Thursday, June 20, 2013

Adventures in Video Game Retail Land--Reserve Remorse

It feels like the question of the day is "What are you going to pre-order: Xbox One or PS4?". Now while I'm not looking forward to either console to tell the truth, I really can't answer that inquiry since I don’t usually reserve a copy of anything. In fact, I’m pretty sure that the only thing that I pre-ordered in recent memory was Super Mario Galaxy 2 (2010)...and that was only because I just happened to have enough money on hand to pay in full and the employee at GameStop just happened to ask me if I wanted to (as they always do). 

Maybe it’s because I’m not into any of the big name call-in-sick-for-work-to-make-it-to-the-midnight-launch titles that would justify being afraid of a sell-out situation...or the fact that I never really have to have any game right when it comes out, but I don’t ever feel like I need to put up a few dollars to get a copy with my name on it. 

Case in point: Even though I was extremely excited for the newest Animal Crossing, I only bought it on launch day because I just happened to have the money to pay for it, just happened to be in the mall, and just happened to remember what day it was a few minutes before closing time. Beating the clock, I strolled into GameStop, grabbed an empty New Leaf case off the shelf and took it to the register. Instead of just ringing me up as usual, the employee asked me a deceivingly simple question:

“Uhh...Did you pre-order this?”

Now that's something I don’t hear very often...or at all. I'm used to finding what I want waiting patiently for me on the shelf, no questions asked. Imagine my disappointment when the worker informed me that since I didn’t pre-order the game, I was pretty much out of luck...not because they ran out of stock, but because they only had their reserve copies to begin with. And every GameStop in the area (because it’s one of those places that has dozens right next to each other for no apparent reason) was going through the same problem: customers coming in to buy New Leaf the day of and walking out with absolutely nothing since they didn't have any available. 

Is not having stock on the floor some kind of weird way to push pre-order sales? 

The employee was really polite about the situation (he had been dealing with it all day) and offered the option of waiting for the next shipment later in the week, but I took my money to Target instead. No pre-orders, no excuses, just grab the game and go. Though I can’t stand getting anything from locked-down electronics departments, I actually saved a few dollars by buying it there. I consider that a win. 

When did shopping at GameStop turn into an exclusive club for those who think ahead? It was like I suddenly wasn't cool enough for a cute game with cuddly looking animals...

While it felt terrible to find myself missing from the store's Animal Crossing guest list, I'm not going to be changing my shopping habits any time soon. I'll get my games on when I want them, reserved or not. So much for GameStop’s devious plan...

Have you ever tried to get a game and found yourself shut out because you didn’t reserve a copy? And where do you usually buy your games? Specialty stores like GameStop or one-stop retailers like Target?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Welcome to Addiction--Animal Crossing: New Leaf Impressions

Look, if you’re reading this to decide whether or not to get the newest installment of Animal Crossing, stop wasting time. Seriously, don’t read this...just get the game. It’s fantastic.

(Random Note: These pictures were taken with my 3DS camera at different times during the week and my avatar is darker in some shots because she got a tan.)

I won't call this a "review" since I've only been playing for a little over a week...not nearly long enough to give this game justice. You can't rush through the Animal Crossing experience. This game takes time. 
The old mayor passes wisdom to the new generation.
As soon as I saw the trailers for Animal Crossing: New Leaf, I knew I had to have it. I can't call myself a huge fan of the series...At the time, my experience was limited to AC: City Folk on the Wii and even though I enjoyed it, I must admit that it didn’t hold my attention for very long. 

And the city was boring. The main attraction of the title felt absolutely pointless.

But when it was revealed that your character could be mayor of your town and not just a really out of place human villager, I really couldn’t throw my money at Nintendo fast enough. When launch day rolled around, my wallet was ready.

I feel like everyone's attention has been focused on the new mayor mechanic. So, what’s it like being in charge of it all? Unlike the somewhat empty city featured in the previous game, your position in the local government doesn’t come off as hollow and unimportant. With the help of your adorable secretary Isabelle, you can transform your new home to fit your vision. Sit in your fancy office chair in the Town Hall and you can pass laws or “ordinances” that can affect the appearance of your town and the business hours that it maintains. Citizens will occasionally request “public works projects” that allow you build new landmarks. If you're tired of running all the way to the other side of town to get across the river, you can build a new bridge. If you want to get rid of weeds, just outlaw them and make your neighbors keep the place clean. While you don’t really “run” the city, you can make decisions that can really help support whatever delusions of grandeur you might want to hold onto. 

By "help" she means "do all the heavy lifting and paperwork".
You just point her in the right direction. 
Let me stress that these feelings of power you may have are “delusions”. You can only have one ordinance active at a time. If you want to have less weeds AND earn more money from selling goods (like me), you’re out of luck. Love public works projects? Isabelle quickly tells you the town only has the resources to work on one project at a time and you’ll find out that the bigger options are locked until your neighbors request them (which is a necessary evil for players like me who would run through all the options in days if given the chance). And if we're going to be completely honest here, the faithful Isabelle should really be the one in power...You just sit in the big chair while she’s the one doing all the work. 

I can't be mad she's sleeping on the job because she still works harder than me.
I came into work after 12. 
Of course, the other pieces of this game are even more charming than before. The villagers are slightly smarter in this game and you actually get the sense that they have lives (or something like that). Yes, they still wander around aimlessly most of the time...but they will actually use the tools they wander around with. Occasionally, they will plant and water flowers, go fishing, shake trees...I watched my neighbor Lobo stalk a grasshopper, bug catching net ready to go. He eventually moved on without a single swing, but the intent was there. A- for effort. 

Jay doesn't understand the connection
between fishing and the presence of fish.
Chatting with Lionel, I learned that Bob and Peggy got into a terrible argument and while I never learned what it was about, I found Katt trying to convince Peggy to apologize a few minutes later. Details like that make the animals in your village almost feel like real individuals...when they aren’t stuck walking into each other in an almost endless loop (once on their wandering path, they won’t change course for anything).

No wonder Bob got mad. 
The customization aspect of this game is deeper as well. You can decorate the inside of your house with furniture on the floor and the walls, but why stop there? Tom Nook’s new store allows you change the exterior of your home with mailboxes, pavement and siding. And if you play for a while, you unlock the ability to refinish and reupholster furniture to match your taste. (But keep in mind the original pattern on the piece. It will probably stay the same, even with the change.) After these last few days, I feel like I have only nicked the surface with what you can do in terms of interior design...

...But I feel as if that also has to do with the fact that you only get so many furniture options a day than actual depth. Anyone familiar to the series will understand the luck based interior design system; it's not a new concept. I can't help but think that I've been getting the short end of the stick in terms of the available selection of my stores. My house is just a storage closet at the moment, but I know that it won't last long.

The couch I customized looks better in Lobo's house than it did in mine.
I considered going into great detail with this post in terms of all the new and returning gameplay elements but I won’t because I think the charm is in discovering them for yourself (and after a week, I haven’t unlocked all of them myself). Besides, everyone is talking about this game. Avoiding spoilers is harder than finding them. But if you haven’t looked up information on this game, don’t. Just buy it. I couldn’t recommend this game hard enough even if I wrote this whole thing with caps lock on. I am completely addicted. There should be a support group for people with this problem (so we can all play together, of course).

Are you a fan of the Animal Crossing series? What do you think about New Leaf?

I Can't Write My Real Next Post Until I Publish This One

Time to dust off this poor, neglected blog and give it some love. 

It’s been months since my last post. Didn’t I say that I would work harder at the whole writing-on-a-regular-basis thing? Oh yeah, that was before college decided to slap me in the face and teach me a lesson on time management...

After I hit the last period on my last entry, I was promptly overwhelmed by everything that I had to do to make to graduation. Poem, papers, projects. A stressful sundae topped with student organization responsibilities and graduate school shaped cherries. There was so much that needed my immediate attention that I had to push some things to the side. Like this blog. And video games in general. I was even approached to write for an new online magazine and I had drop my volunteer position not too long after I accepted it because I just didn’t have the time. 

(PRO TIP FOR ENGLISH MAJORS: Anyone will tell you that putting off required science classes is a bad idea, but taking all of the necessary classes your final semester is the worst idea ever conceived (Human Bio and Geography go together like a hammer to a skull). Do everything in your power to make sure that you never have to resort to such insane measures.))

BUT I MADE IT. I got through the toughest semester of my academic career, earned a shiny piece of paper that proves how smart I am (or can pretend to be) and I am now drowning in free time like I found the ocean at the end of a desert. So I will be finishing up the forgotten posts languishing on my dashboard and putting my heart and soul into some new ones. 

If you're still here, thank you. I will really try harder this time.
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