Nintendo are finally bringing out a mobile app version of its classic simulator game, Animal Crossing. It’s already available in Australia, but the rest of us have to wait until late November before we can get our hands on Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp. Only then can we begin wasting hours of our lives catching virtual fish and trying desperately to befriend a cat or a bear.
Animal Crossing first came out in 2001, and has been through various iterations since then, but the premise has remained largely the same: you are a cutesy humanoid who moves into a town full of anthropomorphised animals. You build a house by taking out a loan from shop owner and shameless capitalist Tom Nook, then you have to earn money to pay off your initial mortgage and for later house extensions. The in-game currency is bells, and you earn them by selling fruit, fish, bugs and fossils which you pick, catch and dig up in your town. Some of these items can also be placed in the town museum, which leads to an incredibly addictive quest to catch one of every variety.
There is also a social element to Animal Crossing – you can make friends with fellow residents of your town, write them letters and send them gifts. If you can charm your favourite characters enough, they will stay in your town – but if you can’t, they will move out. Every Animal Crossing player can remember that stomach-churning moment when they discover that despite their best efforts, their favourite neighbour has moved out of town, only to be replaced by that giant jerk, Rasher the Pig. He would then dig in and refuse to leave no matter how many times you hit him with your butterfly net. Quite why I enjoyed a game that gave me such pronounced virtual social anxiety is a bit of a mystery to me, but I spent hours and hours playing this gentle simulator on my Nintendo DS.
From what I can gather without having played Pocket Camp yet, Nintendo have changed up quite a few things. There seems to be more of a focus on trading objects to make things, rather than earning money to buy them, and there’s also a new currency called Leaf Tickets. This is the way that the app will be monetised, as you can purchase Leaf Tickets with real-life cash. You can also earn Leaf Tickets by carrying out small quests. Leaf Tickets can then be used to buy special items, or to speed up the process of crafting objects.
The biggest change is obviously the location, you are no longer in a town, you are in a camp. Instead of a house you have a campervan, and you need to build new amenities for the camp in order to keep your guests happy.
Players used to be able to visit other players’ towns by connecting their devices. I have yet to see anyone confirm that this will be possible in the app, but it seems likely that this will remain a feature.
The one thing I dreaded in the DS game was weeding. Every day, you’d have to set off on a tedious circuit around the town, digging up all the weeds that had grown while you’d been away. It was the weeds that eventually stopped me playing altogether, because skipping just a few days lead to a terrible overgrown wilderness, where townspeople would angrily berate you for neglecting your weeding duties. Eventually it got so bad that I couldn’t face even starting the task of weeding my town, and so it remains deserted, the cartridge probably still in my Nintendo DS in the bottom of a cupboard somewhere. I can only hope that Nintendo have done away with the weeding on this version of the game. Please let there be no weeding.
A lot of the familiar features will be the same: characters such as Timmy and Tommy Nook and the canine singer K.K. Slider will be making an appearance, and there will still be special seasonal events like Christmas and the solstices. The basic activities of picking fruit, fishing, mining, and catching bugs also appear to still be a feature of the game, which is handy because it means we’ll have our trusty net for hitting annoying camp guests in the face. I’m looking at you, Rasher the Pig.
There is a huge amount of excitement ahead of this beloved game coming to a mobile app for the first time. I am in a What’s App group dedicated to talking about the game with friends who are equally excited about it, because yes, I am that cool. We’ve already wasted a lot of time just talking about the game, so imagine how little we’re going to achieve in our real lives once it is released. For someone who’s never picked up a fishing rod in earnest in my real life, I’m ridiculously eager to waste countless hours doing it virtually.