What Can We Expect From The Next ‘Animal Crossing’?

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6 min read
Animal Crossing
Banner designed by Oliver Rebbeck.

Despite many people’s fears, the release of the Nintendo Switch was a success. Over a month after, Breath of the Wild is still on everyone’s lips and as we get to thoroughly explore Hyrule, the excitement for new titles grows. We already know of the iconic The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim making its way to Nintendo’s latest technical accomplishment, as well as the popular Splatoon with a full-fledged sequel. Yet fans can’t stop but wonder what the legendary Japanese company has in store for two of their most beloved franchises, Pokémon and Animal Crossing.

Animal Crossing fans, in particular, have been speculating for months what the next main entry in the franchise could be like. From balloons as a means of transportation to the so desired skin tones as part of the character creator, the AC community has many bold dreams regarding what the next main entry in the franchise could offer.

The latest main entry, New Leaf, first came out in 2012 and was repackaged last year with the “Welcome Amiibo” update, which expanded the game by adding Amiibo support and other features such a decoration tool reminiscent of that used in Happy Home Designer. The update made the already great game fresh again and although fans were happy to return to their towns, they couldn’t stop clamoring for a new release, more specifically for the Nintendo Switch.

The console’s hardware would allow for many features to make a comeback as well as the implementation of others that weren’t possible on the 3DS, such as global illumination and layered towns. The game world could also be made bigger, allowing for players to have a larger amount of villagers and possibly host more guests. We have many concepts to go through, but let’s start with one that is perhaps the most ambitious.

Welcome Switch

Although New Leaf is old, the “Welcome Amiibo” update showed it still has potential to grow. A ported HD version would allow the incorporation of global illumination and sharper graphics as well as cross-platform multiplayer. The downside would be that the port would still count with the original’s technical limitations, but on the other hand, it could include yet another expansion that would make the game relevant once again. Many of the features we will be discussing are either available on New Leaf or could be introduced through an update, so while controversial, this is a valid suggestion that would keep veterans interested as well as introduce the series to newcomers.

Animal Crossing

Another idea that is very close to New Leaf HD is to develop a new game for the Switch and New 3DS simultaneously. The enhancements of the New 3DS, which include stronger processing power, would allow developers to push the Animal Crossing formula forward. Meanwhile, the Switch version would have enhanced graphics, setting it apart from the New 3DS version. Both versions would incorporate cross-platform multiplayer, a bold move that would require more attention from Nintendo since they would have to be updated together.

While New Leaf HD seems less likely due to the game’s age and technical limitations, a new title developed for the New 3DS and Switch is plausible. It would encourage 3DS owners to upgrade to a New 3DS (since many didn’t bother because of the handheld’s small library of exclusives) while delivering something new that would move the franchise forward with the enhanced graphics provided by the Switch.

Upgrading your home

The realm of suggestions and speculations regarding the next main entry in the series is extensive. Many community members have great ideas that would only improve Animal Crossing, and as we get closer to a possible announcement, even more arise.

  • Skin color: A customization feature many fans have been requesting is the ability to change the character’s skin color. That is possible in New Leaf (and built into HHD‘s character creation) through tanning, but the process is long and doesn’t reflect reality. It’s due time fans of all colors and backgrounds have the chance to be properly represented and recreate themselves if they so desire.
  • Toolbox: Mentioned by Josh Thomas (not the Australian) in TheBitBlock’s series Make Believe, the toolbox would be a solution to better organize the inventory. Dragging tools and placing them on top of each other would mix them into a toolbox, an item that holds all your tools while filling only one inventory slot. Touching the d-pad left or right, such as in New Leaf, would swap the equipped tool.
  • Balloons extravaganza: Also suggested by Josh Thomas in the aforementioned video, balloons would be a new transport method that would not only stray from the regular ground vehicles but also introduce customization options. Moving this concept forward, I think several vehicles for different purposes would be interesting. For example, we could use the balloon to visit faraway towns (over the internet), while a train ride would suffice to reach a nearby town (over wireless communications). We already see multiple methods in New Leaf where the train takes us to other players’ towns and Kapp’n sails us to the island in his sturdy little boat.

Animal Crossing

Besides new features, it would be great to see the ones we know and love making a comeback.

  • Dream Suite Deluxe: The Dream Suite is a building in New Leaf‘s main street which allows players to share a dream of their town and visit the dreams of other towns. It’s a clever and fun way to visit someone else’s town without them risking opening the doors to a maniac who would run over their hard earned hybrid flowers. One thing that bothers me is that you have to visit and experience these towns all by yourself. Animal Crossing fans have created awe-inspiring villages in New Leaf and many of them are worth sharing with friends and family. Why not explore the dream world together instead of separately? Since the premise of dream towns is unrestricted exploration without affecting the actual town, the only way it could be any better was if we could share the dream with others, à la Inception.
  • Happy Home Owner: The spin-off Happy Home Designer is a wonder in many ways, but its most noticeable addition is the decoration tool. A simplified version of this featured was ported to New Leaf through the “Welcome Amiibo” update, but the next Animal Crossing can turn it up a notch by including the options from Happy Home Designer and mixing them with the extra storage space from New Leaf. This enhancement would allow for a more seamless decoration process that doesn’t require the clunkiness of having to place an item, swap modes, and go back to take the excess out.
  • Layers: The first Animal Crossing had layers inside towns, a design choice that returned for City Folk. Although a small detail, it makes a huge aesthetic difference. We have a shoreline a layer below New Leaf towns, but inner layers were probably not made possible due to the 3DS’s technical limitations. The Switch (and maybe even the New 3DS) can take this concept further by not only adding elevated layers but canyons where players can build resorts or hide their homes from everyone else.
  • Let’s go to the city: The reactions to Animal Crossing: City Folk‘s city hub were mixed. Some players loved the idea while others were bummed out by every aspect of it. Nintendo has decided to keep the country feeling by adding the main street to New Leaf, but that doesn’t mean the idea of a city could never make a comeback. The new city hub could be an online lobby where players can meet up and chat in real time. Instead of focusing the game’s commerce there, however, we could have some shops exclusive to the area, such as GracieGrace, the Happy Home Academy Headquarters, and perhaps new shops with new characters.
  • Let’s make Animal Crossing great again: Public work projects are one of the most interesting features of New Leaf. The ability to customize your town beyond laying down patterns is brilliant and adds a new flavor to the game. Catching bees are no longer about improving your house, but rather the whole town. The next installment could lift some restrictions that prevent mayors from building one PWP next to another as well as add more use to them. For instance, a hot spring could not only fit a resort theme but also be fully functional to villagers who want to relax.

“You have to give me everything. Everything’s not enough.”

Animal Crossing
Yes, Rizzo. Took y’all too long to notice.

If there’s one thing every Animal Crossing fan can agree on is that we always need more customization options. After all, dressing up and decorating is what the franchise is about. However, throughout the years we were rather limited in many ways, but especially custom designs.

Anyone who makes use of custom designs to decorate their town, dress up, and also customize furniture with Cyrus knows that the ten slots available in New Leaf are not enough. Additional playable characters are a requirement to make full use of custom designs and for meticulous players, working on additional houses to make the town aesthetic come together can be a hassle. If not unlimited slots, it would be nice if each character had at least 20 or 25 slots to accommodate their pro designs, paths, and things they want displaying on refurbished furniture.

We run the World

The Animal Crossing series is one of the most popular Nintendo IPs. Each new entry sets the bar higher, so it should be no surprise that fans have bold expectations for whatever’s coming next. I would like to know what you think of my picks and what you’re hoping to see debut or come back to the franchise, so let’s chat in the comments below!

 

Born and raised in Northeastern Brazil, Gabriel didn’t grow up with video games as many of his colleagues did. However, his dedication and love for the industry make up for his late start in the gaming world.