Even if the GTA trilogy were perfect, I’d rather shoot balloons and bury gyroids

Image: Nintendo Life

The widespread gaming internet is currently in a state of bitter disappointment with the state of the launch of GTA The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition, an anniversary package that is unfortunately not quite as definitive. For Nintendo gamers who have been waiting for years to play any type of 3D Grand Theft Auto, it is infinitely sad to see this classic show up on Switch like this. We’re not talking about a tiny indie developer trying to find the time, budget, and resources to make ends meet here; Rockstar has built an empire around this franchise and has the resources to make something special worthy of the Definitive Edition label. That the studio will release this collection – one that includes so much of its heritage – in a state other than near-perfect, is puzzling.

Despite the negative (or maybe a little because about that) I thought about diving into GTA over the weekend and seeing the game with my own eyes. However, my time was limited, so instead I used the 90 minutes I had to tinker around my Animal Crossing island. Update 2.0 got me hooked again, and I didn’t even have time to try the Happy Home Paradise DLC, which came out just a week before GTA.

Oddly enough, this random schedule made me think back to 2012 when I was playing the then new Animal Crossing: New Leaf and thinking about GTA. Release Gta v was slated for next year, and my young gaming brain dreamed between these two very different video games at the time, franchises that seemed to be on very opposite ends of one spectrum or another.

Reflecting on the digital spaces presented in both, I came to the conclusion that Bell Air – my New Leaf village – was infinitely more fun than any GTA city. Gta iv was the last record I played, but the slow life relaxation of my tiny Animal Crossing town seemed so much more fun.

Bell Air Vinewood
Bell Air Vinewood (Image: Rockstar)

For me, Liberty City’s problem was not escalating crime, but escalating boredom. As technology improved between the PS2 and PS3 generations, the lack of systems involved in these ever-expanding environments made them feel more empty than ever, even as I marveled at the sheer scale of Rockstar’s sandbox. I felt like I was being handed the same old bucket and shovel in a larger sandbox, and it left me indifferent. My favorite thing about shooting pigeons in GTA IV. Brewster would not approve.

For me, the problem in Liberty City was not the escalation of crime, but the increasing boredom … My favorite thing was shooting pigeons in GTA IV. Brewster would not approve

Both series have certainly evolved over time, with recent entries offering more ambition, sophistication and content than ever before, and GTA Online is a completely different beast. However, their respective main loops are surprisingly close to what they have always been. The origins of the core games in both series are easy to trace, and even if we magically had a Switch port for GTA V here rather than a tough presentation of classic PS2 games, Animal Crossing still won the battle for my attention.

Expanding GTA maps have always been a technical triumph, but Rockstar is doing other things that go well beyond simple scale. Cars are fun to throw around, radio stations broadcast tunes, and talk shows are the perfect satirical setting. The lumpy gunfight in older games – a huge mark compared to series in which cars and battles are meat and potatoes of gameplay – has been boosted in V to the satisfaction of many, and there is now a lot to do other than tired quest quests and mission guy bangs. Personally, the feeling of emptiness persists; v possibility The space of GTA seems tiny despite its unprecedented scale and freedom of movement.

My little uninhabited island is much less imposing than Los Santos or Liberty. I can walk the perimeter in a minute, and there are only a few houses around, but the variety is incredible. I can pick fruit, plant trees, go fishing, collect fossils, hunt insects, visit all the houses, and much more.

Image: Nintendo Life

Animal Crossing is also not concerned with bloated storytelling. No real story, no end, other than paying your mortgage and filling out your Critterpedia. The whole game is just a routine that you get into. Do you have should water your flowers and add to your gyroid collection and call KK Slider every Saturday night. The apparent reason why you are doing this becomes vague in your daily life. It begins to reflect your real family communication. As in real life, you’re not really just dropping a card, watering plants, or drinking a cup of coffee; you keep in touch – check on your loved ones and make sure they don’t plan on leaving anytime soon.

you’re not really just dropping a card, watering plants, or drinking a cup of coffee; you keep in touch – check your loved ones and make sure they don’t plan on leaving anytime soon

Back in 2012, the tiny village on my 3DS cartridge offered more choices and more options for self-expression and meaningful communication than anything Rockstar has come up with, and it still holds true today. Each season brings new festivals and accessories, visitors and opportunities. I could shoot balloons into the sky, walk along the beach, send letters, buy wallpaper, plant rare flowers, create clothes, or make Jay talk. S’up Holmes? when we meet or visit other cities to trade fruit and kill turnips in the market. No, Nintendo may not offer polygonal interactions with sex workers, and I can’t go to the strip club at Animal Crossing … and let’s not dwell on what that entails – an innocent search for ‘Animal Crossing fan art »Last year with Safe Search left us scars that have not healed yet, thank you very much… To its credit, GTA does an incredible job of recreating this awkward uh-why-I’m-here the feeling that you might experience in such an establishment. And it’s cheaper.

Despite all of this, GTA’s environmental ambitions have always impressed me and still fascinate me today. I wrote a while ago that I had a “moment” when I first saw the morning fog hanging over Lake Chiliya, and had a similar moment of epiphany when driving out of town for San Andreas on PS2. The game … hasn’t stopped! The world just kept on living. What could i just keep driving felt incredible. Make no mistake, at some point I’ll be messing around with San Andreas on Switch just to try and bring back that memory.

HM (Image: Nintendo Life)

And still. The nature of the random GTA parts – “attached” to the wireframe rather than naturally integrated – made me feel artificial and lifeless even when Rockstar tried new things. I remember telling my friends quite seriously that any day of the week I would take Dr. Schranck’s stand-up comedy and not Ricky Gervais in GTA IV. I can take a hot dog and beer in GTA, but why can’t I plant a tree or go inside each a building in this epic urban world?

Thanks to advanced technology in recent years, filling the gaming environment with attractive systems and details has become easier, although even in games of the PS3 era such as The last of us there were worlds filled with breathtaking detail. Creating a traversable photorealistic cityscape is now almost the easy part – almost a matter of course for AAA – but it doesn’t make much sense to expand the play area if you’re going to fill it with the same old swings and roundabouts; the pursuit of the little things should be just as grand.

I’m interested to see what Rockstar can achieve in a GTA that wasn’t originally released two generations ago. And, aside from the awkward launch of GTA Trilogy, I will still return to GTA 3, Vice City and San Andreas at some point. These games are outstanding milestones in the gaming environment, and at the very least, morbid curiosity is likely to get the better of me soon. But with limited time to spare and Animal Crossing offering so much more variety, I doubt Tommy, CJ and company will ever have what it takes to hold my attention for long.

Not when I need to shoot balloons and crops – and gyroids – to sow.

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