Animal Crossing Retrospective
Animal Crossing is a social simulation videogame series developed and published by Nintendo and created by developers Katsuya Eguchi and Hisashi Nogami. In Animal Crossing, the player is a human who lives in a village inhabited by various anthropomorphic animals; a village where available activities include fishing, bug catching, and fossil hunting. The series is known for its open-ended gameplay and use of the console’s internal clock and calendar to simulate the real-life passage of time.
Since its initial release in 2001, five Animal Crossing games have come out around the globe, one each for the Nintendo 64/iQue Player, followed by an enhanced version for the GameCube. Then there were the Nintendo DS, Wii, Nintendo 3DS, and Nintendo Switch releases. These were released in 2005, 2008, 2012 and 2020, respectively. The latter, New Horizons, received a boom in popularity because of COVID-19. The pandemic forced many to stay home, so people bought the game because they had nothing to do. This inconvenience led to New Horizons selling 37.62 million copies as of February 2022 — making it the best-selling game in the series.
It wasn’t just being bored at home though, as the series has had a long track record of bringing everybody together. The franchise’s knack for starting discussions amongst friends and family was evident with the latest game and the original. Even though online multiplayer was in its infancy in the early 2000s, people still came together to play. Several players have shared stories online of waking up early in the morning so they could check on their villagers. It might not be entirely factual, but it’s still an example of a videogame's lasting effect on those who played it. The older titles live on in other ways too, due to fans sharing random images and quotes on social media platforms like Twitter and Reddit.
Animal Crossing made a difference in other ways, such as when the former president of Nintendo, Saturo Iwata, said 56% of people who played Animal Crossing: New Leaf at the time were female. Then in the Hong Kong protests that occurred from 2019 to 2020, democracy activists used New Horizons as a platform to protest. The series is no stranger to the big screen, either. An anime adaptation of Wild World, titled Dōbutsu no Mori, was released in Japan on December 16, 2006, making approximately £12.69 million at the box office. Animal Crossing characters Tom Nook and Isabell have also appeared in Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros.
If it’s not evident by now, Animal Crossing is a game about life and collecting, but there is more than meets the eye. Due to New Horizons taking place in a tropical setting, the developers introduced the ability to travel to other islands via online multiplayer. So while the process took a bit longer than most of us expected, it still proved to be a worthwhile addition due to how isolated we all were in 2020. That said, the series has received more significant complaints from fans, specifically with the latest game. Some felt the crafting mechanic was too restrictive, and a few even became annoyed at how often they received recipe cards instead of valuable items. Of course, it still wasn’t enough to deter people from buying it. When a series is so dedicated to being an escape from the stress of everyday life, and one of its entries came out at just the right time, then that’s all you really need. Most of the annoyances fade into the background while you work on making your island as good as possible.
I too, have found Animal Crossing to be a welcome escape from life's constant stress and uncertainty. With more and more responsibilities piling up, having Tom Nook and the adorable little critters waiting for me helps to keep me going in these trying times. It’s no surprise the series has been doing so well as of late, with clever marketing from Nintendo, significant improvements and a convenient delay at E3 2019; the future is looking bright for this cosy life sim. I do have one question, though. Will Tom Nook finally find a better way to make money instead of forcing crippling debt onto his residents? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.