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Animal Crossing is coming to smartphones with camping theme, paid “tickets”

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Enlarge/ Let's go camping in Animal Crossing!Nintendo

Over a year after its official teasing, Nintendo finally took the wraps off the first Animal Crossing game for smartphones on Tuesday. Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp will launch for iOS and Android devices "in late November" for free.

Much like other Animal Crossing games, Pocket Camp will invite players to customize their own home, do simple chores for in-game cash (known as Bells), collect little critters like bugs and fish, and get into a strange "borrow money to expand my home" loan situation. It looks almost exactly like other Animal Crossing games, complete with its top-down perspective and simple-and-expressive characters, and you move around and interact with objects simply by tapping the screen. This time, however, Nintendo opts for an outdoor theme, meaning your job is to maintain a campsite and an RV, not a house. (And the aforementioned loan arrangement is not with the home-expanding Tom Nook, but rather with a trio of incredibly cute RV-repair penguins.)

  • The campground that you get to customize is essentially the same size as one floor of a standard Animal Crossing house.
  • You also get to decorate the inside of your camper (which you can expand by paying off loans).
  • These Italian penguins will help you expand your camper in exchange for sweet, sweet Bells. (What, were the names Luigi and Mario too on the nose for these cuties?)
  • You can also spend a combination of Bells and crafting items (here, some cotton) to craft new items.
  • Bigger items, called Amenities, offer serious perks…
  • …but also require the new "Tickets" currency.
  • Oops, gonna need some Tickets here.
  • You can earn Tickets in the game by completing certain tasks.
  • Or you can pay real money for them. (Tom Nook seems waaaay too happy about us spending real money here.)
  • Wanna fish faster? Use tickets to get a giant net. Yes, this is a real way to spend money in a Nintendo game now.
  • Doing chores for neighbors raises their friendship level, a new concept in the Animal Crossing series.
  • Nintendo didn't make it exactly clear what Friendship Level will do in the game.
  • The campsite may seem a little small, so it's good that players can wander around satellite locations.
  • They can also drive their RVs to other real-life players, hang out, and exchange items.

In good news, this "freemium" game does not let you pay real cash to speed up the payment of this primary Bells-loan gimmick. However, Nintendo appears prepared to shove in-app purchases in your face in the form of "tickets," which can be used to acquire specific types of Pocket Camp items and… speed up in-game timers. (Yes, Nintendo has continued the Farmville-styled streak started in Fire Emblem Heroes by letting players spend currency to speed up whopping 72-hour timers.)

Higher-level Animal Crossing knickknacks, outfits, decorations, and items appear to be heavily tied to this ticket economy, which you'll spend, in part, in a new-to-the-series "crafting" system that lets you combine disparate items and elements to make furniture and new, giant "amenity" items. Tickets can be earned in game by doing favors for local denizens, which you'll already be doing as part of the standard gameplay loop. Those favors are also driven by a new "friendship" rating. Do chores for the same neighbor to make them like you more, visit your home more often, and maybe get more rare items as a result. Nintendo's announcement video also let us know that—wouldn't you know it—tickets can be acquired much faster if you open your wallet.

It was hard to tell from the presentation exactly how many items will and won't be heavily affected by tickets, but the 15-minute presentation sure showed a lot of prompts about them, even as little alerts during standard gameplay. Nintendo has not announced a "pay once and be done with it" option, so if you want Animal Crossing on your smartphone, you'll have to accept this ticket-driven economy.

Though every player has their own small, specialized campsite, they can also tap on a map icon to visit different "lands" that feature the cutesy mini-games (fishing, butterfly collecting) that have been Animal Crossing mainstays for years. (As a result, this definitely looks more substantial than the lightweight Happy Home Designer spin-off game.) Your RV can also take you to other online players' campsites, where you can poke around each other's decorations, trade and sell items, and give "kudos" (essentially a glorified thumbs-up).

A tease at the game's official site mentions a connection of some sort between this game and the Nintendo 3DS game Animal Crossing: New Leaf, though how those two games will connect wasn't made clear just yet.

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