There's nothing quite like strolling along the creek bed in the wee hours of the morning and just enjoying the atmosphere of your own little slice of life. The sky rolls with the ground as you walk and an occasional shooting star illuminates a small part of the night.
That's what you get with Animal Crossing. It's a simple game about enjoying a simple life.
Like other Nintendo franchises, Animal Crossing's simplicity has inspired dozens of independent projects over the years as developers brought their love for the series into their own games. While they aren't directly emulating Animal Crossing with these projects, they do try to carry over the same relaxing vibe that Animal Crossing is known for.
"After an intense round of PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds or Red Dead Redemption 2, there's nothing like walking around town, chatting with the villagers, and working towards expanding your house," David Wehle, creator of the popular indie game The First Tree, told SYFY WIRE. "It's a stop-and-smell-the-flowers kind of game, which is a perfect experience for playing on-the-go."
With Animal Crossing headed to the Nintendo Switch in 2019, SYFY WIRE asked Wehle and other developers of cozy, Animal Crossing-esque games (the real experts) about what they want from a new Animal Crossing installment.
EXPAND THE PUBLIC WORK SYSTEM
The ability to choose, fund, and place public works projects throughout your village was a huge element in Animal Crossing: New Leaf. Adding a mini Eiffel Tower to a completely operational cafe worked on so many levels. These served as goals to work towards and added a bit of personality to each town.
"Being able to direct the evolution of your town through public works projects is something I really liked about the series and we have a somewhat similar set of systems in Ooblets," Ooblets designer Ben Wasser says. "I hope [that] gets expanded on a bit in the next iteration."
A Switch version would hopefully expand this feature by giving you more projects, a greater variety of places you can put them, and more ways to interact with them when you walk by. It'd be great to see some classic town installments return, as well.
"One minor feature that I really, really like is the town dump/recycling bin. It's just one of those little things that give the town life and a story that extends beyond what the player influenced," Mineko's Night Market developer Brent Kobayashi says. "Who threw this armchair away and why? Did they get a better chair? Are they opposed to chairs? What is their story?"
MAKE RELATIONSHIPS MORE MEANINGFUL
Getting to know the variety of colorful animals scattered around your little village has been a hallmark of the series. Even though that relationship can be one-sided sometimes (I'm not delivering a package to your next door neighbor, Apollo), it still feels nice to grow close to those quirky eagles, frogs, and cats.
"To me, Animal Crossing is entirely about relationships," Kobayashi says. "I'd love for them to expand on that by even deeper interactions with the villagers such as being able to go on playdates and games you can play with villagers."
New Leaf scaled back some of the variety and range your animal neighbors had, making their personalities somewhat bland. It'd be great to get the variety of the original game restored with a little extra spice added to mix things up.
"But maybe more important than that, I want to feel like the town is more alive even without me in it. I want to be a bystander in this village," Kobayashi says. "I want to witness other villager relationships forming and see the growth of NPCs. I'd love to see them with dreams of their own and actually get to be there when they reach these goals."
Villagers should be able to build relationships, and maybe even move in together, all on their own. The days where you come back and the only thing anyone focuses on is you should be over.
UTILIZE NINTENDO SWITCH HARDWARE
Portability with HD graphics, HD rumble, and motion controls are a few things that stand out on Switch hardware. While Wehle and other developers don't think the game should change around features like these, they could work well in spades.
"I don't think it can get more obvious than this: use the interconnected Switch console tech they used for Super Mario Party to let you visit your friend's towns," Wehle says. "I'm really hoping we see way more multiplayer options and online connectivity."
Super Mario Party's Toad Rec Room mode allows two Switch screens to be joined together for tabletop gaming. Among these games are Banana, Split, a game in which you try to connect different parts of bananas by rotating the screen, and Shell Shocked Deluxe, a game in which tanks fight on a map stretched out across both screens.
Adding the simple ability to connect two villages by connecting the screens would allow villagers to stroll through the gate into their friend's town. It doesn't have to stop there as the functionality could be used for mini-games and other multiplayer features as well.
FOCUS ON THE PERSONAL ELEMENT
Animal Crossing has always had a big social element to it. Population Growing had four houses for four individual players; you could hop online and visit your friend's town in Wild World; you could compete in a number of mini-games on New Leaf's tropical island.
But the core of Animal Crossing, for many people, has been experienced alone.
"It isn't a massively multiplayer online game — most of the fun and memories are derived from your personal experience with the world and its inhabitants," Kobayashi says. "Minor online interactions, like the ability to share your custom designed patterns, would be fun. But nothing more than that."
KEEP A SLOW PACE
There's nothing like waking up each morning to check Nook's store, meander across the beach, and shake a few trees. It's a relaxing routine that's always been at the core of the series — and something this new iteration shouldn't stray far from.
"I don't think they need to add anything jarringly new for this new version, I think just bigger and better would be more than enough for fans," Wehle says. "I hope they add more events and holidays, that always makes it fun to check in on your town. Those random events usually make the most memorable moments for me."
No one is saying that Nintendo shouldn't innovate — because they should and will. But I think everyone can agree that the same core, real-time experience would be lovely on Nintendo's newest console.
"I'm a big fan of the real-time gameplay that encourages people to play at a healthy, slower pace," Wasser says. "It seems like every game these days feels the need to do the exact opposite and hook everyone and never let go, but having a game that you don't need to devote your every waking hour to hopefully still has its place."
Animal Crossing is coming to Nintendo Switch in 2019.