One of the most confounding things to most of the general public who would get a first glance of any of the Animal Crossing games is the popularity. While it doesn’t have a Mario or Zelda level of popularity, it still has its hardcore fans. It’s tedious, it cannot be marathoned like Harvest Moon, and it can get extremely repetitive at some points. But yet, we still play.
The million dollar question here is– Why? Why do we play? Why do we love it? What got us into it? Well, us here at Nintendojo have decided to take a crack at this question.
When I first heard of Animal Crossing it was because my friend, who had a GameCube, bought it and was telling me all about it. I came by to check it out and found it oddly charming. I never bought it since I did not own a GameCube at the time but I always wanted to own it. When I got a DS Lite, I had its sequel Wild World on my radar for the game to get. It took me about a month because I finally bought it and I got hooked pretty easily.
The reason I loved the game was that there was so much to do. Catch bugs, make money, decorate the house, make friends, so many other things. There was always something to do. And the beauty of the game is that you didn’t have to play it for all hours of the day. You could if you really wanted to, but it was one of those ultimate “Play for like 10 minutes and you’re okay.” though you’d have to vary your time of day. The addition of WiFi also made a huge difference and allowed you to play with friends if you chose to do so. I never took advantage of that with Wild World but I know once New Leaf comes out I’ll be sure to do that.
And at last, I’ll be able to wear pants in the game too! :D
As long-time readers of the site may remember, I had a bit of a love affair with Animal Crossing: Wild World back in 2006. I played it constantly, and I didn’t really play anything else for more than a year. When my visits started to become more intermittent, I kept a strict note of when I last played and every time I came back to my little town of Castelle, I would religiously turn back my DS Phat’s clock just to make sure I wouldn’t upset my carefully crafted slice of DS real-estate. It sounds ludicrous when you think about it. Why bother going to such extreme lengths to preserve a fictional horde of characters living in a virtual town where there’s nothing to do but fish, dig and catch insects for the town museum? No, it doesn’t sound ludicrous– it is ludicrous.
Yet there’s something so compelling in that very insanity that it somehow makes it all seem perfect logical. Whatever your thoughts are about paying off Tom Nook’s blatant extortion racket, it’s a treasure trove for collectors and kleptomaniacs alike, and the pleasure of getting to know your furry and feathery neighbours just makes the process that much sweeter.
It’s not a game for those simply looking to while away the time with– this is one for the long haul. It’s a game that scratches the same itch that Pokémon once eased– only here it lasts for months, even years at a time as you soldier on through the undergrowth, your butterfly net in one hand and your fishing rod in the other. It’s a place that’s constantly evolving and changing alongside you, and if you’re prepared to put in the effort, to live and breathe your town as you would your own neighbourhood, then there really is no greater reward than paying off your mortgage and finding those last missing pieces for your museum. It’s crazy, but who ever said living in a village full of talking animals would be a walk in the park?
Animal Crossing, I think, is in many ways an anti-game. There’s no real goals besides self fulfillment. It’s not meant to be completed, just played and explored over time. I think that’s what makes it so appealing, and why it’s such a captivating game. When I first got Animal Crossing on GameCube, I was surprised by how it was just so chill. Do some fishing, catch some bugs, arrange your house, do whatever you want. Interestingly enough, the fact that the game was so anticlimactic only further hooked me. I started to obsessively fish to make money, to plant fruit, and to find every secret I could. Encountering new characters like Wisp the ghost or Gulliver the stranded seagull was very exciting, capturing a wonder that don’t often find in games. Here was a world that sort of moved along at its own pace, and it’s you who was the newcomer in this village.
But what I think extends the longevity and appeal of the Animal Crossing series are the social aspects. Animal Crossing: Wild World was a whole new experience. It introduced wireless and Wi-Fi play, and allowed you to play with your friends in real time. This was an amazing addition that expanded upon everything you could do. My best friend from high school and I would spend hours using Wild World. We’d share bells and furniture, show off our homes, or just go to the Roost and chat for hours. We used the bare-bones chat system for all it was worth at those times.
I’ve always enjoyed games that let you take a break and enjoy something else. That’s why I always come back to games series like Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing. But Animal Crossing has that lovable Nintendo twist that always makes a game better. It has a very human element in it, despite it being all about animals. On the surface it seems like a game of doing errands, fishing, and decorating; but it’s much more than that. It’s a relaxing world that has a life of its own.
The thing that really drew me to Animal Crossing, particularly the GameCube version, was its persistent world. Like I mentioned in a previous article here on Nintendojo, I hadn’t even really heard of the game until I saw an advert for it tucked in Super Mario Sunshine’s case, and its premise– living in a virtual town that grew whether or not you’re there to experience it– immediately caught my interest.
Without any hesitation, I bought the game when it was released that September, and I’ve been in love with the series ever since. It really did feel like there was a virtual community living in your television, and it was exciting to go back to the game each day and see how your town would change in your absence. I think what helped solidify the illusion were all of the holidays included in the game. Each month there’d be at least one communal gathering of sorts at a town landmark (usually the Wishing Well), and seeing the other villagers gather together to celebrate really instilled a sense of community in the title. I’ll never forget the first time I joined my neighbors around the lake to gaze at the harvest moon, its golden face reflected on the water while a gentle, ethereal melody played in the background; or the first time Franklin, the kindly (yet anxiety-ridden) turkey, came to visit on the Harvest Festival, and spent the entirety of his stay evading all of the hungry townspeople. Events like these made Animal Crossing feel like more than just a game, and they were the reason I continued to visit my town years after it was first established.
Later installments like Wild World and City Folk would add their own features to the gameplay (mostly notably Wi-Fi support, which let you share these communal gatherings with your real-life friends), but the thing that continues to draw me to the series is the sense of persistence inherent in your village. I’m looking forward to seeing all of the new holidays and gatherings that Nintendo adds to New Leaf, and I’m especially excited to explore all of the new areas in the village (like the tropical resort just off shore of the mainland). And hey, thanks to Wi-Fi, maybe now we’ll be able to host our own Nintendojo gatherings!
So now that you know our reasons, we turn the question over to you in the comments section. Why do you guys love the series? What got you into it? Where did you first find the game? We’d like to hear!