Population Growing: The Wonderful Legacy of Animal Crossing

One of Nintendo’s biggest and most popular franchises is also one of the hardest to explain why it is so beloved.  When people find out that I love video games and ask me what my favorite one is, my reply is “Animal Crossing” – and the response is usually one of bemusement and bewilderment.  People on the outside looking in don’t see what the big deal is.  Why do I love Animal Crossing so much?  What is it about this game that sets millions of people into a frenzy when a new installment is announced?  Well, get your bells ready and let’s take a closer look…

Humble Beginnings

Animal Crossing debuted in North America on the Nintendo GameCube console in the fall of 2002.  Nintendo has always had a reputation of being a “family friendly” (many read as “kiddie”) company – beginning with the controversial censorship of Mortal Kombat on the Super Nintendo, even though the subsequent installments had all the violence and blood that the game came with.  The GameCube itself was small like a lunch box and had a handle for crying out loud with little tiny mini-discs.  Kiddie? You couldn’t exactly argue against it.

A game like Animal Crossing is hard to market for, and when I saw the game in my local Electronics Boutique, I asked the cashier what it even was.  Her reply was “It’s hard to describe.  I’d say it’s like a Sims game but with animals.”

I love Sim games, and I love animals, so this sales pitch sounded just a home run.  The game came with a bonus memory card with a “gift” on it that you could use in-game.  After years of over-reliance on Mario and Zelda games, I was all excited to dive into a new Nintendo IP.  I was ready to be entertained – but at first, it was just the opposite.

Booting up the game started what felt like an inane game of Twenty Questions, as you are asked stuff like your name, if you were a boy or a girl, etc.  I wanted to play a game, not go through the most basic of game setups.  After this unwanted pop quiz, the first major character you run into when starting the game and getting the setup screens out of the way was a raccoon named Tom Nook.  Many longtime fans dislike poor old Tom, and with good reason – he is an unfriendly jerk and didn’t even really do a good job of explaining the game to players which was his entire function.  I did a lot of planting flowers, planting fruit and other mundane tasks, and about 20 minutes into the game, I was wondering where the fun was hiding.

But once you are freed from Tom Nook’s “tutorial”, the world of Animal Crossing begins to open up. The comparisons to the Sims became more evident as you are encouraged to expand and decorate your own house, meet neighbors and become social with them… your interactions with them will have a definite outcome on their lives, too.

Throwback Any Day

Every budding franchise debut needs a hook, and Animal Crossing’s hook was a doozy.  The player had the ability to find and play original NES games within your character’s house – games like Pinball, Donkey Kong, Excitebike, and hidden gems The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Bros (both of which were never officially made available and need a cheat device to unlock).  This predated the Virtual Console on the Wii and Wii U (and hopefully the Nintendo Switch), it represented the first time in a major mainstream fashion that old classic games could be played, full-screen, on a then-current console was mind-blowing while collecting the games became a game within the game. NES games would not turn up in subsequent entries in the series, however.

Friendship Is Love

Beyond the retro hook, the one thing that kept me coming back to the game was the emphasis on community and building friendships.  Talking with your animal neighbors daily and doing small favors for them allow the player to establish relationships in the game that really feel like friendships.  Like in real life, you tend to open up to someone new at a bit-by-bit basis, and that is how it works in Animal Crossing.  Using the GameCube’s internal clock, the game is advertised that it “keeps playing even when you aren’t”, and that’s true.  Skip a couple days of playing and the game knows it – villagers will say the missed you, dreaded weeds will grow that you’ll need to pluck.  It is taken for granted now, but this really was pretty groundbreaking at the time, and the game would also change with the seasons and celebrate major holidays.  It pushed me to check in every day and I would actually feel guilty if I didn’t.

The game wasn’t quite like the Sims, but I knew at this point that I was experiencing something special.

World Traveler

The game’s sequels – Wild World for the Nintendo DS and City Folk for the Nintendo Wii – introduced online play to the franchise to great results.  Wild World also stripped out the NES games you could find and play, as well as the holiday celebrations, which was a very odd and saddening choice.  I initially thought having Animal Crossing on a tiny portable system was a really dumb idea – but this is one area I was happy to be wrong in… having a game that is tied to the internal clock makes perfect sense to be on a portable system.  I could check in on my town anywhere and not just at home during a dedicated gaming session on the couch.

Hopping online, you could visit a friend’s town, see their house, and talk to their villagers.   It may not seem like much, but this addition opened up (pun alert) a whole world of fun, and made me want my house to at its best for guests.  The villagers would even talk to you about people who have visited after they leave.

It’s the little things that make a difference.

The Wii game, City Folk, was very similar to Wild World, all the way down to the hourly music used… but added a small city area you could travel to and shop in.

Saturday Night Fever

Speaking of music, one of the best aspects of the franchise is its use of original music.  Each hour has a different theme, as do many holidays and special events.   I have an entire playlist of nothing but Animal Crossing music from the various games and it always brings a smile to my face.  Of course, I can’t talk about music without mentioning AC’s resident musician, K.K. Slider.  He appears every Saturday night in various places depending on the game, and he always delivers the hippest music to the people…or, rather, the animals.

Hail to the Chief

Arguably, the most recent mainline game in the franchise – Animal Crossing: New Leaf – on the Nintendo 3DS in 2013 (2012 in Japan) ushered in an era when it truly became a big time franchise for Nintendo.  It is proven to have boosted sales of the handheld and has gone on to sell over 9 million copies worldwide, and counting – which is not too shabby for a game that still confuses a lot of people.  New Leaf introduced a few new wrinkles that many fans have embraced: the ability to be Mayor and construct unique designs and extras in your town, thus taking overall customization to a whole new level.   But best of all was the introduction of Isabelle – your trusty and loyal secretary who is your town’s biggest cheerleader.

As much as I love the other games, I would have to pick New Leaf as being the best Animal Crossing to date.  In fact, it is not only my favorite Animal Crossing game but also my favorite game of all time overall.  Yes, I love it that much.

Nintendo seems to realize the popularity of the series as well.  2015 brought an immense amount of marketing to the franchise. amiibo cards (used with the 3DS spin-off Happy Home Designer) that invoke memories of Game Boy Advance eReader cards that were incorporated with Wild World, made its debut… and its own amiibo figure line began to roll out as well.   Mario Kart 8 (and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe) has a beautifully designed race track based in the Animal Crossing universe.

Not everything has been a hit, however.  The aforementioned spin-offs, Happy Home Designer and (especially) amiibo Festival, were poorly received and had low sales.  And speaking of low sales, the amiibo cards had brisk sales at the beginning, but the actual amiibo figure line struggled – partially due to being associated with such a bad game – and many can be had for as low as $2 new on clearance.  Animal Crossing ran the risk of overexposure because Nintendo, rather than give us a new game, decided to make the curious move and develop a couple of spin-offs that no one wanted.  In an effort to possibly make it up to angry fans, an update to New Leaf was issued in 2016 that added amiibo support and a number of new features.

And even with all of that, I’m still anxiously anticipating the next full entry on the Nintendo Switch with baited breath.

Population: Growing 

Animal Crossing (along with Pikmin) was, up until Splatoon in 2015, the last big original Nintendo IP that took off and became a huge success.  I think it is more than worthy to sit alongside legendary franchises like Mario, Zelda and Pokémon.   Its fan base continues to grow with each new game.  It is often one of the most requested titles for any new Nintendo console launch – as evidenced by the number of disappointed people when an Animal Crossing announcement for the Nintendo Switch was not realized at E3 2017.   I have spent more time than I care to admit playing various games the series and I still can’t fully explain what it is to friends when they ask.  But I am okay with that… all of its charm, quirks, and addictiveness – it’s part of what makes Animal Crossing so warmly unique.

Are you an Animal Crossing fan?  What is it about the series that has made you a fan?

 

Eric “Flapjack” Ashley has been a Nintendo fan for almost his entire life!  While he also has a special place in his heart for Sega, it is Nintendo that gets him worked up and the franchises that capture his imagination and wonder.   Eric is hopelessly in love with Animal Crossing.  When he is not playing video games, he is a social media guru, assisting numerous organizations with their outreach and promotions, and he is also a big horror movie buff.   Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @flapjackashley.

How amiibo Technology Works

#iiqualrights, toys-to-lifes-matter


When our parents were our age, they would never have imagine being able to scan their toys into their video games. Well, now we’re living in the future, thanks to amiibo! But how exactly do these figurines, cards, and plushies interact with Nintendo’s systems? Do they really learn and level up? All those answers and more in this episode of NF + TBC. amiibo Footage credit: Gamecite, Game Wire

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Zelda Escape Room Experience (VLOG)

Wait… if they didn’t solve the last puzzle, how did they get OUT of the Escape Room?


Recently, Scott was fortunate enough to make it to one of the Zelda Escape Rooms put on by SCRAP and Nintendo. He traveled to Seattle with his friends Joel and Meagan, and Vlogged the whole way! Well, no cameras were allowed during the puzzles themselves but you’ll still get lots of cool glimpses into their adventures. Music: Saria’s Fairy-Go-Round | ZipZipper & Harmony of Heroes

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
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How To Beat the Nintendo Scalpers

If you can’t beat ’em… beat ’em!


If you were lucky enough to get your hands on a Switch launch unit – congratulations! If you weren’t, there’s a good chance you’re doing battle with the infamous scalpers that prey upon Nintendo hardware launches. Never fear; we’ve been-there-done-that and we’ve got some great tips for you!

Shot by Alex Campbell

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
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What Are the Best Custom Amiibo? #3

What does your wallet think about you watching these kind of videos?


It’s unlikely that we can ever keep up with the awesomeness and the creativity that is the Custom Amiibo scene. They’re just too good! This is our third video showcasing the amazing talents of these amiibo artists, but it probably won’t be the last. A quick look around Google Images, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest reveals that this is where the action is at. As many official amiibo as Nintendo are pumping out, the official ones just won’t compare to the works of art that people make when they take matters into their own hands!

Shot by Alex Campbell

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
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Nintendo Voice Chat Podcast

This podcast occasionally contains too much water…


There are a lot of Nintendo podcasts for fans to listen to, but there is one that rises above the rest and sets itself apart from the competition. That one podcast is Nintendo Voice Chat, a podcast made by IGN and hosted by Jose Otero, Peer Schneider, and Brian Altano. Those three hosts make sure we have a great time every Friday, as well as provide insightful looks into the industry. This podcast is pure Nintendo fan gold, so don’t pass it up. Give it a try! And if you’re just not a podcast listener, they’re really great for taking with you on your commute to work, or for mundane tasks like doing the laundry or the dishes. You’ll be hooked on podcasts and hooked on NVC. Thanks for the great podcast, IGN!

Shot by Alex Campbell

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
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Crazy Amiibo Acquisition Stories

Hope some fools lost their jobs for being so terrible at customer service!


As we all know, amiibo weren’t easy to come by when the waves first started hitting your WalMarts and your Best Buys. There was a clear production shortage that turned the plastic Nintendo toys into collector’s items, sending scalpers into a craze. The genuine Nintendo fans were hard-pressed to find the rare figurines that they wanted to play with! We’ve scoped the Internet out for the craziest stories of what people will do to get their amiibo.

Shot by Alex Campbell

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
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Best Karen Memes (from the Switch Trailer)

We made this because we know how many of you have been Karen about this girl.


Karen is the unexpected Internet sensation born of the Nintendo Switch trailer! She took off in popularity on Reddit and has since expanded her influence across all of social media. We’ve picked the most hilarious Karen memes from around the web to share with you!

Shot by Alex Campbell

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
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A Tour of Scott’s Nintendo Collection

You may have seen a few of these items in the Club Nintendo Swag episode, but there are definitely some new things in this vidoe!


Scott has collected quite a few Nintendo relics over the years, and takes you on a personal, First-Person adventure through his room!

Shot by Alex Campbell

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
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Crazy Amiibo Requests

Can we please just have amiibo chips in everything?


Can you ever have too many amiibo? NO! Especially if they are very unique, like the ones we are officially requesting Nintendo to produce. We will preorder promptly when they are announced!

Shot by Alex Campbell

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
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GameStop Prank Calls!

Scott does his very best unintentional Obama impression.


We’ve played a few pranks on Nintendo Customer Service before, but today we’re branching out to see if the folks at GameStop can give us help finding some gaming-related products!

Shot by Alex Campbell

“Reformat” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
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Brand New Amiibo of E3 2016!

Ryan is going to get fo’ real RIPPED once the Guardian amiibos come out!


Nintendo announced 10 new amiibo figurines at this year’s E3! We take a look at each of them in detail, plus discuss the function of Wolf Link in Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Comment your favorite new amiibo below!

Shot by Alex Campbell

“Reformat” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
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Coolest Custom Amiibo #2

For the record, Ganda Kris IS a girl.


Amiibos have been out for over a year now and there’s been no lack of originality in customizing them! This is round 2 of the best we’ve found! Original video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u0MWSibUI1U

Shot by Alex Campbell

“Reformat” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
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Coolest Custom Amiibo

Wonderful custom amiibo have flooded the Internet, so it was a fun task to sort through them and pick some personal favorites. Please send in your best finds or your own creations, we’re always down for another installment of this show!

As soon as Amiibo figurines hit store shelves, some super creative people got ahold of them and turned them in to custom pieces of art. Here is a collection of our favorite custom Amiibo!

Shot by Alex Campbell

“Reformat” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
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