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The history of Animal Crossing: How the series evolved from an N64 oddity to a Nintendo Switch system seller

Few companies can turn failure into a success story like Nintendo. Whether it’s Wii U games that crashed at launch but suddenly became must-plays on Switch, or the mockery of the DS changing its fate almost overnight, making it one of the most successful handhelds of all time. so real. Nintendo has proven that even in its darkest hours, it can bounce back better than ever, and Animal Crossing’s story begins with what, in retrospect, should be seen as one of the biggest mistakes in company history.

Whether it was stubbornness, cool landmines, reliance on current experience, or something else entirely, the N64 was the only console of its generation that wasn’t in the CD wagon. But as the benefits of this new environment came to light and close partners began to move their games to platforms where they could expand their horizons and mass-produce products more cheaply, Nintendo reluctantly pressed the ‘comply’ button. Well, more or less.

The Japan-exclusive 64DD disk addon for the N64 was so unsuccessful that it deserves further discussion. The plug-in was announced even before the N64 was released and supported a magnetic disk solution that could only provide 10% of the capacity of a CD. Disk-capable cartridge loading times and Internet connectivity were ahead of their time in vision, but when it arrived in December 1999 it was definitely behind in execution, and the 64DD had only released nine titles. . However, much more interesting is the list of planned games that ended up elsewhere as a result of this miserable failure.

Animal Forest

Series like Dragon Quest and Resident Evil have brought their later titles to new consoles, many of the more ambitious projects requiring hybrid technology have been cancelled, and many major first-party titles such as Zelda, Donkey Kong, and Paper Mario have been scaled back. Pure car games for N64. You might see the title Dobutsu No Mori among the list of games finally coming to the N64 and think little about it, but it’s actually something important – that’s what you might know as Animal Forest, interesting and unique simulation village life. it would later be updated, enhanced, and re-released as Animal Crossing in the next generation.

One of the key features of the 64DD was that it had a system-level real-time clock around which the Dobutsu No Mori concept was built. To ship the game with the cartridge, Nintendo had to add a clock chip to the cart itself to facilitate the game’s direct correlation between the game’s real-world clock and game time – a more complex and expensive process that causes the game to launch correctly. At the end of the N64’s life, in April 2001, just a few months before the GameCube was released. Despite the game’s captivating aesthetic and unique premise, it was quickly swallowed up for more technically immersive gameplay, but Nintendo wasn’t going to let the animals get away so easily.

Instead, it was decided to move Dobutsu No Mori to the GameCube to give the game a second chance. Nintendo’s new console’s built-in clock and calendar opened up even more possibilities, and its graphically simple nature made moving home less demanding than it might have been for other technically demanding games, allowing Nintendo to ship its GameCube-enhanced version to Japan. at the end of the same year. However, the villagers weren’t ready for the trip abroad yet – unsurprisingly, a game about talking to hundreds of unique characters in unique settings is a project of a localization team, resulting in the American version coming nine months later. PAL debuted two years later and was finally released in September 2004.

Finding fun at work

Animal Forest

Animal Forest

Why is this not a problem? So, is it okay for these jungle creatures to deliberately slow down the only part of the game that can be seen as real, tangible progress? The answer is twofold. First of all, daily prayers are not a routine – that’s the fun part of the game. It’s not something designed to be played for hours, it’s an experience that is better enjoyed little by little over a much longer period of time. While regular events and holidays encourage return visits even when you don’t plan to play, the simple act of checking what’s new in the village daily is satisfying in its own way – there’s always something new to dig, collect, harvest. Working on your home and working on it, even seeing your home and its surroundings at different times of the day and in different seasons, helps you develop a commitment to this second life you have chosen for yourself and those around you.

This is the second reason why slow progress is okay: it makes the bonds and bonds you form with other villagers feel more special, more important, more real. Communicate with your furry friends every day, and they’ll grow significantly around you by adopting your demeanor and fashion, writing letters, presenting gifts, and even voicing your concerns when you’re not in town for a few days. The more you play, the more town you become a part of, and returning to the game shortly after you get a little carried away from a villager’s letter saying they’ve moved can be a bitter pill to swallow. But he will make new friends. It always exists forever.

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Animal Crossing Reader

Animal Crossing: Wild World

old player

fall a new leaf

Animal Crossing: New Leaf

Looking to new horizons

cross between animals

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Still, Tom Nook’s most daring plan is reserved for Animal Crossing: New Horizons, which launches on Nintendo Switch in 2020. With the island’s lack of basic infrastructure, you explore the island to gather raw materials – a pretty important part of the crafting system, which allows you to build new tools and furniture.

There’s a pretty cool hippie vibe to this whole arrangement, until you remember that a certain raccoon had set up a vacation spot after the whole deal. New Horizons offers unprecedented freedom for you to evolve your community, as you can choose where the animals make their new homes and even reshape the island with the new magic shovel, a feature fans have dreamed of for years.

The series has had quite a journey since Dobutsu no Mori was released on April 14, 2001. 20 years later, Animal Crossing has certainly exceeded Nintendo’s wildest expectations. New Horizons is Nintendo’s best-selling game in Europe and one of the company’s best-selling games of all time. Animal Crossing: New Horizons is reportedly the second best-selling Switch game ever, selling 31.18 million copies in 2020 alone.

It’s quite remarkable that Animal Crossing ranks at the top of Nintendo’s best franchises, despite the fact that it’s the other way around – so many Nintendo games are based on pure, gorgeous gameplay, while Animal Crossing has little of what would traditionally be described as such. Regardless, its unique nature as a calm and captivating console game playable year-round makes Animal Crossing a game we can never stop playing. Mainly because they are great games to relax and enjoy when you want to shut off the outside world for an hour or two, as well as because they are constantly indebted to a relentless capitalist raccoon.


This feature was first published in issue 205 of Retro Gamer magazine. For more great resources like the one you just read, Sign up for Retro Gamer For the magazine to be delivered to your door or digital device.


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The history of Animal Crossing: How the series evolved from an N64 oddity to a Nintendo Switch system seller

Few companies can turn failure into a success story quite like Nintendo. Whether it’s the Wii U games that tanked on release but are suddenly must-have games on Switch, or turning the fortunes of the laughed-out-of-town DS around almost overnight and growing it into one of the most successful handhelds ever, the Midas touch is very real. Even in its darkest hours, Nintendo has proven itself capable of coming back better than ever, and the history of Animal Crossing begins with what, in hindsight, has to be seen as one of the greatest misplays in the company’s history. 
Whether through stubbornness, legal landmines, reliance on existing expertise or something else entirely, the N64 was the only console of its generation that wasn’t riding the CD wave. But as the benefits of this new medium came to light and close partners started taking their games to platforms where they could both expand their horizons and mass-produce products for less, Nintendo reluctantly reached for the ‘conform’ button. Well, sort of. 
So botched was the Japan-only 64DD disc add-on for the N64 that it warrants further discussion. The add-on was announced before the N64 itself even shipped, and offered support for a magnetic disk solution that could only offer 10% of the capacity of a CD. The promise of cartridge load times with disc capacities and internet connectivity was ahead of its time in terms of vision, but by the time of its arrival in December 1999 it was decidedly behind it in execution, and the 64DD ended up with just nine released titles. However, it’s the list of planned games that ended up elsewhere as a result of this abject failure that proves far more interesting. 

Series like Dragon Quest and Resident Evil took their next games to new consoles, most of the more ambitious projects that required the hybrid tech were cancelled outright, while many huge first-party titles like Zelda, Donkey Kong and Paper Mario were scaled back to work as pure cart-only games for N64. You might see the title Dobutsu No Mori among the list of such games that eventually made their way to N64 and think little of it, but it’s actually a pretty big deal – that’s what you might know as Animal Forest, the quirky and unique village life simulation that would later be upgraded, improved, and re-released the following generation as Animal Crossing. 
One of the flagship features of the 64DD was to have a system-level real-time clock, which the very concept of Dobutsu No Mori was built around. In order to ship the game on cartridge, Nintendo needed to include a clock chip in the cart itself to facilitate the game’s direct correlation between real-world time and in-game time – a more complex and costly process that caused the game to release right at the tail end of the N64’s life in April 2001, just a few months before the launch of the GameCube. Despite the game’s charming aesthetic and unique premise, it was swiftly buried under hype for more technically impressive games, but Nintendo wasn’t going to let the animals escape quite so readily. 
Instead, the decision was made to port Dobutsu No Mori across to the GameCube in order to give the game a second chance. The on-board clock and calendar of Nintendo’s new console opened up even more possibilities and its graphically simple nature made moving home less demanding that it might have been for other more technically challenging games, allowing Nintendo to get the enhanced version onto GameCube in Japan by the end of that same year. The villagers weren’t quite ready for an overseas visit just yet, however – unsurprisingly, a game about conversing with hundreds of unique characters in unique scenarios is quite the project for a localisation team, causing the US version to land nine months later in September 2002. The PAL release didn’t come until a full two years after that, finally showing up in September 2004. 
Finding the fun in busywork

Why is this not a problem? Well, is it fine for these woodland critters to intentionally slow down the one part of the game that can be seen as making genuine, tangible gameplay progress? Well, the answer is twofold. First off, the day-to-day rigmarole isn’t a grind – it’s what’s fun about the game. It’s not something designed to be played for hours at a time, rather an experience best enjoyed piecemeal over a much longer time frame. Regular events and holidays promote return visits even when you might not otherwise have planned to play, while the simple act of checking in daily to see what’s new in the village is satisfying in its own way – there are always new things to dig up, catch, harvest and work for, and even just seeing your home and its surroundings at different times of day and during different seasons helps you develop an attachment to this second life you’ve chosen for yourself, as well as with those who surround you. 
That’s the second reason why slow progress isn’t an issue: it makes the connections you make and the bonds you develop with the other villagers feel more special, more important, more real. Check in daily with your furry friends and they’ll meaningfully grow around you, adopting your mannerisms and fashion, writing you letters, offering you gifts and even expressing concern when you don’t show your face in town for a few days. The more you play, the more you become part of the town, and coming back to the game after a little time away to a letter from a villager telling you that they’ve moved away can be a bitter pill to swallow. But there’ll be new friends to make. There always are, forever. 
Get connected

Turning over a New Leaf

Looking to New Horizons

(Image credit: Nintendo)
Still, Tom Nook’s most audacious scheme was reserved for Animal Crossing: New Horizons, which launched on Nintendo Switch in 2020. Tricky Tom has sold you a travel package to a deserted island paradise, and expects you and a couple of fellow scam vict– erm, holidaymakers, to develop a new settlement from scratch, beginning with nothing more than some hastily erected tents. Thanks to the island’s lack of basic infrastructure, it has you exploring the island to gather raw materials – a pretty crucial part of the crafting system, which allows you to build new tools and furniture. 
There’s a rather agreeable hippy commune vibe to this whole arrangement, until you remember that a certain raccoon is getting a ready-made holiday resort out of the whole deal. New Horizons offers an unprecedented freedom to develop your community, as you can choose where animals set up their new homes and even reshape the island itself with the new magic shovel, a feature fans have dreamed of for years.
The series has been on quite the journey, since Dobutsu no Mori made its debut on April 14, 2001. 20 years later, Animal Crossing has surely surpassed even Nintendo’s wildest expectations. New Horizons is the fast-selling Nintendo game in Europe and one of the company’s best-selling games of all time. It’s reported that Animal Crossing: New Horizons shifted 31.18 million copies in 2020 alone, making it the second highest-selling Switch game so far. 
It’s quite remarkable that Animal Crossing is up there with Nintendo’s top franchises despite being their polar opposite – so many Nintendo titles are built on pure, glorious gameplay, while Animal Crossing features very little of what would traditionally be described as such. Regardless, its unique nature as a sedate and charming console game that can be played all year round makes Animal Crossing something we’ll never stop playing. Mainly because we’re perpetually in debt to a ruthless capitalist raccoon, but also because they’re wonderful games to kick back and enjoy when you just want to turn off the outside world for an hour or two.
This feature first ran in issue 205 of Retro Gamer magazine. For more fantastic features like the one you just finished reading, subscribe to Retro Gamer to get the magazine delivered to your door or digital device. 
Animal Crossing: New Horizons tips | Animal Crossing: New Horizons fish guide | Animal Crossing: New Horizons bugs guide | Animal Crossing: New Horizons amiibo support explained | Animal Crossing Sanrio amiibo cards and items | Animal Crossing: New Horizons flowers guide | Animal Crossing: New Horizons sea creatures guide | How to improve your Animal Crossing: New Horizons island rating | Upcoming Animal Crossing: New Horizons events | Animal Crossing: New Horizons turnips | KK Slider secret songs in Animal Crossing | Animal Crossing: New Horizons golden tools | Animal Crossing: New Horizons secrets

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