At first glance, the premise of Animal Crossing does not seem like that much fun; the core of its gameplay is taking out a home loan and then doing enough daily chores in order to pay it off. That being said, the game’s magic and charm comes from its ability to allow players to escape from reality, providing a fantasy world that is both healing and serene. Despite its unconventional gameplay, the Animal Crossing series has gone on to become one of the most successful and popular franchises in Nintendo history, evolving from its humble beginning into its more modern form, in large part because of the influence of female director Aya Kyogoku. Although it is a fan favorite, the history of Animal Crossing is a bit different than most would expect, spanning many console generations and taking many different forms throughout its transformation:
Dobutsu No Mori/Animal Forest– 2001
The first iteration of the Animal Crossing series was released exclusively in Japan for the N64. Although it came at the end of the console’s lifespan, the N64 title introduced a majority of the core mechanics that the life-simulator would become known for. Animal Forest was originally slated to be released for the Nintendo 64 disc drive because of its integrated clock system, but it eventually was moved to the N64 because of the peripheral’s frequent delays.
Animal Forest+– 2001
Eight months after the Japanese release of Dobutsu No Mori, Nintendo released Animal Forest+ for the Nintendo Gamecube, expanding on the amount of content from the original game and incorporating the Gamecube’s internal clock. The game’s slogan became “the real life game that’s playing, even when you’re not,” revolutionizing console-based simulation titles.
Animal Forest e+/Animal Crossing– 2003
Because of the title’s success in Japan, Nintendo of America began translating the original Animal Forest into English for a North American and PAL release, not only converting the language, but adjusting the dialogue to makes sense to American players. They also had to add American holidays and items into the game so that it would not feel foreign to American audiences, rewriting a lot of the title’s script during the localization process. After Animal Crossing’s completion and release in 2003, executives from Nintendo were so impressed by the localization work that the updated and expanded game was released in Japan under the name Animal Forest e+.
Animal Crossing: Wild World– 2005
This entry in the franchise was no longer an expanded port, and marked Animal Crossing’s first foray into the handheld market, introducing the touch screen use and multiplayer functions that the title would become known for. Released in Japan as Animal Forest: Come Over, the title featured a lot of the same core gameplay elements that led to the success of the original game, adding new visual features to keep the title fresh. In an effort to streamline production, Nintendo excluded some holidays and items in order to make the game non-region specific so the game would not have to be localized.
Animal Crossing: City Folk- 2008
The first and only Animal Crossing title to make it onto the Wii, City Folk introduced heightened multiplayer communication elements for players, allowing them to use the NintendoWiFi Connection to visit other towns via the internet. Although the gameplay was cited to be very similar to Wild World, it also added chat options, using the Wii Speak microphone and a USB keyboard to allow for communication between players. City Folk has gone on to be released as a Nintendo Select twice in its lifetime, first in 2011 and again in 2016.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf– 2013
New Leaf, known as Jump Out Animal Forest in Japan, marks the franchise’s return to the handheld. Because of intense localization, the game focused on making the series more exclusive and relatable to different regions, incorporating different customs and traditions into the various releases across the world. The title also introduced new gameplay elements that allowed for more player control over their town, making mayoral decisions that could change the landscape. Connectivity was expanded as well, allowing for Streetpass and Spotpass connections in addition to NintendoWiFi support.
The Spin-offs- 2015
For Holiday 2015, Nintendo released Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer and Animal Crossing: Amiibo Party, taking the franchise name and style and re-purposing it into the party and designing genres. Along with these titles, Nintendo released Animal Crossing amiibo and amiibo cards, the franchise’s first dedicated foray into the popular toys-to-life market. These games were not well received by fans and critics, but it was noted that these titles do not represent where Animal Crossing is going in the future.
Based on this list, the future of the franchise seems bright, but despite the rabid speculation and interest, it does not seem likely that Nintendo will release a full-fledged Animal Crossing title on the Wii U. Based on the corporation’s track record, it appears that there is a “one console then one handheld” order to the franchise’s titles, setting up the NX as perhaps Animal Crossing’s next platform. Because of all the rumors about the NX’s supposed connectivity between mobile, handheld, and console devices, it is no stretch of the imagination that Animal Crossing would be the perfect way to illustrate these features, but for now, fans will have to wait and see.