If I tap the green “user” square and open up the personal message in my DS Phat, it reads “ACWW: May 08”. That was the last time I played Animal Crossing: Wild World.
Three and a half years ago…
I didn’t used to have to keep a note of when I last visited Wild World. Although I didn’t get the game until April in 2006, it didn’t leave my DS for an entire year. I played it nearly every day, and if not nearly every day then at least once a week. I completely fell in love with my little town of Castelle, and every visit involved a thorough watering of my extravagant flowerbeds, a quick jaunt down to the beach to see if I could catch any new fish and, of course, a meticulous hunt to unearth some new fossils. Even when I started university in the autumn of the same year I did my best to keep playing it, snatching up to thirty minutes here and there between lectures on Shakespeare and taking copious notes on Charles Dickens.
But those days in between play soon turned to weeks, and those weeks soon turned to months, and before I knew it I had completely lost track of the time. It became harder and harder to keep up with Wild World, so around the March of 2007 I began leaving myself little reminders about when I last visited Castelle. The thought of all my hard work going to waste was almost too much to bear, so whenever I had the opportunity, I’d check the last date of my visit and then reset the clock on my DS to fool the game into thinking I hadn’t been away for so long. It’s a little silly, I know, but now that three and a half years have passed, I think it’s time to face facts. I can’t keep living in the past, so I’m going to take a deep breath and steel myself for the horror that awaits. Will my town have become a desert wasteland? Will all my beloved neighbours have moved away? Will anyone even notice that I’ve been MIA for three years?
Well, we’re about to find out.
Here we go.
Gritting my teeth, I load up my game and Animal Crossing‘s familiar theme tune rolls in. It almost feels like I’ve never been away, but I can’t help but feel like I’m about to get a nasty surprise. Sleeping soundly in their beds are my two characters, Terra and Fyrus. I barely remember ever creating Fyrus– I think I wanted to see what having another resident would be like– so I give Terra a nudge and brace myself.
She merrily skips outside to the cheerful bell chimes of my town tune, and my mailbox is overflowing with letters. To my horror I discover that I still have four letters sitting in my pocket that I never posted. I take as many as I can hold and prepare for the mountain of tearful goodbye cards.
Surprisingly, there’s only two. Robin and Benedict have flown the coop to seek greener pastures, but I was never really that attached to them anyway. I shrug it off, relieved that he wasn’t among them. He is Apollo, my cranky, grouchy eagle and only remaining resident from my first day in Castelle. To put it lightly, I’m rather fond of him.
I also have a long overdue letter from the HRA about my “Stylish! Elegant! SASSY!” perfect room. I’ve scored 199,770 points apparently. To be honest, I never really understood what the points meant or how many they used to score out of. Oddly enough, there’s also another one from them saying I now have 202,770 points. Has someone been in my house and spruced it up a bit while I’ve been sleeping blissfully in my attic!? I thank them silently, whoever they are, but I decide to take a quick peep inside my house just to make sure they haven’t made off with any of my belongings.
I open the door and for a moment it seems like everything’s okay. My precious Triforce is still shining brightly on the table, my record player is still cranking out K.K. Rockabilly, and my Metroid is still bubbling away in its container in the corner. But then I hear it. Just above the music there’s a brief yet horrifying scuttle of tiny feet, and I know I’m not alone. For a second I can’t tell where it’s coming from, but then I catch a black dot scurrying out of my plant pot and suddenly they’re everywhere! My whole house is overrun with cockroaches! Eeek! Forgetting that running with B is also the “pick up your furniture” button, I accidentally hoover up half my belongings as I frantically try to get rid of them, and I end up leaving a trail of little white souls in my wake as my shoes get covered with bug guts. How on earth could the HRA have missed these!?
I run to my other rooms to check they’re all right, but more cockroach souls trickle out from my carpet as I catch another brood of the nasty invaders trying to hide under my tables and chairs. Then…nothing. Are they gone? When I think it’s safe I hastily re-arrange my furniture and cautiously creep back into each room, listening for one last patter of cockroach betrayal. But thankfully all I can hear is the heavenly sound of pure silence. Finally. Now I can check my last unread letter. It’s from the town hall, informing me that I’ve accrued 99,999 Bells of interest! I guess that’s one silver-lining to leaving your town for three and a half years.
Venturing back outside, Maelle is the first one to greet me.
“Hey, you,” she says, looking surprised. “It’s been a while! Um… What was your name again? Oh, yeah, T-Puff. I almost forgot about you, duckling. So got any juicy gossip for me, duckling?”
We chat for a while and get reacquainted, but when we say goodbye I can’t shake the feeling that there’s something missing. Long grass covers every square inch of the ground, and as I wander north of my house I come to a large clearing surrounded by trees ripe with peaches and cherries.
“What’s missing?” I think to myself. “Why is there so much empty space here?”
Then it hits me. My beautiful flowers! They’re all dead! Replaced by weeds and dead clover patches. I had even managed to breed a golden flower once, but now all that’s left is an empty patch of dry mud. Fighting back the tears, I march on and head to the town hall to post my four letters three years out of date.
Phyllis is there filing her nails (…or feathers?), barely acknowledging my existence as I shut the door. She’s the same as ever, and doesn’t even mention I’ve been away for a while. Was I never that important to her?
She takes my letters unceremoniously, but before I leave I cast a quick glance at my savings account. I can’t really remember how much was in there before I went AWOL, but with my added windfall of interest my account now stands at 2,893,899 Bells! I’m rich! And, to my great delight, the remaining balance on my mortgage is only 948,000 Bells. Three years ago, I had been putting off paying the rest of my mortgage– I had squeezed every last possible upgrade into my house, so I didn’t really see much point in actually paying Tom Nook for the rest of it. It’s not like he was adding interest onto my loan (I hate to think how much it would be now if he had!), so I decided I’d save it rather than dutifully pay him the rest. Well, considering my new multi-millionaire status, I think Tom Nook probably deserves his money. With a triumphant grin on my face, I pay it off completely. Phyllis doesn’t bat an eyelid.
It’s too late to go and pay Tom a visit now though, so I go and get the remaining letters sitting in my post box. Both of them are from my lodger, Fyrus.
“Dear Terra, Present for you. Use it wisely! From Fyrus,” the first one says, and I find a robo-clock inside.
The second one reads, “Dear Terra, Another present for you. Do a barrel roll! From Fyrus,” and there’s a mama bear attached. I promise never to send letters to myself again…
With all the house-keeping taken care of, I guess the only thing left to do now is go and show my face to my neighbours and apologise for being away for so long.
The first new resident I find is Bluebear, who’s still unpacking. “Good evening,” she says. “We haven’t met before, have we? I would have remembered you! Oh, OK… You’re Terra! Well, since we’re now best friends forever (BFF, FYI), I have to give you a nickname, peach! What’s that? Hmmm…uh…Err…” She ponders this for a while. “No, let’s just stay with Terra for now,” she smiles and I let her get back to unpacking.
Sally’s house is just next door so I go and pay her a visit next.
“Hi! Nice to meet you! I’m—” she pauses, knowing something’s not quite right. “Wait a minute…” Then her eyes widen and her jaw drops as her memory kicks into gear. “I know you! It is Terra, isn’t it? I mean, is it really you, T-puff? Wow! I can’t believe this! I was afraid you’d moved to another town, pachirisu.”
She fills me in on her “personal training” with Cyrano, and I catch a small blush on her cheeks. What’s this!? Have Sally and Cyrano been hooking up while I’ve been away? It makes me wonder what my other neighbours have been getting up to, so I say goodbye with a knowing smile and leave her in peace.
Outside, I begin to take in my surroundings as I pull up a few more weeds. Everything slowly falls back into place as I reach the river, and just round the corner I see one lone flower standing defiantly against the elements. Before I can pocket it though I spy Cyrano over the bridge and I run to greet him. He sees me coming and rushes toward me too, but stops short of burying me in his furry embrace (maybe he’s scared of punching me with his nose).
“Sasquatch!” he calls. “Snappy T! Do I, uh…smell funky or somethin’?” Not at all, I reply, not wanting my first words to him in over three years to be an insult. “What? But I’ve been eating liver and onions all day!” he frets. “Listen here, Snappy T! It doesn’t pay to ignore a guy’s stank, you know!” I begin to apologise profusely but before I can get a word in edgeways he asks me whether I delivered his package. Of course! I reply, not sure whether I’m lying or not. “Whoa!” he says. “So you made the delivery on time, huh?! You put Petey to shame!” I laugh nervously and he gives me an old brick wall in return. He sees me off and I go and pay a visit to my other new resident, Pudge.
“No way! It’s Terra!” he says, even though I have no idea who he is. “Whoa! How long has it been, pudgy?” But he gets right down to the more important things in life before I can reply. “Terra, your ideal dessert is… a sorbet, right?” I’m actually partial to a bit of cake, but I won’t tell him that. “Well, I prefer the diet version, myself. And when you eat two of them together, it’s REALLY good, pudgy!”
It’s getting quite late now (my 3DS clock has somehow made it five hours ahead of normal time), so I bid him farewell and I find myself wandering toward the sea. But the roar of the ocean reminds me of that special house down on the beach. What will he say? What will he think of me for being away for so long? The thought of him hating me is too much, so I run to the other end of the village, and visit my good old friend Buck instead.
“Huh-what?! T-dog! Long time, no see! How’s life, tuuuna!? Y’know, it’s been a while, but you look more dignified somehow, tuuuna! Wait, what? They promoted you to…” he pauses for dramatic effect, “‘Captain Cool’? Don’t make me laugh!” he chortles.
He’s still laughing as I beg my leave, so I close the door quietly and pay a trip to Blathers on my way back down the village. Poor old bird, he doesn’t seem to recognise me at all. Brewster serves me coffee like an old pro though, and I almost think I see him crack a small smile. K.K’s in town for a visit too, so I ask him to play my favourite song, Two Days Ago.
As I make my way to the town hall, Maelle catches me checking the notice board. “By the way, T-puff, I just gotta show you this weird letter I got!” Tabby joins in too, but then the camera swings round and her horrifying toothy grin and upturned nose burst into view and I nearly jump out of my skin. I almost ask whether she got run down by Kapp’n in his taxi while I was away, but then I remember that’s just how she looks, poor soul.
“Hey, look! It’s you! T-puff!” she says eagerly. “So, do I repeat myself too much? I mean, like, when I say ‘me-WOW’? Oh, I knew it! Look, I need a new trendy catchphrase! Mine is so ten minutes ago!” Leave it to me, I say as her large, beady eyes stare back at me. “Yay! Sweet! OK then, I’m gonna take whatever you give me!” Bark, I tell her, wondering if she’ll appreciate the irony. “Bark!! Tee hee! Wait, wait! Wait… Bark!!! Tee hee hee! OK, I’m gonna use this at my next audition, bark!!”
I guess not.
Then, before I know it, Apollo is right there, calling me over.
“Sasquatch!!” he cries. “It’s T-puff! I just thought of the perfect nickname for you, marmots!!” Tell me, I say slightly flustered, not knowing where to look or what to say. “Get a load of this…” he replies, leaning in close. “Crazy T! How do ya like it? Awesome, right!? Yup, that’s right, I smile, touched by his excitement. “From now on, I’m gonna call you… Crazy T, marmots!! Ooooh, I nailed you this time, Crazy T!” he says with a glint in his eye. “I’m gonna go spread it around!”
I scuff the ground nervously with my foot, eager to talk more. “Hey Crazy T,” he says again. “I’ve got something really important to ask you.” My eyes widen. Is this the moment I’ve been waiting for? After all those letters and gifts
and anonymous declarations of love, is he finally going to say it?
“What do you really think about me, marmots!?” he says sheepishly. I’m caught off guard, but before I can stop myself I blurt out, “I like you!” “You like me, huh!” he says, and his gruff features relax into a smile. “Man, that makes me happier than you know! Even if that’s the same kind of ‘like’ that you feel for chocolate soufflé… it’s still better than you hating me, marmots!! I dig you, too, marmots! But not as much as I like my toothpick!” he says, punching me playfully in the arm. He’s the same old Apollo, all right, and I can barely contain my happiness. Even after all this time, he still doesn’t hate me!
Then, in true Cinderella style, the clock strikes midnight and I feel like it’s time Terra ought to return home. As she climbs the stairs and jumps into bed, I breathe a heavy sigh of relief. That wasn’t half as bad as I thought it would be. I may have lost all my flowers and two of my neighbours, but at least the rest of them haven’t forgotten me completely! Now I just need to keep this up and bring Castelle back to its former, flowery glory…which is probably easier said than done. Still, it’s definitely given me a renewed optimism about getting back to my town. I was expecting the worst, but thankfully the worst never came knocking.