Spiritfarer and Animal Crossing: New Horizons have a lot of shared DNA. Both feature anthropomorphic animals with distinct personalities. Both give you a space of your own that you can shape to your whims. Both demand a meticulous level of resource management. And both, more surprisingly, star a morally defunct raccoon salesman who worships at the altar of capitalism.
Spiritfarer, which came out earlier this week for PC, Switch, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4, is a “cozy management game about dying.” You play as Stella, the titular Spiritfarer, a woman tasked with shepherding the deceased into the afterlife. Unlike Charon, your predecessor, you’re given an ever-growing houseboat for this task. As such, Spiritfarer is a cyclical management sim to the core: You gather resources and use those resources to craft various rooms that beget more resources, all in the name of making your spirit passengers as comfortable as possible in their final moments. It’s all very touching.
Early on, one such passenger, Gwen the deer, directs you to the island settlement of Hummingberg. There, she says, you’ll be able to purchase the seeds required to grow some plants—including linen, a necessary ingredient for some early constructions—from a shop called Raccoon, Inc., a clear play on Tom Nook’s Nook, Inc, from New Horizons. Raccoon, Inc., is operated by Theodore, a raccoon with shady business principles. Gwen has a warning, though: “I’ve run into this cheeky little raccoon once, and his dishonesty was blatant.” Sound like a certain tanooki to you?
Sure enough, when you arrive in Hummingberg, Raccoon, Inc.’s prices are through the roof. Everything on sale is unattainable. One item is even up for 5,000,000 glims, the game’s currency. (For reference, at that point in Spiritfarer, you’ll have about several hundred glims in your wallet, tops.)
Dear Gwen quickly puts him in his place with a tirade of insults. “You should be ashamed of yourself, trash panda,” she says. “People like you are the reason we have middle fingers.”
After Gwen thoroughly ethers Theodore, he drops the ticket prices to a reasonable level—which, I’ll note, is something Tom Nook would never do in a million years. As Gita Jackson previously noted for Kotaku, Tom Nook “always wants more—specifically more money from you, the player, that he can hoard for himself.” He’s not evil; he’s just mindless, an unabating cog in the capitalist machine we’re all signed up for at birth. Some say it’s nice that he doesn’t charge interest on those staggering loans. But why are his prices so sky-high in the first place?
Therein lies the main difference between Theodore and the world’s worst tanooki. The Spiritfarer salesman is capable of feeling shame and correcting course. Tom Nook is not. Spiritfarer and Animal Crossing might share some DNA. But the daylight between Tom Nook and Theodore shows these animals are distant cousins, not close siblings. Phew!