The other day I saw an old friend I hadn’t talked to in a while and he told me a weird story.
See, we both used to be really in to Nintendo handheld games. Mario Golf, Fire Emblem, Final Fantasy Tactics, Advance Wars, Mario Kart, you know, all the greats. It was a really cool time in our lives. Anyway he ended up moving away and kind of got caught up in real life. He didn’t bother with the new systems and stuff because everything else was more important.
Anyway he randomly commented on something about the new Fire Emblem on Facebook, and it sparked a conversation about those old days. It must have got in his head because he was at a garage sale with his wife and bought a random 3DS and some games with it. A couple of weeks later we run into each other at the bookstore.
He’s like. “Dude, you play that Animal Crossing game, right?”
I’m like “Yeah, all the time. My town is super cool.”
He tells me about buying the system and that it had Animal Crossing: New Leaf already installed when he turned it on. I’m super jealous because it’s the actual Animal Crossing themed 3DS that I didn’t have the money for when it came out.
“That game is weird.” He says. “There was already a game started so I decided to check it out before starting over, cause I never played Animal Crossing before.”
“You should totally let me see your town.” I say.
“It’s not really my town…” He replies.
“What do you mean?” I ask.
“It’s the one that was already in the system. I can’t restart it. It won’t let me.” He says.
He goes on to explain that when he started the game up it seemed like the town was already wiped. Having never played the game before he didn’t know you were supposed to be able to choose the layout and stuff. I didn’t pick up on it at first, but in passing I ask what layout he chose and he acts like he doesn’t know what I mean. He goes on to say that it was really weird that he moves in and the townspeople keep talking about their old mayor. At first I think he means Tortimer from the old games, but I slowly realize he means the last player character to be mayor.
I’ve never started a game over from a non corrupted file, so I don’t know if that’s normal or not. Something about it feels wrong though.
“The little animals keep showing me letters from this kid…” He tells me.
“That’s normal, the characters save some letters from players to show off.” I say.
“How often do they show you them?” He asks.
“Not as much as the old games,” I answer. “Maybe once a week if you play a lot, I guess.”
“They show them to me all the time.” He says. “And the letters are bizarre.”
“Bizarre how?” I ask.
“It’s this kid talking about how she’s dying.”
There’s a long silence.
“That’s fucked up.”
“Dude, I know.” He says. “The kid had cancer. She must have written letters to those animals constantly.”
I tell him that I almost never write letters so maybe that’s what the thing is. My game doesn’t have a big database of notes to draw from. Then I tell him how I’ve heard about this kind of thing with older games in the series. Messages from parents who passed away getting to kids by way of the animals and stuff. I mean, it’s a known thing.
“That’s so brutal…” I say.
“Yeah, I got really invested in this girl’s story. Put together the whole thing bit by bit over the last week.” He tells me.
“Maybe you should wipe it and see if you can download it from the shop again.” I offer.
“What do you mean can’t?” I ask.
“It won’t let me.” He says. “Even if I try to delete it from the memory card it stays.”
Since I didn’t get that version of the 3DS, or game, I’m not sure if that’s normal. I ask if he called Nintendo and he tells me they’d never heard of that, but if he tries to access the store the game will be erased because it’s not technically his. Since you can’t transfer titles from account to account you can’t redownload from an account that’s not yours, even if you buy the system from someone.
“Did that work?” I ask.
He reaches in his pocket, flips open his 3DS, and holds it out to me. His character is standing in the rain, smiling, holding its little leaf umbrella.
“It shows up on any memory card I put in to it.” He says. “I can only clean the other card once a different one in in the system.”
“That’s… not possible…” I reply.
“I don’t know what to tell you, dude. That’s what happens.” He says.
As I’m looking at him I see something dash across the screen in front of his avatar, except it’s not one of the villagers. It’s a player character. I don’t notice it in time to get a good look. In spite of his game doing this weird shit he’s apparently walking around with his gate open, letting random people visit. Which would be fine except I’ve never seen another person playing Animal Crossing that I didn’t know. If there were ten people in the whole town with AC I’d be surprised. I’m tall enough that I can see nearly the whole store just by turning in a circle, which I do. There’s not a person with a DS anywhere close enough to be visiting his town. While he’s telling me about some of the letters he’s read I wander his guy up to the ticket gate, just to see if it’s open. As soon as the screen loads I can tell it’s not. I must have imagined it, but I would swear I saw the avatar running clearly enough to see it wasn’t an animal.
Now I’m all but freaking out completely. I try not to let him know how shaken up I am and casually hand him back the 3DS.
“I bet if you sent it to the Nintendo repair center they could fix it.” I tell him, trying to downplay how completely insane all the stuff he just told me is.
“It’s really expensive.” He says. “And it’s not like the game is hurting anything, it’s just weird. I just wanted to see if this was normal, since I never played Animal Crossing before, and I know you do.”
“There’s clearly something wrong with that save.” I tell him. “But most of that stuff sounds like stuff the game actually does normally. I used to get notes from an ex-girlfriend in the original game.”
We kind of stand there awkwardly for a few moments. Then he sees his wife and excuses himself. Tells me he’ll keep me posted about what happens with the weird game though. I ponder the whole exchange for a bit and finally decide to just forget it and go about my day. I wouldn’t have even mentioned anything here except for what happened later.
I sit down for lunch in a McDonalds and see I’ve got some streetpasses. I have several titles that have that function and they’ve all pinged… Including Animal Crossing. It suddenly hits me that I should have my friend’s house saved to my HHA showcase now. Since the game is already on I dash up to the gate and take a look. When I get in there’s nobody standing there. Normally when you meet a new avatar they greet you at the gate. Digby tells me there’s been construction as though someone new is standing there though. I pop over to the new house and read the sign. It’s my friend’s town, but it’s not his name, the TPC shows a female avatar named Lynne, but there’s no avatar wandering around. It’s just an empty house.
I actually think about deleting it right there but, against my better judgment, I go inside. The main room looks normal. It’s clearly set up to look like a teenager’s room. Sleek set mostly. It’s customized purple and the room all kind of matches. There’s some modern stuff done with amethyst to help give the room mood lighting. There’s some Nintendo stuff in the room too, a computer, that sort of thing. It’s so normal I’m kind of weirded out.
Next I run upstairs. The room is done in the sky and cloud wall and floor. There’s a mannequin in a wedding dress with a halo on. It’s obviously meant to look like Heaven. Again, everything matches. I’m significantly less enthused about seeing the rest of the house now.
My habit is to go main, attic, basement, left room, right room, then back room, so I keep up that tradition. The basement is made up to look like a graveyard. Creepy set combined with lunar surface and daisy meadow. It’s all statues and gravestones. It’s a chillingly accurate representation of an old Kansas graveyard at night. There’s a dummy dressed in black turned to face a grave.
The left side room is almost totally the princess set, with a wedding cake and a mannequin done up like a groom. I run across to the right side. It looks like a boy’s room. Really normal. Posters on the walls, a couple of messy furniture items, cardboard boxes, and a mannequin dressed like a regular dude, looking out the window.
In the back of the house the last room is a hospital room. It’s done up with the bed and whatnot, flowers, wall TV, the whole nine yards. Next to the bed there’s a skeleton turned to look at it.
I exit the house, tell Digby to delete it, make sure it happens, close my 3DS, and try to eat my fucking hamburger.