Goodbye 2016, Hello 2017!

It’s tradition for blogs to look back at the achievements and notable events of the past year. It’s been a particularly turbulent one wherever you are in the world and is sure to be remembered for years to come. I keep joking that we’re currently living in the introduction paragraph of some future textbook on historical events; from all the establishment-smashing stuff that’s happened such as Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, to massive achievements in space exploration thanks to NASA’s Juno spacecraft, SpaceX landing a spacecraft successfully and the discovery of gravitational waves, to several horrifying terrorist attacks on multiple countries and countless celebrity deaths throughout the year, it’s easy to see why 2016 will be remembered as a turbulent year. But you can read about all these events pretty much anywhere else on the Internet and I want this post to focus on stuff surrounding game development, as that’s what my blog is for. It’s probably going to be my longest post ever, so hold onto your hats.

Although if you’ll allow me to get political for just a second, I’m pretty pissed that the happiest person this year is Nigel Fucking Farage, the hypocritical, toxic, lying wart. Man of the people my arse.

A review of my 2016

With that out of the way, it’s time to reminisce over the past year of this blog and then look to the future. First off, some boring stats: I posted 21 things this year, including this post. That’s less than once a fortnight, which makes me a liar since last year I vowed to try to post about once a week. Here’s this gem from my “Happy 2016 Everyone” post:

With that in mind, this year I’m going to try to get out one post per week – if not more – so I don’t fall behind and post nothing in a whole month (for example, December was completely dry this year).

This year will hopefully different. I should have enough to speak about, since I try to make a game for every WGD event I can, plus there’s 48 hour game jams such as Global Game Jam and Ludum Dare to give me an excuse to make games. On top of that, I’ll be putting out more posts about Honeycomb Engine which I hope are interesting for you to read. My posts about games should be more analytical and about reflection, while posts about Honeycomb will, for the time being, be technical explanations of the different aspects of a game engine.

Games I’ve made this year

I made or wrote about 6 games this year, which isn’t really that much compared to other years. That’s partially due to the fact I didn’t take part in August’s Ludum Dare this year and I also didn’t make anything for the whole of summer. On the bright side, I’ve had something to show at most WGD events since then, and I also entered Ludum Dare in December. I may as well list them all off here:

Slower Than Sound, for Ludum Dare 34, ‘Two-Button Control / Growing’ (which was actually in December 2015, but I only posted about it in January 2016)

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My aim with this one was a simple game in which you fight spaceships one-by-one in a turn-based manner, but thanks to a couple of bugs and confusing turn indicators, the idea didn’t really work. It was difficult to know what you were supposed to do as I had no real tutorial, and the gameplay itself didn’t really make much sense. I think the art was nice, but that’s what took up a lot of the time from developing the mechanics.

Ritual Quest, for Global Game Jam 2016, ‘Ritual’

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The premise of this game was simple: craft elements until you craft a ritual, at which point you’ve won. It takes heavy inspiration from games like Doodle God, with the exception that you can move around the world in this one, once you’ve crafted life. Then you can find new crafting elements in the overworld. Some of the recipes were very contrived, so if I were to revisit this game, I’d add more elements and refine some of the existing recipes with the new additions so they make a bit more sense. I’d also work on the UI a bit, although it was perfectly fine for a Global Game Jam entry.

Tappy Dev, for WGD’s ‘Fuck This’ 48-hour jam

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Because I’m a satirical bastard sometimes, I made a terrible clicker game about making games. I think it’s supposed to mock the repetitive nature of working in the games industry? Or I guess the game names and descriptions are meant to ridicule the games made by some developers. Either way, it’s a game where you mash your screen with as many fingers as possible as fast as possible, watch numbers go up and then every 1000 clicks you’ve “made a game”. Just your average mobile game, then. I made it as an experiment to see how different it is to make a mobile game than a desktop one, as the point of the ‘Fuck This’ jam is to use a tool, language, art style or platform you’ve never touched before. Using Unity was a bit of a cop-out, but at least I tried out mobile game development.

Shifting Dungeons, for Ludum Dare 35, ‘Shapeshift’ (which I also posted an update for)

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The idea behind this was that the dungeons would be randomly generated, and the game would describe them as ‘shapeshifting’. Then I went one further and added powerups that morphed the player into different shapes to give them new abilities, but a couple of them were bugged out slightly so unfortunately it didn’t work out as well as I’d hoped. I did manage to get a few different dungeon varieties into the game, and if I were to continue it further, I’d probably try to nail down the fun factor and make the enemies a bit less bullet-spongey.

Ghost Party, for WGD’s ‘Spooky’ 3-week jam

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This one was fun to make, as I made it in just a few hours preceding the presentation for WGD games that week. I also seem to remember not having had much sleep the night before, so it really was a test of endurance to keep going and get it done. The basic premise is that ghosts flood in from either end of the screen and you have to click them, which makes them fall down. But each ghost had a randomised pattern – all followed a sine wave, but some were faster than others and occasionally a ghost would have an erratic and tall movement pattern that took them off the screen. They also had a z-position, so the ones closer to the screen were easier to hit but spent less time on screen.

If I were to revisit it, I’d probably give each type of ghost a unique movement pattern – some would have a sine wave, some would move linearly, while others might zig-zag and some might fade in and out of visibility while moving.

And finally, Chemical Chaos for Ludum Dare 37, ‘One Room’

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With this one, I tried to channel my love of chemistry, although I realise that’s a tall order given how much some people loathe the subject. You’re given a series of simple chemistry tests – a distillation, a sodium + water experiment and a flame test – and it’s your job to keep them all going simultaneously. I wanted it to feel hectic and have lots going on at the same time, so I would have ideally added more minigames to the collection. I liked the idea behind it and think it could be a very fun experience if I polished it up a bit.

Honeycomb Game Engine

2016 is also the year I started on my game engine, Honeycomb, as my third-year project for my Computer Science degree. So far, it’s lacking in a lot of features, but it’s definitely on track for completion by the end of text term (and by ‘completion’, I mean of the features I’ve already planned. There’s no such thing as a ‘complete’ game engine I don’t think). As part of my plans for the engine, I want to make an example game with it once it’s feature-complete, so look out for that! I’m buzzing to see what it’ll turn out like.

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Games I played this year

I’ve really neglected actually playing games this year. I was discussing it with a friend the other day and discovered I could almost count the number of games I’ve played this year on one hand. And that’s not even just games from 2016, that’s all games I’ve not played before regardless of release date, excluding game jam games. Worse, the vast majority of them are on Nintendo platforms or are first-party Nintendo properties. I really need to diversify my game collection and maybe dig into my Steam collection in 2017! I’ll give a mini-review of the games I played here.

Pokken Tournament, Wii U

Image from http://www.pokkentournament.com/

I don’t play many traditional fighting games. But when Bandai Namco and The Pokémon Company teamed up to make a Tekken game with Pokémon in it, my interest was definitely piqued. It’s a fun game, even if I’m no good at it. I think its main strength is that it’s accessible to people who don’t usually play fighting games, and that’s definitely one of the reasons I like it so much. It’s also refreshing to see a Pokémon game in which the Pokémon make a bit more contact with each other, and with graphics like the ones on display here I’m excited to see what the future of Pokémon on the whole will bring, especially with the Nintendo Switch on the way. I’d love to see a Pokken Tournament 2, hopefully with a more in-depth storyline.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD, Wii U

Image from nintendo.co.uk

I’ve never played the original Twilight Princess on Gamecube or Wii, but I’d heard it was one of the best in the series. The first Zelda game I played was Ocarina of Time 3D, and I’ve been a huge fan ever since, so this purchase was a no-brainer. And how right everyone is, this game is one of the best games ever made! The dungeons are exquisitely designed and it feels as if every corner of the world had heart and soul pumped into it. The Wolf Link amiibo that came with the special edition is also the finest-looking amiibo to date. If anything, it’s just made me more excited for Breath of the Wild next year.

Star Fox Zero, Wii U

Image from nintendo.co.uk

The Wii U’s last moments could’ve done without a dumpster fire like this. It had some promise, but it let me down on almost every count. It’s boring, hard to control and I honestly couldn’t make it past the first few levels. I was lead to believe in reviews that the two-player mode was pretty fun and made it somewhat worth buying, but that’s a damn lie, it’s still hard to control and it made my boyfriend sad. Don’t buy it, for the love of all that is holy don’t buy it. I don’t care that reviews say it’s fine once you get used to the controls. In 2016, I shouldn’t have to get used to the controls! I would’ve loved a game that used the Wii U GamePad in an inventive, fun and refreshing way, but this game wasn’t it unfortunately.

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD, Wii U

Image from amazon.co.uk

This wasn’t from 2016, but I only got it a few months ago. It’s one of the three games I played this year not from 2016! I also haven’t finished it yet, but so far I’ve been having lots of fun with it. The graphical style is unique and, while the Wii U hardware isn’t the most powerful in the world, no-one can argue that this game looks beautiful. I can’t say much else since I’ve not finished it, but the game and dungeon design is so far on par with other Zelda games. And the sailing sections help to break up the action with something a little different to what you’re used to seeing in a Zelda game.

Beat the Beat: Rhythm Paradise, Wii

Image from youtube.com

It turns out this is a great game to take to a university society dedicated to playing Nintendo games. It’s another one not from 2016, but boy am I glad I played this one! I’ve had the soundtrack stuck in my head for weeks and I’m still concerned for the mental well-being of the dev team. Seriously, can someone tell me what the heck is going on in some of these rhythm games? If you can explain what is happening in Donk Donk, I’ll give you a fiver. My personal favourites include Flock Step, Double Date (pictured above) and Flipper Flop.

Miitomo, Android

Image from nintendolife.co.uk

Miitomo is one of those strange little experimental games, or at least that’s what it feels like to me. It’s similar to Nintendo’s own Tomodachi Life in some respects, but lacking in many aspects. It’s a communication app at its heart and integrates well with My Nintendo with daily and weekly challenges, but it sorta got old very quick. Regardless, I had a lot of fun with it when it first launched, answering very strange questions and hearing my friends’ quirky answers. And if any word describes Nintendo’s very first mobile experience, it’s just that: quirky. I was a fan of the costume crossovers with other Nintendo properties – seeing my Mii in a Link outfit or wearing an Inkling hat was pretty cute. I’d love if they brought out a massive update to make this more enticing and bring players back, but I don’t think that’s on the cards unfortunately.

Rayman Legends, Wii U

Image from ubisoft.com

Another game that’s not from 2016 and also great to play with friends. It’s one of the best couch co-op platform games I’ve played in a while, and it lets you ‘accidentally’ punch your friends into a bottomless pit of death, which is always a great selling point. The music levels are especially amazing, with some of the best level design I’ve seen in a recent game. Somehow, a game this creative came out of the maw of Ubisoft! It can be found for dead cheap and it’s been ported to most systems since launch, so I’d recommend picking it up if you can.

Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon, 3DS

Image from youtube.com

I loved Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Darkness back on the DS. In the midst of the billions of other Pokémon games I had, it offered something different, as I hadn’t played Blue/Red Rescue Team prior. However, Gates to Infinity, the first PMD game on 3DS, left me a bit disappointed, a popular opinion amongst players. It wasn’t bad by any means, and the concept of building a Pokémon Paradise was a fun one, but it just lacked the depth of previous entries for me. Super Mystery Dungeon was different – it has so much content, I don’t think I’ll ever finish it. The combat is as basic as it’s ever been, although some small additions such as emeras and alliances keep things fresh, and I felt the plot was a lot more refined than that of Gates to Infinity. So far, it’s the definitive Pokémon Mystery Dungeon game for me.

Pokémon Go

Image from gameranx.com

You might have heard of this game once or twice. Yes, Pokémon Go is the one game this year that you couldn’t avoid mention of if you tried, and like every other human being on Earth, I gave it a go. While it was fun for the first few days, for me, walking around and catching Pokémon started to get dull. I did have fun while it lasted and it’s wonderful that it got me walking around a bit more in summer than I usually would have. I also took over a couple of gyms for a while despite having few powerful Pokémon (it’s part and parcel of living in a rural town, I guess).

What I like most about Pokémon Go is that it’s made it a lot easier for people to go outside, make new friends and enjoy themselves. And to the countless articles decrying people as pathetic for needing an excuse to go outside, I say sod that; many people find it difficult to work up the courage to go outside because of anxiety problems, or they simply find it boring to go for a walk, and this app has provided what a lot of those people needed – an excuse to open the door. It can only possibly be a good thing that more people are getting active thanks to Pokémon Go and I hope developers jump on the bandwagon of geo-location apps and continue to do good for people’s health in a similar way.

Pokémon Sun, 3DS

Image from ign.com

There’s a lot of Pokemon on this list, and for good reason: it’s Pokémon! When you buy a Pokémon game, you’re almost certainly guaranteed quality, and this year gave us a pair of blockbuster main series entries in Pokémon Sun and Moon. It’s another game I’ve not quite finished yet, but already it feels a lot better than X and Y in terms of story. For one, your friends aren’t made of cardboard and actually have interesting personas, and the story is so far very focused on the island challenge. That’s another plus point for me: the 8-gym system has desperately needed a shake-up for a while, and the island trials do it very well, with the Totem Pokémon being a welcome change from gym leaders.

One thing I’m not a huge fan on is the fact that wild Pokémon occasionally call for help, which is usually not a problem unless I’m trying to catch a Pokémon and it successfully calls for help about 15 times in a row. It took me 20 minutes the other day to catch a damn Caterpie. A Caterpie! And they can do it completely for free, it doesn’t even waste their turn. It’s sometimes good for grinding EXP, so there’s that I guess.

No Man’s Sky, PC

Image from pcgamer.com

Ooooohhh boy. This game sure was controversial, wasn’t it? Well, right off the bat I’m gonna go and make enemies with half of the Internet and say I actually quite liked it. If we’re objectively looking at the game and not the situation surrounding it, I can totally appreciate why the game is not for everyone. It does get boring and there really isn’t much to do, but that’s what I liked about it, crazy as it seems. In a world where every game is vying for your attention by throwing tons of flashy effects and fast-paced gameplay in your face, No Man’s Sky is instead happy to let you sit back and walk around a planet at your own place, appreciating the beautiful pastel-coloured scenery before flying into space seamlessly and visiting another planet to find huge bulks of resources, just so you can do the same thing again.

While the ending was a complete and utter disappointment, I can’t help but feel that this is a game that shouldn’t have had an ending at all. Why would that have ever been a good idea? It’s a game that, at its core, works best when there are no immediate goals or aims, because that’s what made it feel so relaxing for me. I didn’t feel pressured to get to some location in a time limit and was having the most fun when I was idly watching weird creatures run around or just taking screenshots of the breathtaking procedurally generated surroundings. This game really is a testament to the power of letting maths make your game for you.

I’ve not played the Foundation Update yet, but I hear it’s a step in the right direction and I really, really, really hope that Hello Games continue listening to fans and making an effort to communicate, because that’s part of the reason so many people felt so burned in the first place. Oh, and the soundtrack by 65daysofstatic, Music For an Infinite Universe, is amazing and you should go buy it now.

Rhythm Paradise Megamix, 3DS

Image from nintendo.co.uk

If you own a 3DS and like rhythm games, you absolutely owe it to yourself to get a copy of this game. If I were to pick my favourite game this year, I think this would be it. The minigames are so ridiculous, so Nintendo, that you can’t help but love the boundless charm of this game. Each and every game is simple at its core but some are very challenging despite the simple controls and rules. The soundtrack is excellent and it’s stuck in my head worse than Beat the Beat: Rhythm Paradise‘s was. That’s helped by the fact that Megamix is a blend of other games in the series with some original games, so every game in Beat the Beat’s library bar 5 made it into Megamix. If that’s not a selling point, I don’t know what is.

I’ve got almost every perfect on this game, the hardest of which so far have to have been the Left- and Right-Hand Remixes and Lockstep, and I’ve got real close a couple of times with Final Remix, but I don’t think I’ll ever get a perfect on Machine Remix. Fuck the part near the end with the onions.

It’s not just games

Not everything I do is to do with games. Okay, most of it is, since most of my life is playing games, computer science, or the illegitimate child of the two – game development. But more importantly, there are some achievements I made this year that I may as well stick here, since I’ve talked about basically everything else I’ve done this year. First off, I got a boyfriend! He’s called James and he’s absolutely adorable, which I keep telling him just to get a relatively blank face in return. I would put a picture of us up, but he might kill me, so no. I’m also not sure if such a picture exists, we’re both rather shy. Second of all, I’ve continued my successful academic record at uni so far and achieved a first in my second year – a slightly higher first too, up from 71% to about 74%. Since second year is weighted twice as much as first year and both those numbers were rounded, that leaves me at about 73% overall, which is fairly comfortable into a first, although I hope to do even better this year if I can.

We also finally got Nintendo Society recognised as an official Warwick SU society (or, we will be next term). For those that aren’t aware, societies are like after-school clubs basically, and there’s a lot of variety in the types of societies found at Warwick, but one that didn’t exist when I joined was one purely for Nintendo fans. So for about two years now, a few friends and I have been working hard to set the society up, and we’ve been running unofficially for about that length of time anyway, which I think may have swung the SU’s vote. We mainly play Smash 4, but there’s also a lot of Pokemon and other Nintendo games at some of our events. I’ve also unleashed Rhythm Paradise on the society and watched them crumble, although we eventually beat Remix 10 on Beat the Beat. And lately, we’ve diversified our events to include other Smash games, which I’m terrible at. I think I’ll stick to Smash 4 and just Link everyone into oblivion with my dash attacks in 8-player smash instead.

Looking to the future, 2017

Ah yes, the future. I’m not psychic, but I can at least make educated guesses at what 2017 might hold for me. Firstly, I’ll get a version of Honeycomb done. It excites me to no end thinking about how far I might get with Honeycomb, and what sort of games it might be capable of making. It’s running using the Vulkan API, which is basically OpenGL’s baby. Vulkan gives more power to the programmer, which means I’m responsible for setting almost everything up where OpenGL would’ve done stuff for me, but the end result is that games don’t need to rely on bulky graphics drivers quite as much, removing driver overhead and resulting in increased performance. Hopefully it means games developed with Honeycomb end up being fast.

Also in 2017, I hope to make more games than in 2016, since 6 isn’t very many. I’ll aim to enter as many game jams as I can and try to make something really cool over summer this year. Above all else, I hope 2017 can be a happy and successful year for you all, even if 2016 maybe wasn’t the best year for everyone.

Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire: What I Want to See

You’ve probably heard by now that a new pair of Pokémon games are headed for the Nintendo 3DS family of systems. Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire are the long-desired Ruby and Sapphire remakes, and if you missed the announcement, here it is.

What do we know so far?

Currently, we know that it’s a ‘full remake’ of Ruby and Sapphire, as stated by Nintendo president Satoru Iwata. Plus, as the trailer states, we’ll get to see a “dramatic new world”, which implies there will be new content. And from the box art, the games can feature what I can only assume are new forms of Groudon and Kyogre. Plus, we know the games will launch worldwide in November this year, which is only 6 months away.

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Speculation Time!

Firstly, since it’s been stated these are definitely remakes, these games will take place in Hoenn. However, the “dramatic new world” mentioned suggests otherwise. Most likely, there will be a new area to explore in addition to Hoenn as we know it, which may or may not be post-game content. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time that this happened, as LeafGreen and FireRed included the Sevii Islands as part of the storyline. The two legendaries on the box art look stunning, and appear to be new forms of the respective Pokémon. These may be Mega Evolutions, or perhaps a different form – I wouldn’t put it past Game Freak to introduce Alpha Pokémon or something ridiculous like that.

What I want to see

Full 3D battle scenes and polygonal Pokémon models, first introduced in Pokémon X and Y, are probably going to be in these new games, which I’d much prefer to sprite-based combat, which was the standard back in the originals. Also, the Battle Frontier from Pokémon Emerald was much better than Ruby and Sapphire’s Battle Tower, so it’ be fantastic if it were included in the remakes. The new games will almost certainly have similar online capabilities as X and Y, but it’d be cool for some other features introduced in Ruby and Sapphire, such as Pokémon contests, berry blending, secret bases and the Battle Tower (or Frontier), benefit from these increased connectivity features. I’d like to see a lot of post-game content in these games, as some Pokémon games lack in this department. With E3 approaching soon, it’s inevitable that we’ll find out more concrete info regarding the new games, but for now it’s fun to play the guessing game. If you have any ideas for what you’d like to see in Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, leave a comment below.

Animal Crossing: New Leaf – Four-and-a-half-th Week

I know I said I’d be doing a weekly update on my animal crossing journey, but recently I did a little rejig of my A-level choices and swapped out Geography for Further Maths, an option that will be more useful for a Computer Science degree I hope to do at Cambridge, if I get accepted (fingers crossed on that one). As a result, I’ve had a ton of further maths piled on top of my workload (well, the whole AS, nothing too strenuous .-. ), and I’ve only found time to work on my blog now. So enough of my life, let’s see how my virtual life is going!

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This is Club LOL, which I mentioned in my last post. K.K. Slider, a returning character, is the DJ you see in the background and each night after 8 pm, he puts on a DJ set. In the afternoons before K.K. starts performing, you can bring any piece of fruit to Dr. Shrunk, who will proceed to hop on stage and tell one of his world-class ‘jokes’. This will allow you to use a new facial expression using the touch screen menu. On Saturday nights, K.K. Slider will play an acoustic set of one of his songs, and will give you a physical copy for you to either hang on your wall or play on your stereo at home. You can also request any song you want, although you can only get one record to play each week.

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This is the Dream Suite, a public works project that becomes available seven days after you become mayor. It allows you to upload your town to the Internet once a day for other players to play around in without actually messing up your town; they ruin a copy, so don’t worry. In turn, you can visit other player’s towns if you have their Dream Town Code. I have not yet used this feature, but it looks to be a great feature.

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Two other noticeable changes have happened in Main Street: firstly, the shop has been upgraded to Super T&T, which stocks wall-mountable items as well as more wallpaper, flooring and tools, and secondly the hair salon, Shampoodle, has opened above the Able Sister’s shop. The former is unlocked when you’ve spent at least 25,000 bells in the shop, but also it’s been 10 days since T&T Mart opened and also 10 days since the garden center opened, and the latter when Kicks has been open for at least 10 days and you’ve spent 10,000 bells in both Able Sister’s and Kicks combined. I like my hair how it is (even though my Hero’s Cap covers it completely) so I’m not going in there any time soon.

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Another public works project I’ve completed is the second story of the museum, which will become available after you’ve donated 20 items to the museum with at least one donation in each category of items then talked to Blathers. The second floor allows you to purchase exhibition rooms from Celeste, the owl you see here, for a fee of 10,000 bells; this allows you to display whatever items you want in an 8×8 space. You can also purchase items from the small shop you see here, including some of the silver tools.

I will continue to build public works projects, and hopefully next week I will have progressed more and will have more to show, but I hope you enjoyed reading.

-Daniel

Animal Crossing: New Leaf – Second Week

This week I have continued my Animal Crossing adventure, and have progressed quite a bit. Firstly I’ve unlocked a couple new shops: a shoe shop, and an upgrade to Nookling Junction.

animal_crossing_14The shoe shop, called Kicks, opens up after you spend 8000 bells in the Able Sisters’ shop and if it’s at least 10 days after the town was created. It’s run by a skunk called Kicks (surprisingly) and there’s shoes and socks for sale. On the other side of Main Street, an upgrade to Nookling Junction has appeared, after they were closed for a day on Wednesday; it is called T&T Mart, and it sells much more than the smaller shop. One notable thing is that this shop actually sells slingshots, which is helpful after playing the game for two weeks without and watching dozens of balloons fly past my town. Apparently you can hit balloons with your net as they pass the edge of the cliffside near the beach, but I never found an opportunity to do that. Ah well. The store also has wallpaper and carpet, one more set of furniture for sale, three tools per day rather than two and two fortune cookies, as well as medicine and the all-important catalog, accessed through a machine in the corner.

animal_crossing_15Somewhere in the English translation the sun got lost it seems, as it always seems to rain in Dan Town, at the end of June. But that’s what umbrellas are for, I guess. I’ve been customising my house a little too, and I’ve not really decided a theme, but I’ve changed my roof, fence, door and exterior to look a bit better (or maybe worse, depends on your opinion).

animal_crossing_16I’ve also met Dr. Shrunk, who will appear outside your house and ask you for the signatures of six of you neighbours to build a new facility called Club LOL. He’ll appear when you’ve upgraded your shop to T&T Mart and if you have a 100% satisfaction rating. If you’re able to build public works projects, you’ve done this already. Now that I’ve got the signatures I just have to wait until it’s built. K.K. Slider plays here on random days, and Dr. Shrunk can teach you new facial expressions with his “comedy”, so I look forward to seeing this built. I’ve also paid off enough home loans from Nook to be able to build a second story for my house, so I’ll be able to properly theme my house now.

animal_crossing_18I’m starting to concentrate on my town’s appearance more too, as I want to improve citizen satisfaction (apparently everyone hates my town, according to Isabelle). In this game, it also seems that flowers grow super quick, which in a way is good, but now parts of my town are overflowered. If that’s a word.

animal_crossing_17Like this. Flowers are good but this looks ugly, so I think I should move some of them into bare areas. I’ve started a new public works project to build the Dream Suite, which is pretty near to completion. This allows players to travel to another player’s town and play around without repercussions, and you can upload your own town to the Internet so others can visit it. This allows the trading of custom designs, but one odd feature is that you can’t take any items back with you. I suppose this is to prevent cheating.

One thing I forgot about last post was the Happy Home Academy, which replaces the Happy Room Academy from Wild World. When you StreetPass someone, a model of their home appears in the Happy Home Showcase north of Main Street, which you can enter and even order furniture from via the catalog. It’s great for finding that last chair or table you needed to complete a set. I hope to do an update on my AC journey every week if possible, so stay around!

-Daniel

Animal Crossing: New Leaf – My First Week

Last Saturday, I purchased the latest in the Animal Crossing series on the Nintendo 3DS. Having played the popular DS game Animal Crossing: Wild World, my expectations were high, and luckily Nintendo have pulled enough out of the bag to seduce back the AC community to this new beginning.

My first impressions as I moved into my new town (named Dan Town, screw innovation!), the first feeling was of nostalgia almost, the feelings I had back at the start of Wild World flooding into my mind. The memories of being plunged into an unknown town, left to do whatever I want without much guidance, the gentle introduction into the game with a short tutorial working at Tom Nook’s store, the life bursting out of the town at every seam. New Leaf goes further by declaring you the mayor as soon as you step off the train!

animal_crossing_3The first few hours will be spent settling in, being shown all the things to do, it’s a lot more expansive than Wild World’s tutorial. All the AC staples are there, from Nook building you a new house, selling your fruit and shells to the shop for profit, picking up tools from the shop to start catching bugs and fish. But New Leaf goes further: now you can choose exactly where to build your house and when you want to expand it (no more monopoly for you, Nook!) by talking to Nook, who is now an estate agent. There’s a new shop in town called Re-Tail that allows you to sell all your items, but it also acts as a flea market for you and other villagers to put your stuff for sale at whatever price you want.

animal_crossing_8I like being the mayor of my own town now, as it gives a much higher level of freedom to the gameplay. You can plan Public Works Projects (basically stuff to put in your town, like bridges, benches, stuff like that), then you and your villagers donate to Lloid the gyroid, who will station himself at the site you choose for the works (well, he’s standing at the site of my new bridge at least), to reach the required amount of funds. It’s nice that the townsfolk help out, but boy are they slow! I’ve donated pretty much everything so far, perhaps they’ll put their hands in their wallets later on. The cheapskates.

animal_crossing_7The one thing that really annoys me is that I’ve seen hundreds upon hundreds of presents flying past the sky like this, but do I have a slingshot? Heck do I! The shop is still pretty small and such it only has two tools a day, but they’ve always been fishing rods and bug nets, it seems. Oh well, it seems easier to shoot the out of the sky now though, as they are closer to the ground, and the 3D effect will help people judge how far it really is away.

animal_crossing_2The sheer amount of Nintendo-related stuff in this game is quite huge. In the new Nookling Junction store (basically Nook’s Cranny, but run by the Nookling twins), they sell fortune cookies, and showing Timmy or Tommy the fortune inside may net you a prize; it seems to always be a Nintendo item, such as the Metroid gear I’m wearing here. This is the interior of the museum, in the bug section. I enjoy looking at all my progress capturing these little critters, although I’m not very far yet. I have noticed Blathers is less, well, blathery, which may be good news to some, but others like me sorta enjoyed his ramblings, as it added a degree of character to the game. However, you can donate multiple things at the same time now so this is a welcome addition for me.

animal_crossing_4The inside of my house is also beginning to look very ‘Nintendo’ too, as the wall, floor and ‘?’ Block were all fortune cookie prizes. The rainbow screen was a free downloadable item, just talk to Pelly or Phyllis at the post office and ask for a gift. Little touches like the light filtering into the room from the window are pretty cool, as is the ability to put stuff on the wall now (I have a rabdom diploma on the wall, but it’s not in view here).

animal_crossing_9A week into the game, I have only just started to unlock new stores along Main Street, an area accessed at the top of the main town. Today a flower shop opened near Nookling Junction, and I really look forward to seeing what the other stores will look like, such as the abandoned house at the left of the picture here. One major addition to the game is Tortimer Island. As he is no longer the mayor, he is in charge of an island where it is always summer. You can take the boat there after a few days (and along the road Kapp’n will sing some fairly humorous sea shanties along the way), and on this island you can challenge your friends to minigames such as bug catching, matching buried items, gardening, pretty much everything. Or, if you’re like me, you can play by yourself. You can also catch bugs, fish etc as normal and take them back to the main town, including some rare fruits that grow in the resort area and non-native fruits growing in the activity area.

animal_crossing_10Diving into the sea is a new activity, although I only got the wet suit yesterday (purchased at the resort shop for 50 Tortimer medals, which you win in the minigames), so I haven’t been able to do it much. It’s nice that new ideas are still making the way into the game, however, and I look forward to diving for even more stuff to donate to the museum or sell. the game is similar enough to the older games to appeal to the experienced crowds, but fresh enough to give all players, new and old, a new experience. Tiny features expand on older ideas, such as sneaking while holding the net, which is actually needed to catch some bugs.

animal_crossing_12In short, there’s too much to write about in one review, so I’ve decided to do a couple more, perhaps I will document my journey through the game and write about new features as they come up. It’s feature packed, it’s awesome, you need this game, go get it now! And have fun with your social life’s replacement.

-Daniel