Animal Crossing: The Save Problem

The Save Problem

This morning, when I loaded up Animal Crossing for the first time in a month or so, I found myself nose to nose with the infamously angry Mr Resetti. Resetti, a subterranean animal who gets off on yelling at people who reset their video games without saving, was there to yell at me for just that. I'm guilty, it's true. I neglected my town. I deserved to be scolded by an irate mole.

But it's the type of thing that makes you wonder... why the hell doesn't Animal Crossing have some sort of auto-save system? Why not ensure that our progress is stored every time we turn off the system or quit the game? Wouldn't that make more sense than, uh, reminders from an angry animal?

Resetti squabbles aside, this is not a new conversation. For as long as there have been video games, there have been people arguing about how our progress should be saved. Should the game automatically track and record everything we do? Should we be able to save anywhere? Only at inns? Should there be predetermined save points? Quick-saves?

The debate is particularly relevant in the world of JRPGs, where it has become tradition for level designers to place save points just before boss fights, just in case you die. The logic: boss fights are more difficult than the rest of the dungeon, and it would be frustrating for players to have to struggle all the way back through chunks of game that they've already played.

Some JRPGs also let you save wherever, and one, the wonderful Mario & Luigi: Dream Team, might be the first game in history that allows you to save anywhere, yet also has save points for some reason.

Indeed, today that whole "you've gotta go all the way back to the start of the dungeon if you die, neener neener" thing seems like a relic, an antiquated method of game design that will probably only come back in the hardcorest of hardcore dungeon crawlers, like Etrian Odyssey (and, in some ways, Dark Souls).

Yet this evokes an entirely different problem: if there's a save point just before a boss fight, and if the player can restart from that save point any time he or she loses that boss fight, what is the player's incentive to not die?

In other words, if you're playing a game like Ni no Kuni or Dragon Quest IX or Lost Odyssey, and you make a few bad decisions mid-boss battle, there's zero reason not to hit reset and start over. (Please don't tell Mr Resetti I said that.)

Therein we have the dilemma. On one hand, bosses sure feel more threatening when you'll lose two hours of progress if they kill you -- anyone who has played through the last dungeon of Final Fantasy III will surely agree. On the other hand, there's a reason I've never beaten the last dungeon of Final Fantasy III.

I'm torn. Really. Life is too short for any of us to spend precious time replaying sections of video games because we got killed by a boss, yet there's something really special about that feeling of simultaneous relief and satisfaction when we get past a tough fight that would otherwise set us back an hour. It's like skydiving -- or at least what I imagine skydiving would be like if I ever had the stones to go skydiving.

Maybe there's no ideal solution to this save dilemma. Maybe there doesn't need to be. As long as Resetti is around to make us feel bad if we cheat.

Random Encounters is a weekly column dedicated to all things JRPG.


Comments

    I remember a few months back I was playing animal crossing. We had a black out and I loathed turning the game back on. Mr Resetti was funny at first but now he just gets on my nerves.

    Far Cry 2 had specific save points for consoles, however on PC you could save anywhere, making the save points redundant, buuuuuuuuuuuut they were still in the game, which I found weird.

      You can save anywhere on the console version too.

    Not a fan of save points. They were fine when I was 16 and had nothing else to do with my spare time. Now I have the demands of a wife and two children means to keep playing until I find the next save point is an unviable option.

    Dark Souls save system was fantastic. Continually auto saving all the time and you just hit Quit when done only to come back to the exact point you were when you load it back up.

    Last edited 10/08/13 10:18 am

    Save Points are an antiquated system that has it's roots in the old cartridge and CD based system. Seeing as the vast majority of games are able to be downloaded and played, this is no longer a necessity. Let us save anywhere!

      The only issue I have with saving anywhere, is that it's entirely possible to save yourself into a no-win situation. I remember specifically in Far Cry. I had cleared a wave of enemies and was *just* alive, so I quickly saved. Immediately after saving I got shot by an enemy that I had missed. Loaded up the save and...got immediately killed again. After half a dozen reloads to immediate deaths that I failed to dodge, I loaded the last save I had, which was about an hour back, as quick-save had just saved over the more recent auto-save. :/

        Nothing rocks as hard as an auto-save that has kicked in when you made it to the next partition of the zone... but you entered that transition part-way through a death-drop.

        Oh, Halo... <3

    One answer is to make the save system a game option. Design around a save point system, but allow the user to select whether to use save points or save anywhere.

    Alternatively, make the save system part of the difficulty settings. Easier modes allow save anywhere, while more difficult modes enforce the save point system. (Or even permadeath?)

    In theory that keeps everybody happy. Modernists and more time-deprived gamers will use save anywhere, while the more hard core types can turn on the save system and maybe earn an extra achievement or trophy.

      Yeah, put in an achievement for it. "I AM TEH HARDCOERZ," so people who care about that shit can go wave their dicks around with that cheevo on the end of it, and the rest of us can get about to the incredibly busy business of finishing games. Because godamn, my pile of shame isn't getting any smaller.

    Probably should just make the whole game an even challenge rather than making "bosses" so much harder

    The entire point of Animal Crossing is that it's a game of responsibilities and reward for effort. The save method is yet another layer for this. The save routine is like a closing up shop at the end of the day, or turning everything off before going to bed, it's a cathartic way of bringing closure to what you've accomplished. This will never change in AxCx.

    I loved how borderlands auto-saved when you quit.

    Last edited 11/08/13 7:55 pm

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