buy©. After promising to do so as soon as I hit up Main Street, Ms. Reese introduced herself.

A new business to Animal Crossing, Re-Tail works as a bit of a dumping ground for Hocotate's denizens. Got too much crap lying around? Just sell them all to Reese and she'll take a small portion from her endless depository of cash to line your pockets. You can also put up some of your stuff for sale for other residents to plop down cash for. In my heart, I knew what was the right choice.

Knowing that my beachcombing wouldn't amount to much, I had no qualms with this beautiful little piece of coral finding a new home. I can't be bothered to remember what I set the price at, but I'm sure it was a fair amount.

Eventually, an ongoing series of snores catches my attention, and I make my way over to the other end of the store, where a blue alpaca is snoozing away in his chair. As soon I approach him...


A fair enough excuse, but as the days go by, a disturbing fact is made evident: Questions immediately sprout up in my head. Who is this mysterious alpaca, and is he really the "darling" of Reese? Why is he not sleeping in a more comfortable environment? And the most damning of all: Why is he still sleeping ten days after I've bought the game? Yet another conspiracy presents itself.

Anyway, as I leave Re-Tail, I realize that I have yet to introduce myself to the villagers of Hocotate, so I decide to talk with anyone I see on the way to-whoa, is that an alligator with holes in its jaw?!? Needlessly to say, I rush over to greet him.

Establishing himself as the grumpy badass of Hocotate, Del instantly warms his way into my cold, hardened heart. He lives over yonder in a house filled with sci-fi inspired furniture. As you can see, we also wear matching shirts on our very first meeting.. Whether or not this was the key to our quickly budding friendship I cannot say for sure, but it is clear that this grump had a heart of gold. Observe.


Woody, as much as I was, was truly at a loss for words. Here he was, forced against his will to suddenly assume an authoritative political position against his will, and this one reptile not only showed genuine concern for his well-being, but excitedly informed Woody on how to take snapshots even after he had already figured it out for himself. Truly, Del is a god among alligators. I was touched to the point of tears.

As I say my farewells to Del, a hippo happens to catch my eye. Introducing herself as Bubbles, she too shares a concern that I have yet to obtain a home. Yet another Mother Theresa in this godforsaken village! Have I found another trusted companion in this village? Someone who'd stand up against the odds for me, who I could share my deepest, darkest secrets with?


Needlessly to say, my hopes were quickly dashed. At least she's amusing. Moving on...


I made my way down to the Main Street, where I made a straight beeline to Nookling Junction.

Yes, I can certainly see that.
The first thing that catches my eye is an unfamiliar one--a fortune cookie? I'm informed this will require the cost of two Play Coins--the 3DS's 'currency' for the built-in Streetpass mode--for a purchase. Contained within these Fortune Cookies is a ticket that promises a free special item. I buy one instantly.

Surprise, surprise! Tommy hands me a Fire Flower from Super Mario Bros.! I'm so stoked--a daily handout of Nintendo-themed items!

After purchasing a shovel and the panda bear plush in the corner, I make my way over to Nook's Homes. It seems the raccoon now deals in home realty, investment, refurbishing and the like. After run-ins with crazy hippos and puppies that induce slave labor, Nook is more than willing to finally construct my very own home--for a price, of course, but I know my way around the block of Nook's shifty ways. It's all about catches.

Off we go! I take the opportunity to fully acquaint myself with the land, and I decide my dwelling shall be placed in the far upper right corner of Hocotate. As there were currently no residents in that area, some privacy and breathing room from these loons would be much appreciated. Plus, a small fishing pond would make for an awesome backyard.

Nook agrees that this would be an optimal spot for a home, and magically projects a visual as to what it would look like.





what the fuck nook

I immediately dash over to Town Hall to file a complaint, as I'm forced to live in a tent DESPITE BEING THE MAYOR, but Isabelle will none of that, for it's time to hold a ceremony to commemorate my new role as mayor.

Well, I guess that won't be so bad. Time to go plant a tree!

Upon the planting of the tree, all the animals clap in jubilation. Upon closer inspection, however, the short length of their arms reveal that this is not so, as they are merely clapping on their bellies. Whether or not Woody is expressing embarassment or arousal at this strange ritual, I cannot say.

Regardless, I take the time to get to know the rest of the inhabitants. Benedict the chicken seems like a friendly sort, inheriting the village dumbass lazy personality of such lovable quacks like Dizzy the elephant. Of course, this means Benedict is capable of spouting random one-liners at a moment's notice, such as when he tells me how to write a letter. 

I'll get right on that, champ.


I also visited the home of Robin the bird. She's kinda snarky, but bearable enough. Let's just hope comments like the below snapshot aren't thrown into my direction.


Make any comments like that about me, bitch,  and I'll slam a bug net directly to your skull. 

There's also a girl pig named Gala, who I have yet to nab a great snapshot as she prefers to remain elusive. For now, she can simply be defined as "the pig that exists."

Can't say the same for Isabelle, who would take every opportunity to stalk me and randomly lecture me.. Take a look at Woody's patience wearing thin.

And when I finally pay off the loan for my new house several days later...

"Ah, home sweet home at last-GAAAAHHH!!!"

But at that point, things were finally looking up for Woody. He'd finally obtained a home, earned the Mario Hat of his dreams, and made a couple cool new friends. He's not quite sure about the whole mayor business, though, especially since Isabelle seems to be the one pulling the strings. Not to mention, will any of the conspiracies haunting the town ever be solved?

Time will tell, he decides, as he shuts the lamp off and heads to bed.