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The History of Animal Crossing – An International Hit

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BY December 15, 2019
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The key to a great game is memorable characters and gameplay worth losing hours over. I don’t know if a series encapsulates this more than Animal Crossing. The ultimate feel-good simulation game, Animal Crossing is gearing up for a 2020 release of its first Nintendo Switch game. The title will be the first home console release in the series since the Wii. It’s easy to fall in love with the simplicity of the game, but where did it all start? Let’s look back at the history of Animal Crossing and build up the already fever pitch hype for the 2020 release.

The Development Stage

n64dd wikimedia Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The beginning of Animal Crossing doesn’t start with a game, but a piece of technology. In the Nintendo 64 days, the company wanted more power for experimental games. Because of this, a peripheral designed to provide the console with more power was built. The 64DD served as a means to bring three features to video games. Firstly, the dual storage strategy of cartridges and disks provided the Nintendo 64 with extra computing power. The 64DD sits underneath the Nintendo 64, with its own disk port and computing capabilities.

Essentially, the Nintendo 64 would read a cartridge while the 64DD read a floppy disk. Secondly, a real-time clock (RTC) provided games with the ability to mirror time in the real world. We’d see this in Pokemon games, which allowed you match the time in-game to your time zone. It was pretty cool; suddenly, you were playing the game in the same part of the day you were in. Lastly, the 64DD provided internet connectivity to the Nintendo 64.

Fall of the 64DD

The 64DD failed immediately with gamers. With titles unable to sway people into buying the peripheral, Nintendo backtracked quickly on its device. For context, internet connectivity of the 64DD only lasted from December 1, 1999 to February 28, 2001. So, what games failed to convince people to buy a 64DD? Well, a lot of the titles were exploratory. Mario Artist: Paint Studio, SimCity 64, and Doshin the Giant were three of the 10 games to release for the 64DD peripheral. The peripheral’s failure led to over 60 canceled games. Some games ended up on the Nintendo GameCube, Sony PlayStation, Sega Dreamcast, Sony PlayStation 2, or Microsoft Xbox. One of the games that got reworked was a Japanese title called Dōbutsu no Mori. In English, the title translates to Animal Forest. 

The Launch of Dōbutsu no Mori

After the fall of the 64DD, Dōbutsu no Mori was moved to a Nintendo 64 cartridge using a Game Pak for the RTC. A Controller Pak saved games with larger files. The game was the very first Animal Crossing title in the series. Japan fell in love with the game, which starred a human who moved to a town with animal-like people. Thanks to the RTC, the game continued after the player stopped playing. The marketing slogan for Dōbutsu no Mori was “the real life game that’s playing, even when you’re not.” After almost 100,00 copies sold in the first week, Nintendo knew a North America port was essential. At this point, the port would need to go to the new console, the Nintendo GameCube.

Animal Crossing (2001) – Nintendo GameCube

the history of animal crossing Image Credit: Nintendo

Thousands of lines of dialogue needed translating. Not only that, but the 24 hour clock also meant that things like holidays could be included. That meant there was a need to change things for an American audience. Plus, items that you could buy for your home would need to be relatable to North American audiences. Finally, Animal Crossing released in North America on September 15, 2002. A Japanese version including some updates created in the port was released as well, called Dōbutsu no Mori e+. 

The draw of Animal Crossing is how little is expected of you. Upon your character’s arrival, you can do anything you want. Things like  Independence Day, Halloween, the Harvest Festival (Thanksgiving), and Toy Day (Christmas) exist in the game. So do quests, but they’re more like relaxed tasks introduced to you by neighbors. The most customizable part of the game is your house. Items, wall colors, flooring, and even the size of the home can be chosen by the player. It’s very easy to get invested in your Animal Crossing home, possibly at the detriment of your real one. 

Wild World (2005) – Nintendo DS and the History of Mobile Animal Crossing Games

the history of animal crossing Image Credit: Nintendo

In 2004, the Nintendo E3 presentation focused heavily on the DS, a two-screened handheld console. Animal Crossing would be a leading title on the console. With internet connectivity and touch screen capabilities, the game is an interactive form of the original. The game would also be the first DS game to use online connectivity. Wild World released on December 5, 2005. Unfortunately, multiple things held the game back. For one, touch screen movement was not incredibly precise. Plus, an in-game item, Red Tulips, when accessed while online could corrupt save files. Lastly, some copies failed to notice racial slurs in the catchphrase entry portion of the game. 

The rest of the title was just fine. With a Friend Code, you could visit other friend’s villages. Internet connectivity also allows your player to be transferred to the next Animal Crossing game. 

City Folk (2008) – Nintendo Wii

city folk city Image Credit: Nintendo

City Folk was meant to be a bigger and better Animal Crossing game. Using the wiimote, the player could do quite a bit in-game, making decorating much easier inside the player’s house. Another addition is the concept of a city. You could head into town to buy things, get new haircuts, go to a theater, and many other things. The game was also the first Wii title to use Wii Speak. Wii Speak was a new microphone option for the Wii that enables voice communication over online connections. 

For the most part, the game received great reviews. Some negative reviews argued the game changed too little. Luckily, Nintendo was ready to go big in its next title. 

New Leaf (2013) – Nintendo 3DS

new leaf 3ds Image Credit: Nintendo

The Nintendo 3DS had everyone excited. The 3D would either make or break the console. Luckily, it worked wonderfully. Plus, developers were eager to use its increased power. New Leaf was a huge step forward for the game. For starters, everyone in town thinks you are the new mayor. This leads to a lot of fun options for choosing policies and rules for the village. Plus, you could access a ton of new items and even visit the beach. An island also allowed you new activities and items, plus a ton of reasons to keep moving all around the game.

As the latest released Animal Crossing game, Nintendo couldn’t have hoped for a bigger hit. The game sold 2 million copies in under 2 months, and is one of the greatest games of the 3DS. In my opinion, it’s probably the best game on the best console of the decade. 

New Horizons (2020) – Nintendo Switch

new horizons Image Credit: Nintendo

Yet to release, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the upcoming game in the series. With a trailer out and a ton of players eager to play the game, everyone is counting down the days to the release date. New Horizons hits shelves on March 20, 2020. 

The Rich History of Animal Crossing

The history of Animal Crossing isn’t as long as other popular Nintendo titles. Things like Fire Emblem and Super Mario have been around much longer, but few have reached so many people. Animal Crossing and its relaxed, slow gameplay make it fun for people of all ages. In Japan, the game is insanely popular. Many in the United States who love the game aren’t even traditional gamers. With simple features and an open world, the game succeeds in providing players an escape from the real world. It’s one of my favorite game series, and I hope you learned something!

Looking forward to New Horizons? Have a favorite title in the history of Animal Crossing? Let us know in the comments! 

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Featured Image Credit: Nintendo

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Taylor loves to play video games in his spare time. He has two degrees in Political Communication and wrote his thesis on Marxism and the exploitation of college athletes. In his spare time, he loves spending time with his wife and two Toy Australian Sheppards. He’s always got headphones in, and he’s a diehard Cubs fan.

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