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virtually the entire community shifting from one game to the next, and any form of villagers experiences immediately outdated.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.

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