Find an emotional support animal and let’s go to the city

Animal Crossing: City Folk (2008)

I’ve never set much store by social norms, conventions and rules, but one thing I never mess around with holiday traditions. There is a strict age and marital status protocol to follow when it comes to booking holidays. When you’re about 18 or 19 years old, or some other age when you’re young, dumb and full of you-know-what, it’s perfectly acceptable for you to go on what’s classically known as the knacker holiday.

This means all the lads flying away together to Ibiza, or Marmaris or Ayia Napa or whatever the chav locale du jour is, 250 quid all in for seven or ten nights in a sweaty shoebox, where it’s vodka in the room, beers at all hours, quick bit of dinner and then away on to the foam party. And if by the grace of God one of you manages to pull, then all the lads will shuffle rooms to give you a bit of alone time with Khrystyna. After that, and after taking a midnight wazz that comes worryingly close to setting the bathroom towels on fire, you’re back on it the next day to smash it. Sounds swell, eh? Great days, and anyone who lived them will miss them.

Then you get a bit older, probably a bit less bolder, and you’re now in a relationship. It’s time for your first holiday away together, probably not to Nicosia this time but somewhere a bit classier. How does Kavos grab you? Santa Ponsa? You’ll have to be a trifle better behaved this time out, and she’ll probably want to be going home early, as in at around 3AM, unless she’s a real goer herself.

As such, and a little tip for you here, when you’re walking down the main bar street, which to more mature eyes will actually resemble a sped up version of society collapsing in on itself, a sort of tropical version of the Polar Ice Caps melting and breaking to bits in front of you, then keep an eye out to see if any of the lads with backwards baseball caps recognise your missus as a promotions girl from previous years.

If this happens, you’d better get working on that exit strategy quickly. Your first trip away with your missus quickens the old pulse alright, not just because she’ll be necking cheap cocktails, but because there’s probably a 5%-10% chance that it’ll all blow up spectacularly, and you’ll spend six of the seven remaining days sulking, not talking to each other, sharing the most awkward flight home ever and completing an unspoken breakup the minute you hit your home airport.

Get through all that though, and get to your late 20s or early 30s and suddenly the sea changes again. Now, all of your other mates are webbed up with houses and babies and weddings and other awful distractions, so your sole travel companion is your now long-term partner. Worse still, she doesn’t fancy the sun stuff as much anymore, which means no bikinis for you.

You’ve now become a city breaker. But fear not, because you’ll love them, so long as you don’t pick a duff city. I should mention that city breaks probably don’t really apply in the United States, but for us Eurotrashers, they’re sensational. My own recommendation to you is Poland; I even did a surprise trip there a number of years ago, where we were told to bring warm clothes and it wouldn’t be revealed to us where we were going until we got to Dublin Airport.

The location turned out to be Gdansk, and what a peach of a city that is. Beautiful buildings, cheap vodka, wonderful restaurants and residents with that terrific Polish sense of irreverent humour. Just before that nasty virus struck and halted all city-slicking for a while, me and the boys went to Krakow, another belter. Even visiting Auschwitz was a highlight, harrowing but unforgettable.

What perhaps wasn’t greatly respectful after this visit to the concentration camps was how we went out and got legless afterwards, in one of the friendliest night-time cities I’ve known, and we spontaneously joined up with Scottish and Welsh groups, a proper British Isles night out until all hours. It’s a fantastic stag- and hen-do city is Krakow, and that was one of the greatest nights out of my life, even if I don’t quite remember it.

So who’da thunk it then, going to the city for a bit of pleasure can be well worth it after all. I’m not sure if the boys and girls in Japan spend their weekends hitting up different Asian cities, or whether they’re even allowed weekend time off to do so. But somebody at Nintendo must’ve been switched on when he proposed Animal Crossing: City Folk to the board – he might even have been dozens of floors underground in the Wieliczka Salt Mines with me.

The Wii instalment of the Animal Crossing franchise may bring you to the city, but it’s not really a drinker. It did purport to be social though, with the game releasing alongside a doomed microphone which sat atop your TV, called the Wii Speak, ominously waiting there to pick you up like some dreadful surveillance device from 1984.

This thing would supposedly allow you to talk to other gamers while playing with them online, which was pretty unprecedented stuff from Nintendo. Of course, the praise has to end there because, like most of Nintendo’s online-centric products, a number of problems became apparent.

Firstly, since it sat on your TV with a wired connection to the console, you’d have to shout across the room to use it. You’d sound every bit the grumpy old man, yelling at your mate to tell them to stop trampling on your flowers or to give back the piece of furniture they just pilfered from you. The PS3 and Xbox 360 option of a wireless headset was, by my conservative estimate, eighty million times more appealing.

The sound quality from the other side was none too crisp and clear either, and remember you had to place the thing on top of your telly, so it was picking up sounds from the game anyway. And finally, no sod bought one, because everyone knew it was going to just be another of Nintendo’s litany of unsupported pieces of plastic. No wonder they sacked it all off and just told gamers to use their phones instead. You think things are bad nowadays…?!

Apart from all that microphony nonsense, Animal Crossing: City Folk is more of the same, really. There’s a new city spot to visit, which is good, probably amazing considering that this is a series which regards the ability to pole-vault rivers and drink coffee in a café as major updates.

Otherwise I’d have to say that there really isn’t a whole lot of new things to shout about in AC:CF, and I don’t mean shouting it into the blasted Wii Speak. It was an essential purchase for the Wii of course, and definitely the opposite of hardcore. But if you want the Lonely Planet review, I’d have to say this is one trip to the city that you probably shouldn’t bother taking.

20 September 2022

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