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/

Franchise / Revise / Demise

“The game is Wii Mu-” “DIE! DIE! LET IT DIE!”


#538 – In today’s unique episode, we’re pretending that we hold the power to decide a video game’s fate. Should it be franchised, and have multiple sequels moving forward? Should it be remasteres once and left at that? Or should it simply be left to die? We have to assign one fate to each group of three games… what would you choose? Let us know in the comments.
“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

What is Thumper for Switch?

Thump 4 Prez.


#536 – If you own a Nintendo Switch and you haven’t downloaded Thumper, YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG! This rhythm game on the eShop is worth all 2,000 pennies you’ll drop on this gem. You’ll be intrigued, you’ll be awed, you’ll be stunned, you’ll be challenged… do it. Go forth and Thump.

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

TumbleSeed Review (Switch Nindie Game)

For real though, is Scott just being a pansy? (GET IT!?)


#535 – TumbleSeed is a cute, adorable, STINKING DIFFICULT indie game on the Nintendo Switch. Your only task is to roll a seed to the top of the mountain, but the game does everything in its power to stop you. Games like this straddle a fine line between fun and frustrating… where does TumbleSeed land?

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

ARMS Showdown – Single Joy-Con Controls!

Someone’s flexing…


#534 – ARMS is all the rage! Are you guys playing ARMS? Are you ARMed? We are so AMPed on ARMS! This is the first of many clashes between Simeon and Scott… who are you betting on?

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

Super Mario Odyssey In-Depth (E3 2017)

Do you think Bowser himself can be CAPtured?


#533 – Super Mario Odyssey had a strong showing at this year’s E3, not to be outdone by Metroid! Mario and Cappy explored some wildly different scenery, in search of different currencies and different rewards than Stars, and… well, all around this game is very different! Oh, and don’t forget the T-Rex!

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

3rd Party Switch Games Galore (E3 2017)

08:18


#532 – The Nintendo Switch is picking up a little bit of steam with 3rd party developers, as they’ve had a short amount of time to react to the console’s wild success. At E3 2017, we saw the likes of Ubisoft, SEGA, Bethesda, and other developers bringing their most popular franchises to the Switch, and Nintendo was more than happy to showcase them during their Spotlight presentation. So, what did Simeon and Scott think about these titles? Watch and learn!

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

Metroid Prime 4 & Samus Returns (E3 2017)

Scott’s first girlfriend (Samus) says hello!


#531 – Metroid fans are happy this year. Why? Because after years of neglect (and the abuse known as “Federation Force”), Samus is back in a big way! Sure, we may be a ways out from Prime 4’s actual release, but we have a real hope that can sustain us for a while. Not to mention, a brand new (old) 2D game hitting 3DS this September! Dreams came true this E3.

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

E3 2017 Reaction Blow-Out!

This is an E3 to remember!


#530 – Nintendo just had one of their best E3s ever, and it’s not even over yet. In the span of 25 minutes, they managed to blow the socks off most of their hardcore fans. They really pulled out some big guns this year! Simeon and Scott are here with their fresh impressions of Nintendo’s newest announcements, discussing their failed predictions, and talking over what excited and surprised them the most. Join in the E3 hype in the comments!

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

E3 2017 Bingo Predictions!

How long do we have to keep being right in order for us to become paid industry analysts that make snarky remakrs for a living?


#528 – Each year, before the Electronic Entertainment Expo, Simeon and Scott take a stab at a swath of predictions! Nintendo will be streaming some bombshell announcements during their press conference / Nintendo Direct, and we’ve created a bingo board to keep track of our correct predictions! Can we score 5 in a row? Middle space is free!

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

What is the BEST Way to Buy Games?

After you save some serious Benjamins by following this advice, you might just head over to our Patreon page. ;)


#524 – We know how it is! Video games are expensive and cash is tight. That’s why you can’t just buy games from here, there, and everywhere all willy nilly! You gotta go in with a plan, know where you can score the best deal, and save some dough. Don’t buy another game until you watch this full episode!

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

If I Could Change One Thing…

We are not responsible for any first kisses that happen as a result of this episode.


#524 – If you were given the power to change one thing about a Nintendo console, which one would you pick and what would you change? Simeon and Scott are faced with many similar tough choices today – watch to see what they would decide! Comment below what you would change. Footage Credit: Super Smash Bros. Wii U Tripping – Master0fHyrule | Metroid Prime 3 Corruption SD vs HD – thepixelpress

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

Everything Wrong with Virtual Console

Have we mentioned that we hate Ice Climber?


#519 – We agree that Nintendo has some serious shaping up to do when it comes to their Virtual Console. Will we ever get cross-console purchasing or a subscription service?

Footage Credit: Wii Shop Channel – Fan Man | Earthbound Beginnings – ColeNL112
“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Breath of the Wild Nostalgia

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a special game. Is it perfect? Not quite. But in my humble opinion, it’s pretty close. Throughout the 100+ hours I have dedicated to Breath of the Wild, I slowly felt more empowered, more confident, and more ambitious. Finally feeling strong enough to storm the castle gate pumped up the adrenaline inside of me. Not to mention, most of the game I felt as though I was running and gliding through a Bob Ross painting. However, rather than writing a full review on this game, I thought I’d highlight something that just stood out to me. That is, all of the intricate references to past Zelda games.

Beauty is Everywhere

Wherever, you look, whether you know it or not, you are probably seeing an homage to a past Zelda game. Every other landmark is named after a past character or location, although a letter might be missing or displaced in the name. I felt an unusual sense of happiness when I discovered Tingle Island, even though Tingle was nowhere to be found. I find it crazy that just a name can invoke such a feeling of nostalgia even if the landmark itself does not. There are also specific regions in the map that primarily focus on one game. I found a Phantom Hourglass Area, Twilight Princess themed area, even a Wand of Gamelon area.
Kidding on that last one.

There were many times when I encountered a landmark that tugged on the nostalgia strings. For instance, I was riding on my horse, Lacey (named after my real-life cat), and while I heard the subtle melody of the main Legend of Zelda theme, I stumbled upon Ranch Ruins. I couldn’t believe the condition of this place, and then it hit me that it was a dystopian Lon Lon Ranch. After I disposed of the Guardian that called it home, I took Lacey for a spin around the track and actually started getting emotional as I recalled memories of playing Ocarina of Time and pictured Malon Singing Epona’s Song in the center of the ranch. Another time this hit me was when I discovered Eventide Island (by far my favorite area in the game) and felt as helpless as getting washed ashore in Link’s Awakening. Yet another favorite of mine was discovering the Master Sword. This took me back to a Link to the Past thanks to three blue nightshades in the background.

This game doesn’t forget about its roots, either. It was really nice to see the old man at the very beginning of the game, the only difference being instead of going into the cave to visit him, you go out of the cave. Maybe there is a deep meaning behind that? I’m not entirely sure, but when Link does leave the cave for the first time and overlooks the Dueling Peaks, I was instantly reminded of the artwork from the original game. The Master Sword shooting projectiles when Link has full health is also a nice touch.

Though these references may be a nightmare for people who are keen on placing this game somewhere in the franchise timeline, I view it as essentially a conglomerate of pinnacle moments in the series. For me, this aspect of the game is delicious icing on an already incredibly built cake. This is a special game not only because of its top-notch design, but because it doesn’t forget about how it came to be in the first place.

Who Nintendo’s Target Audience REALLY Is

They would probably say the whole cheesy “5 to 105” line…


#515 – Who does Nintendo have in mind when they are developing their newest games? Is it people like you? Much younger? Older players? That’s the question that Simeon and Scott are examining in today’s episode of Two Button Crew!

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

ARMS Is The Next Street Fighter

Scott’s just dying to prove Simeon wrong on this one.


#513 – Don’t count ARMS out yet. A lot of thoughtful development is going into making this zany fighter a mainstay on Switch. With plenty of characters, modes, and customizations to choose from, the potential for competitive depth is bottomless.

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

Mario Kart Woes & Zelda Whoas

We’ve got better games to play than Mario Kart! Close your eyes and pick something off the eShop.


#510 – Zelda Breath of the Wild is a tough act to follow, and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe certainly falls short in that regard. The racing game has its charm and its place in the Switch owners’ collection, but it also has some major design problems that frustrate the player, and makes them want to go back to Zelda!

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

What Will Happen to “Handheld” Games on Switch?

Are we kissing handheld gaming goodbye?


#506 – The lines have been blurred. Where once there was a clear distinction between a home console title and a portable one, the Switch has made everything far more vague. Where will the sequels to Nintendo’s traditional handheld titles live? Will there be a price difference for these experiences on Switch? And what truly defines a handheld game in the current gaming generation? All this discussion, and more, in this episode of the Two Button Crew show.

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

Will ARMS be Competitively Deep?

Will ARMS have legs?


#505 – It’s the burning question on Nintendo fans’ minds as we approach E3 2017 – is the next first-party offering going to have enough depth to sink my teeth into? Is it worth the $60 price tag? In this show, Simeon and Scott examining the evidence to support both sides of the argument.

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