A brand new Animal Crossing experience is setting roots on the 3DS this fall, and this time Nintendo is casting players as mayor of their virtual havens. What will the new job entail? We're still not entirely sure; however, we do know it will involve a canine secretary, swanky office, cutesy clothes, and greater dominion over the town's residents and neighbors.
Sure enough, Animal Crossing: Jump Out looks like a strong candidate for a 3DS hit. But before we give it our vote, here are some changes, tweaks, and additions we want to see from Nintendo's upcoming sim...
Give us more than a new paint job
We're liking the crisp, colorful screenshots we've scouted so far for Animal Crossing's first chapter on the 3DS (browse our gallery here), but we've been led astray by eye-catching promotion material before. Where Wii's Animal Crossing: City Folk was but a small step forward from Animal Crossing: Wild World on the DS, we want to see Jump Out take the series one giant leap ahead of its predecessors. After all, cutesy graphics can only take the 10-year-old concept so far; and now that Nintendo has had three titles to perfect the core mechanics, it's time to see those fetching visuals complimented with deeper gameplay, richer characters, more meaningful interactions, and a larger town that's just begging to be picked clean of its secrets. This is Nintendo's chance to make Animal Crossing the new portable time killer. We want developers take full advantage of the 3DS's power, and not simply release the same book with a new cover.
Obviously, Animal Crossing: Jump Out will rock the 3D. Heck, it's right there in the title. Judging by an earlier trailer, the most noticeable 3D element will be the town's curving landscape, through which objects and people will scale accordingly throughout the players' travels. In short: Let's keep the 3D exactly like this.
No doubt, those who get into Animal Crossing have a tendency to become borderline addicts, meaning Nintendo would do well to use 3D sparingly, rather than burn players out with headache-inducing gameplay. After all, the best 3D games are the ones in which players are reminded of the third dimension's presence in innovative and subtle ways, not through ham-fisted gimmicks. Go ahead and give us the prerequisite 3D minigames, but go gentle on the core experience.
Stronger sim elements
Animal Crossing: Jump Out will cast players in the role of the town's mayor, but what does that mean? What we hope it means is the sequel will allow players to adopt a more hands-on approach to the town's development, granting would-be city planners more control over the town's inner workings and behind-the-scenes politics. We've already experienced what it's like to live amongst our animal brethren. Now, we're ready to be promoted to a position where we can influence their lives on a greater scale - be it through town planning, political dealings, resource management, and other SimCity-esque elements (minus the on-demand Tornadoes, of course).
We kicked off this list by asking for an evolution of Animal Crossing's formula, and the fresh mayoral set-up indicates Nintendo is right on track. Here's hoping the new gig comes with actual power, and not just a bigger home with a fancier wardrobe.
Nintendo is pitching enhanced customization controls for Animal Crossing: Jump Out, but we want to see those visual tweaks have an actual impact on the lives of our avatars and townsfolk. Give us virtual possessions we can actual use in meaningful ways; pinball machines we can set high scores with, sewing machines we can use to make our own outfits, and TVs with the occasional DLC cartoon or Nintendo trailer. Let us build our own bikes, design our own strip mall, or direct a movie by the beach. Better still, give us the ability to expand our homes with interactive man (or woman)-caves, backyard grottos, or garages that can hold our customized collection of hot rods.
Now that we're the top dog in town, don't limit our creativity to a few park benches and window curtains. Instead, give us the keys to the entire city!
Let us be lovers and fighters
Many of Animal Crossing's fans are above the legal drinking age, so now would be the perfect time to bring the series' themes and content up to speed with its maturing demo. That's right, we're talking about making the Mii-beast with two Mii-backs. Technically, there have been ways to simulate hooking up, getting married, and having children-like characters in the past, but they've never felt involved enough. For Jump Out, making families doesn't have to be raunchy or even that complicated. We just want the option to officially pair off and make mini-Miis, and perhaps score rare items or challenges for our efforts.
On the flip-side, would it hurt to add a little PvP action? Maybe not an Animal Crossing Fight Club or Thunderdome, but just a few ways for scrappier players to rough it up a little with their neighbors. Tired of gardening? Start a paintball war. Feeling sneaky? Pilfer some bells from an unsuspecting homeowner. Small towns are all about sordid love affairs and grudge matches. Animal Crossing needs to grow up.
Give us the chance to make sweet(er) music
Not everyone enjoys rocking (and/or snoozing) out to Animal Crossing's soundtrack. Granted, the melody maker gave digital musicians a very basic way to strum out their own tunes, but it left a lot of room for improvement. For its next big show, Animal Crossing would benefit greatly from an enhanced music-making system tool that would grant players the ability to compose multi-layered tracks using a variety of instruments, some of which could even bestow new abilities or items with just a few notes. We're not looking for Animal Crossing Garage Band, but something more akin to Mario Paint's music creation system; that is, simple to learn yet deep enough to give audiophiles something to work with. The resulting tracks could then be added to the game's soundtrack, sold to neighboring towns, or performed live as part of an outdoor concert. Animal Crossing Woodstock, anyone?
Time-based events are nothing new to video gaming, but Nintendo managed to make Animal Crossing's date-specific holidays and seasonal events some of the best surprises for longtime fans. With the 3DS's mapping features, we envision Nintendo taking its real-world integration one step further by reading the 3DS's location and rewarding players with special items or activities based on where they're standing or how often they visit specific hot zones. We're not suggesting Nintendo directs 3DS players into open traffic, but instead lead them to nearby parks or perhaps a store belonging to one of its promotional partners. On a more grounded level, the 3DS's pedometer could be used to dictate the growth of a plant, or unlock new zones according to the complete distance traveled.
Animal Crossing: Jump Out is a portable game, so give us a reason to get out.
Augmented reality gameplay
It's time Tom Nook and his friends got a taste of the real world, no? Over and above making creative use of the 3DS location-based features, we believe Animal Crossing: Jump Out can put augmented reality on the map. Imagine, an in-game Easter egg hunt that sends players throughout the house in search of their sugar high. Even better, how about a good ole game of hide-and-seek with the Able sisters, a trip to AR shooting gallery with Cooper and Booker, or a coffee table version of Whack-a-Mole with Mr. Resetti?
A lot of Animal Crossing's charm comes from its diverse and quirky cast. There's no reason why, given their new AR-equipped home, they can't make a day trip to the real world.
Full StreetPass and SpotPass functionality
Animal Crossing has always been about building communities both online and off. Thanks to the 3DS's enhanced connectivity tech namely, its StreetPass functionality Animal Crossing: Jump Out is equipped to take those concepts to the next level. Judging by early reports, we already know Jump Out will use StreetPass to add other player's homes to the game's Model Homes section, but we see this as just a jumping off point. Let's see players open up shop within each others' Mall, form real relationships with various townies, or pair up to tackle mayoral duties. How cool would it be to flip open your 3DS after a night with friends and find they've set up a shanty town in your own backyard. Not very, you say? Ok, that was a bad example.
3DS's StreetPass opens up a ton of multiplayer potential. Forget the house calls and bottled messages; we're talking full MMO territory where towns can change and evolve according to how many (welcome) tourists players let through their gates.
3DS eShop integration
Players want more to play and Nintendo wants to make more cash with at its 3DS eShop. What better way to cater to both parties than by making the Big N's digital outlet available in Animal Crossing? We can see it now an interactive wing of the museum dedicated to Nintendo classics, or a brand new arcade in "The Mall" featuring playable versions of some of the eShop's featured titles. Even better, if Nintendo is feeling particularly kind throughout the year perhaps during one of the many Animal Crossing holidays it could put one or two of its classics on sale for a few bells.
Whether it's through the access to demos, timed trials, or full retail games, we can think of no better way to flaunt the eShop's inventory than by placing it smack dab in the middle of town.
What's on your Animal Crossing wish list?
The 3DS isn't just a new home for Animal Crossing, it's a whole new opportunity to branch out and push Nintendo's loveable town sim to its limits. Let us know if we missed anything and what you'd like to see take shape in Animal Crossing: Jump Out in the comments!