Drat. Yet another ugly carpet from that smug-looking camel. Within only a few days of playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons, I’d noticed I was already accumulating vast amounts of unwanted stuff, be it from balloons or suspicious travelling merchants. And as that unwanted stuff gathered dust while stored away in my house, I was also having problems finding items I actually wanted. In the early game, at least, New Horizons puts limits on what you can buy on your island on any one day, with most permanent stores run by the Nook family racket. The only way around this is to negotiate trades with friends, a painstakingly slow process I attempted on our Animal Crossing Whatsapp group.
There had to be a better way to do things.
At this point, I remembered an activity I’d done back in my Girl Guides days: Geocaching, which is basically orienteering using GPS to find hidden boxes. Geocachers often bring small items to exchange with something someone else has left, such as pens, toys and various other trinkets. So what if that concept were to be applied to this situation?
And so, I set about creating a “swap shop” for my island, the idea being for visitors to bring along unwanted items and trade them for things other people had left. To kick things off, I gathered all my unloved belongings and slapped them on the ground, then created a basic wooden stake fence, signs, and floor designs to give it the feel of a trading post.
Today I opened my Swap Shop in Animal Crossing: guests bring an item and swap it for something they like better. This way everyone gets something they want ? pic.twitter.com/wTrWJNI9in
— Emma Kent (@GoneEFK) March 23, 2020
The next stage was to see if this worked in practice – or rather, could I trust visitors not to abuse the system? I tested it by inviting friends from our Animal Crossing Whatsapp group, with only a couple of rules: a take one/ leave one policy, and no dropping off any complete trash, such as swapping a stone for a vanity dresser. No, no.
Perhaps unsurprisingly given the promise of free stuff, my friends all poured in (a bit of a slow process thanks to the unwieldy online multiplayer system) and started browsing through the swap shop. Happily, all 10 of the people who came over found something they liked, and the process was a massive success. Conveniently it was also self-serving, meaning I could roam around the island collecting materials while my friends chose their items.
So, I could trust my friends (a shock in itself), but I wanted to push this social experiment further. Could I trust total strangers in the Animal Crossing community?
In preparation for throwing my doors to all, I expanded the shop from 12 to 15 items, and popped up a sign at the island entrance to point everyone in the right direction (unbelievably this still wasn’t enough to stop someone getting lost later). I’d noticed my friends had also used their visits to trade fruit, so I formalised the process by creating a little area where people could swap fruits too. Finally, I placed a stool so that I could be on-hand to help with questions… and also discourage any potential rule-breaking. Not that I could have done much if they had – politely request they didn’t? Hit them with a net?
Having seen an example of what happens if you just throw a dodo code out on the internet and let everyone join at once, I opted to take a more cautious approach by asking people to privately message me for a code. Almost immediately, strangers started appearing on my island and using the shop – with most seeming to instantly understand the process.
The Swap Shop’s expanded, there’s a fruit section, and now… it’s open to the public!
In the interests of managing numbers, DM me for a dodo code if you want to drop by over the next hour! pic.twitter.com/T7QRzbODhk
— Emma Kent (@GoneEFK) March 24, 2020
One of my visitors, a total stranger who happened to follow me on Twitter, decided to generously donate a whole bunch of items to the shop – not as a swap, but just to help expand the initiative. Then he dropped three bags of bells, worth 99k each. “To help with the shop”, he explained over chat.
I was staggered that someone would give all that away (or even had that many bells at all), and immediately popped it in my bank account, hoping to separate the funds from my own earnings. It would have been enough to pay off my entire 198k debt to Tom Nook, and although the bells were burning a hole in my pocket, I resolved to only use them to decorate the shop or buy new items to keep the stock interesting. Then, it occurred to me that the bells might have procured using… unsavoury methods, such as time skipping by changing the date on the Switch. A true moral dilemma. I reasoned that if this was the case, charity was the best possible way to spend these potentially illicit bells. Right?
On the other end of the spectrum, one guest decided that the fruit swap could also include flower seeds. A little rule-bending, but not terrible. Then, another guest appeared who elected to swap one item with an orange, and another with… a single iron nug. I’m unsure as to whether this was out of meanness or if the player was simply new, but having just been donated nearly 300k, I allowed the swap to go ahead and simply changed out the bad items. So, in essence, it all balanced out – as that big donation allowed me to relax the rules for poorer players.
Swap Shop with the Animal Crossing community went well last night, (almost) everyone behaved and found something pic.twitter.com/cnRQmIDIXb
— Emma Kent (@GoneEFK) March 25, 2020
In that session I had seven strangers visit, a total that rounded up to 11 when some known friends arrived. Since the swap shop was established, I’ve had about 15 guests, with everyone finding something to take home that they liked. Aside from someone who showed up with nothing to trade, but he’ll visit again in future.
It was pretty endearing to see almost everyone engage in the trust exercise and treat each other with respect. Even better, it was a collectivist experiment outside of the Nooks’ control – a little bit of rebellion amidst the tightly-controlled island economy. Ignoring the fact we’re all still in debt for our houses.
It ended up giving me some benefits, too: not only was all my rubbish gone, but people had another reason to visit my island, particularly after 10 o’clock when Nook’s Cranny was shut. I also got a nice little table and incense burner for my own house via swaps. And that 300k, I guess.
Best of all, the idea seemed to spread on Twitter, with others setting up their own swap shops after me. I’ve enjoyed seeing the variety of designs that people are using, and hearing that the method has worked for them too. If you’re thinking of starting up your own swap shop, I’d recommend sticking to just your known friends – as it’s just a bit more relaxing.
— Jordan Carroll ?????? You (@ploogle) March 24, 2020
— michelle is available for freelance work! (@michelle_does) March 24, 2020
— Jordan Oloman (@JordanOloman) March 23, 2020
If more players adopt the idea, it could be a really nice way for communities to trade, and an excuse for everyone to visit their friends – something that’s particularly helpful right now, given the lockdowns taking place across the world. Let’s all help each other – and not Tom Nook.
Amid in-game Hong Kong protests, Chinese retailers drop Animal Crossing sales – Ars Technica
Chinese online retailers are cracking down on third-party sales of imported copies of Animal Crossing: New Horizons. The move comes as the game has become a popular virtual spot for anti-government protests amid coronavirus-induced lockdowns.
Reuters reports that popular gray market Chinese e-commerce sites Pinduoduo and Taobao have taken down all listings for Animal Crossing as of this morning. Chinese tech site Pingwest reports that the two retailers sent messages to their resellers late Thursday notifying them of the ban. The Chinese government hasn’t issued a statement regarding the game, though a directive from government officials seems the most likely reason for the sudden move.
A licensed Chinese version of the Switch launched late last year through local partner Tencent after the lifting of an outright game console ban in 2015. That version of the system can currently play three Mario-themed games officially licensed for the Chinese market, as well as imported international Switch cartridges, but it can’t access the system’s online features.
But many Chinese gamers have taken to importing fully featured international versions of the system through online resellers. Import prices for those consoles, and for accessories like Ring Fit Adventure, have skyrocketed on Chinese retail sites in recent weeks, mirroring supply shortages in other markets.
As industry analyst Daniel Ahmad notes on Twitter, sites like Taobao have officially banned third-party sales of imported video games since 2017. But that ban is usually lightly enforced and only becomes operative if, as Ahmad puts it, “the game has content or user-generated content that is deemed to be too offensive or violent” or “the game has become very popular and caught the attention of regulators.”
No censorship on this island
Both of those issues seem to apply to Animal Crossing. In recent weeks, the game has become a popular virtual location for pro-democracy protesters who have seen coronavirus restrictions limit their ability to host crowded street protests. Offline players can create elaborate signs, clothing, and other imagery that can, and is, easily shared on social media, as you can see in the above gallery. Online players, meanwhile, can invite other users to their islands to take part in virtual protest actions in miniature.
“Animal Crossing is a place without political censorship, so it is a good place to continue our fight,” pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong told Wired UK earlier this week. “Even lawmakers in Hong Kong are playing this game,” he added.
While these online retail restrictions seem to be stricter than normally applied for the Chinese market, they fall well short of a full-fledged ban of the game. Imported systems can still download the title from Nintendo’s eShop by easily setting up an international account, and some brick-and-mortar retailers may also sell the imported cartridge. Some online resellers also seem to be avoiding the restrictions with listings that don’t mention the game by name in order to arrange a sale through private messaging.
China has not yet taken the more extreme step of blocking direct access to Nintendo’s online servers from the country. That would block downloads of Animal Crossing and other Switch games as well as online play for imported systems, though players could potentially get around that with a VPN. Such a major move could anger Chinese Switch gamers whose imports have been treated mostly with benign neglect thus far. It also could anger Nintendo and imperil the company’s lucrative arrangement with Tencent, which is sharing in millions of official console sales in the country.
China’s Ministry of Culture has long put forward restrictions on games that pose a “serious threat to the moral standards of society,” as it put things when banning Mafia-related games in 2009. More recently, pandemic-simulation game Plague Inc. was removed from the Chinese iOS App Store because it “includes content that is illegal in China as determined by the Cyberspace Administration of China.”
Listing image by Joshua Wong
Final Fantasy 7 Remake: Essential Things The Game Doesn't Tell You Straight Away – GameSpot
Final Fantasy 7 Remake has a lot of moving parts and, as such, carefully dishes out information as and when it’s necessary. But if you’re familiar with the franchise, or RPGs as a whole, there may be specific things you’re looking for from the outset. As a result, you’ll probably be asking a lot of questions long before the game is ready to give you answers. We don’t want you sweating the small stuff instead of enjoying FF7, so here’s a bunch of spoiler-free heads-ups that’ll save you a bit of stress.
For more guides, check out our feature highlighting some essential tips to know as you play the game, as well as our PSA on why you shouldn’t skip side missions. Otherwise, you can read our FF7 Remake review.
What Moogle Medals Are For
Around Midgar you’ll often find destructible boxes, and you should make a point of smashing them. Firstly, because they’re puny and pathetic little wooden constructs that deserve to be crushed under the might of Cloud’s buster sword, but also because they can sometimes recover your MP and drop potions or antidotes. More importantly, they reward you with an item called Moogle Medals.
You start getting Moogle Medals from the outset of the game, and you may find yourself scratching your head trying to figure out what to do with them. The game doesn’t actually tell you what they’re good for straight away, but don’t worry, a few chapters in, you’ll meet a character who will swap Moogle Medals for some special items.
We won’t spoil who this character is because, honestly, it’s an absolute delight, but we will say that you’ll come across the merchant in a side-quest. If you read our review, you’ll know that side-quests are well worth doing for their story and characterization contributions, but if you need more convincing, this is it. So, make sure to do them, kupo!
How You Get More Summons
Whether it’s Guardian Forces, Aeons, or Espers, calling on gods and mythical beings to fight by your side is a key part of the Final Fantasy experience. You could do this in the original FF7 and, of course, you can also do it in the Remake. However, it can be easy to miss the detail on how exactly you acquire these summons, especially since it’s very different from the original and other entries in the franchise.
The first is part of the main story, as a character will gift you the Materia item that houses the beast–there’s no missing it. However, from that point on, things get a bit trickier. The next one you’ll get is in Chapter 6. You’ll spot the red Materia next to a big fan, but it’s maddeningly out of reach. Don’t worry about it, you’ll get there eventually. Continue on with the main mission and you’ll be able to use a lift to approach a ladder to the left hand side of the giant fans and grab it. Just make sure you don’t leave the area without getting it.
The rest of the summons are tied to a character you’ll meet shortly after. His name is Chadley, which, according to Urban Dictionary, is a name given to “a made-up boyfriend, often used to deceive others into thinking that you have a boyfriend so they will stop questioning you or making jokes about you.”
Anyway, this strange mashup of Chad and Bradley presents you with the opportunity to fight for summons’ allegiance. You may find that the first summon he pits you against is tricky, but don’t stress about trying to defeat it then and there; you’ll see Chadley a lot and you can take on the fight when you’re feeling a little more levelled up.
Further summons become available to battle by completing the little Battle Intel challenges that Chadley sets you. There are a total of five summons in the game and we won’t spoil which ones, and although there is a sixth, it’s exclusive to a premium version of the game, which is a bit rubbish if you ask me but whatever.
How Joint Materia Work (For You FF7 Newbies)
Materia gives your characters a wealth of abilities to work with in battle. These range from the ability to cast fire, ice, wind, and lightning spells, manipulate time, create shells to protect allies, and restore their health. There are also a few that will grant you incredibly useful benefits that may not initially be clear. This is because they require a very specific setup before they actually take effect.
The biggest of these is Elemental, which will make it hurt much less when the enemy sets your ass on fire, tries to freeze you to death, or pulls some other magical nonsense to put an end to your adventure. Weapons and armor feature sockets that you place Materia into and there are two variants of sockets: single, isolated ones and joint ones. If you get a piece of armor with a joint slot and put the Elemental materia into one of those slots, the armor will give you resistance for the type of Materia you attach to it in the second slot.
For example, if you have one slot with Elemental and it’s attached to another slot with Fire equipped, any time an enemy tries to set you ablaze, the damage taken from the fire attack will be halved. As the game progresses, enemies become very aggressive and can bust out high-damage spells, so this is essential to know. Alternatively, if you slot it into a joint slot on a weapon, your attacks will be imbued with that element.
The Magnify materia works in the same way, except instead granting you resistance, it casts the attached spell to multiple targets. So, if you have Magnify attached to the healing materia, it will cure multiple characters instead of just one. It also works the same way for offensive spells, but it’s important to note that the primary target receives the bulk of the damage, and those around them get a reduced amount. Again, this is super useful, but you only really learn this information through experimentation.
The Importantance Of Spell Timing
Like the last few mainline entries in the series, FF7 Remake is a far more active and dynamic game when it comes to combat. Unlike the old days, when characters were rooted in position and would be forced to watch in horror as the enemy unleashed ridiculous attacks and killed their friends around them, characters in the Remake can run rings around their enemies if they choose to.
However, that also means that the hit and miss system is a little more dynamic. Although the Remake doesn’t make a big deal about it, opting to let you learn through experience, it’s actually really easy to fire off a spell and completely whiff it. Timing is key in Remake’s combat model, so you need to watch your enemies closely and use spells when they aren’t wildly darting around the battlefield, so that you can be sure that it’ll travel and land properly.
Another major consideration that will force you to be careful with the timing of attacks is that an enemy can interrupt you. If you’re casting a spell and the startup animation is long, your opponent could fire off a quicker attack and stuff whatever you’re doing. Given that you’re spending precious resources to use your special abilities, getting mugged off like this will hurt your HP and your ego.
Even worse is if you poorly time one of Tifa’s specials or Cloud’s Limit Break and the enemy is just out of reach, in which case watching them just nonchalantly walk away from your badass, super damaging, cinematic super move will make you question whether you’re cut out for this mission at all. Pick your moments!
How To Really Punish With Punisher Mode
Alright, time for a few quick tips. These will be simple, but they’re crucial to know and can be either missed or not properly understood. Cloud’s unique ability is Punisher mode, which gives him quicker, more powerful attacks but with mobility as the trade-off. The other thing that the Punisher mode allows you to do is respond to an incoming melee attack with a counter. So, if you’re facing an enemy that is getting all up in your extremely gelled pointy blond hair and trying to slap you about, activate that Punisher mode and start blocking to show them what happens when they try to mess with a former-SOLDIER with pencil-thin arms that can still haul around a sword the size of a camper van.
How Tempest Works (Not Like The Shakespeare Play)
Aeirth’s unique ability is called Tempest. She fires a crystal at her target that can be charged up for a more powerful effect. However, it’s pretty tricky to use as it has some situational application. This is because the crystal actually takes a bit of time to do its thing after Aerith sends it out.
When you hit triangle, the crystal travels to the target point and, if it connects, it will do a small amount of damage. Then it takes a couple of seconds to build some power and explodes, dishing out damage to whoever and whatever is hanging around. It’s more of an area-of-effect spell than a direct attack thing, so you’ll need to plan carefully when using it. The longer you hold the triangle button down, the more powerful the explosion will be when it happens.
The best times to use this is when you’ve hit an enemy with a spell that locks down their movement, they’ve been staggered and thus are unable to get out of the way, or are being absolutely pummelled by one of your teammates and thus can’t do anything but take your deadly crystals to the face.
The True Reward Of Weapon Proficiency
At the start of the game, your party members have limited access to weapons, however, you’ll eventually be able to purchase new ones or find them in the world. Each one has a cool look and can be levelled up to become a devastating tool of destruction, as well as bolster your character’s core attributes. Another major addition each offers is a new combat ability.
Each weapon has a special action that you can execute when it is equipped. However, if you look at it on the weapon select menu, you’ll notice there’s a little bar that shows your proficiency in its special action. As you put the weapon to use, that bar will fill and, eventually, the associated character will gain that ability, which can be used whether or not you have the weapon equipped.
That proficiency bar fills up really slowly, but if you pay attention to the little bit of text below the bar, it’ll tell you how you can speed up the process. Trust me when I say it’s worth spending a bit of time grinding whenever you get a new weapon so you can max out that bar as quickly as possible. You’ll want to do it with random enemy mobs that you’re familiar with, as you’ll need to switch to the specific character you’re working on to fulfill the objective and it’s easier if you know there won’t be any surprises.
Some weapons are designed to present a different style of play for the associated user, and this style may not vibe with the way you want to play them, so it’s best to earn your proficiency in low-stakes battles. You don’t want to be facing a boss with weapons that don’t let you play your characters the way you’ve specced them out to be.
There’s A New Game Plus Of Sorts
As previously mentioned in this article, and in the FF7 Remake review, you should do all the side-quests you can. They enhance the story and often give you some valuable items. However, if you’d rather focus on getting the main campaign finished, but don’t want to miss out on anything, you’ll be happy to hear that you can come back and tie up loose ends.
FF7 has a new game plus of sorts. It’s actually a chapter select that pops up after you’ve completed the story and lets you drop in and out of different parts of the game while keeping your experience, items, and loadouts. The thing to know, however, is that you’ll start at the beginning of the chapter, so you may need to spend a bit of time replaying chunks to get to the bit you need.
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Making Final Fantasy 7 in 1997 vs. making Final Fantasy 7 Remake in 2020 – Polygon
Look back at the 1997 television ads for Final Fantasy 7 now, and it’s clear that Square had something to prove. The pre-rendered CGI graphics with explosions ricocheting through a dystopian city gave it a movielike gravitas above other games of the time. And Sony wanted the world to pay attention, making sure that publications like Wired, USA Today, and Playboy took notice.
“When it came to Final Fantasy, it wasn’t like the most amazing thing compared to today, but for then it was quite stunning,” says Harold Goldberg, founder of the New York Video Game Critics Circle. Goldberg was one of the few journalists to see the game during a press event at Square’s offices in Hawaii back in 1996, when he was freelancing for Wired.
Looking at the original Final Fantasy 7 in 2020 with fresh eyes can leave many bewildered. This is the beloved game that defined a generation? The characters are chunky Mega Bloks-style humanoids running through a gray and muddy-brown Midgar. Unlike Final Fantasy 6, which preceded it on the Super Nintendo with gorgeous sprite work and 2D visuals, or Final Fantasy 10, which came afterward on the more powerful PlayStation 2, FF7 was stuck on a system where 3D graphics were innovative yet held together with duct tape.
“The character models were exaggerated and unrealistic due to the limitations we had on the number of polygons and the amount of skeletal framework we could rig in a character’s body,” says Yoshinori Kitase, director of the original game and producer of Final Fantasy 7 Remake, in an email interview.
“I was manually animating the character’s performances in the cinematic scenes that I had designed,” Kitase adds. “Back then, character models were still quite simple, so we got away with the comic-like, over-the-top acting.”
Regardless, FF7 left an indelible impact for its mature story, likable characters, complex protagonist, and memorable music. “When the original came out, the Final Fantasy franchise did not have the status in the Western market that it has achieved since,” says Kitase. “As such, we felt like a new challenger with nothing to lose.”
It’s not often that a director can help lead an original creation as well as its remake two decades later. Back in the ’90s, Kitase and his team could get away with using pre-rendered backgrounds and clever camera tricks; the level of immersion expected today has completely shifted the design paradigm.
“The scale of the cutscene department and the environment department have gotten bigger,” says Naoki Hamaguchi, co-director of Final Fantasy 7 Remake, in the same email interview. Scenes in the original, which had been nothing more than text dialogue, have been reimagined as full cutscenes, with voice-overs, camerawork, and motion. “This is why the size of the cutscene department grew,” Hamaguchi continues. “Additionally, since background elements are now rendered in 3D — and players are now able to view everything from a 360-degree view — we needed to design and implement environments with far more fine detail.”
For example, the team put a greater focus and investment on boss battles. It assigned a single designer to work on only two or three boss battles, allowing them to put their full attention on this part of the design. This required more resources and developers, ones that did not exist during the making of the original game.
With Remake, the team created a new experience for players, stretching out the first five hours of Final Fantasy 7 to 30 or more. Now, as players run around, characters will chime in with their own thoughts and quips, making the world feel all the more realized.
“We believe Remake has turned into a game that will bring about new discoveries even for people who already know the story of Final Fantasy 7,” says Hamaguchi. Those discoveries include a greater emotional connection between character and player. In the original, it was impossible to animate faces outside of pre-rendered cutscenes, so the team opted to use character icons with exaggerated expressions to convey feeling.
“It’s also now possible to convey the protagonists’ emotions through just facial expressions without speech, just like in movies,” says Hamaguchi. “That is why the depiction of the aftermath of the Sector 8 explosions serves as a major foreshadowing in expressing the conflict and struggles the protagonists go through.”
[Leading up to the game’s launch, some fans have criticized Square Enix for not referring to Final Fantasy 7 Remake as “Part 1” in its marketing, since it’s a remake of part of the Final Fantasy 7 story, not the entire game. In Polygon’s email interview with Kitase and Hamaguchi for this story, we asked why Square Enix chose not to label the game that way, and whether the company felt that was misleading. We also asked about Square Enix’s strategy for launching the first entry in a multipart game series at the end of a console generation. Square Enix declined to answer these questions.]
The Final Fantasy series, up until FF7, had always been released on Nintendo consoles, but in the mid-’90s, Square decided to switch to Sony. Where Nintendo opted to use expensive memory chip-based cartridges with the Nintendo 64, Sony went in the direction of discs. A PlayStation CD could hold 650 MB of data, far exceeding cartridges, which topped out at 64 MB. Even then, the scope of Final Fantasy 7 was so large that it shipped on three discs.
The scope of Final Fantasy 7 Remake is similarly massive by modern standards, utilizing two Blu-ray Discs at 50 GB each.
“The Mako Reactor in Remake is comprised of nine million polygons,” says Hamaguchi. “If you consider the complexity that was processable 20 years ago, the level of presentation we can achieve today is tens or hundreds of times more than what we were capable of back then.”
It’s not just the visuals, story, and music that have gotten significant expansions; the gameplay systems have been overhauled, too. Final Fantasy 7 was a turn-based game in its original form, but Remake utilizes a more contemporary Active Time Battle (ATB) system. Instead of having the enemy and player take turns attacking each other, like in a board game, Remake has both parties charging at each other in real time. But there is an element of strategy: The game essentially slows down time to allow the player to choose more powerful attacks between their sword slashes, almost like a game of speed chess.
This mode has irked some longtime fans who preferred the turn-based combat of the original game. To remedy this, Square Enix added a “classic” mode, but it’s not entirely what fans had hoped for. The classic mode is the game’s easy mode, where all the real-time sword-slashing is done automatically. As a player’s ATB gauge fills, they can then select from a menu and use special attacks.
“One way of imagining it is that the ‘action battle’ portion assists while the ‘ATB battle’ portion scores a goal,” says Hamaguchi.
Video game remakes are a complex endeavor tied up in rose-tinted nostalgia. There’s pressure to appease fans of the original while meeting modern demands. A balance must be struck between those two forces, which ultimately might leave some disappointed that it’s not the exact game they remember. And, in the same way that fans lament George Lucas’ editing of the Star Wars movies, so too will some protest decisions that Square Enix made with Final Fantasy 7 Remake.
Kitase, Hamaguchi, and the rest of the team have decided to go down a wildly different path from the original game. And unlike two decades ago, every major publication is now paying attention.
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