February 11, 2008

Animal Forest Crosses Over to the Big Screen

I heard the news on a game site quite a few months back, found it interesting, but thought nothing else of it. That's because it was related to a game to film adaptation that would probably never be viewed outside of Japan, aside from importing. But after browsing YouTube a couple weeks back, I inadvertently stumbled upon the film, kindly pirated and uploaded to the service by a fan. WITH subtitles. I figured I wouldn't be able to see this movie any other way, so I put my conscience in my pocket and proceeded to watch Animal Forest: The Movie. That's Animal Crossing for all you English speaking fans. And if that's the name you know it as, you probably won't understand the movie's official web site.

Animal Crossing would take a whole other blog entry to describe, so I'll give the basics. Unlike traditional games that have an ending to work towards, A.C. is a sandbox experience. That means you can pretty much do what you want with the several tasks within the game, and it continues indefinitely. It's like The Sims in that regard. You play the part of a human who moves into a forest with various anthropomorphic animals. You interact with them, do chores for them, find a large catalog of items to decorate your own house and present as gifts to other animals, earn money to expand your dwelling, catch fish and bugs, and numerous other objectives.

The series began its life on the Nintendo 64 console in Japan. It was planned for release in North America, but they decided to hold off and bring it to our Gamecubes instead. The game is digital crack. I played just about every day for months. At least, it seemed like that long. A sequel was put out for Nintendo DS, while a third incarnation of the franchise is planned for release on the Wii. It's online capabilities are being heavily touted, but I hope they decide to give it a graphical upgrade as well. I'm no graphics whore, but we've had two generations of game systems pass since its first inception, and 64 bit graphics leave much to be desired on current consoles.

The movie is based mostly upon the second Animal Crossing game, subtitled Wild World. Just about every job animal and traveler make an appearance, as well as the buildings they work in. You'll see my personal favorites Crazy Redd and Lyle, as well as Brewster and his coffee shop The Roost, located in the museum as always. Also seen in the museum are the dinosaur fossils that can be obtained in the game itself. The characters also behave the same as their digital counterparts with their unique personality quirks. Blathers prattles on and on about historical facts, Resetti blows his gasket, and Tom Nook is a major douchebag. And you haven't seen anything until you witness old Mayor Tortimer running along the beach with a surfboard. But best of all, my favorite villager from the first Animal Crossing game made the cut... Hopper the Penguin.

Not only are the setting and characters related to the game, but the look, features, and mechanics find their way into the flick in one way or another. The filmmakers went all out and paid special attention to detail. The designs on the trees, hell, even what's growing on the trees themselves! Tom Nook's shop is littered with the various odd items that can be collected throughout the game. You'll definitely recognize the background music. There's changing seasons and festivals. Bug catching, fishing, and digging, along with the usual bounty of those activities. Numerous shirts and all those crazy accessories that could be purchased from the Able Sisters shop. Designing outfits that become so popular that everyone in town starts to wear them. You know those symbols that would pop over a character's head to reflect their feelings? Happens here, too. Even the damn stationary made it in. And believe it or not, there's the hardship of a beloved villager moving away. There's even more that I chose not to mention. K.K. Slider also shows up for a performance. He has a normal speaking voice, but when he sings, it's still in the indeciphrable language from the games. But translated with subtitles. Fucking Awesome. It's as if they made a list of all the game's contents and said "THAT'S THE SCRIPT!"

It's neat to see the movie populated with villagers that the viewer themselves probably acquainted themselves with from the game. When I heard the name "Apollo", I immediately remembered him as the grumpy bald eagle before he even came on-screen. Speaking of which, I decided to boot up my copy of Wild World after watching this, just to see how my village looks after me being absent for more than a year. And yes, Apollo is still living there. All my PRECIOUS HYBRID FLOWERS have died off because I neglected watering them, and weeds have taken over the town.

The Animal Crossing/Forest games are a big success in America as well as Japan. I think Nintendo should have taken a gamble and brought the movie stateside like it did for the Pokemon films. Although the plot of this movie is geared towards a younger audience, I recommend anyone who's ever been addicted to this game, even older folks such as myself, to check it out at least once. You'll get a kick out of how faithful it is to its source.

This adaptation was handled directly opposite of how The Super Mario Bros. movie was done. While Animal Crossing's movie world is an animated replica of the game's, the Mario movie took so many liberties with the source material that it turned into an "In Name Only" flick. This should be required viewing for any director looking to handle a game to movie project. Pay the fuck attention, Uwe Boll.

And that's just the way it is.

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