Main Series

The Evolution of Animal Crossing

Since Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer is coming out this week, I decided to review the main series to let time pass quickly. As we all know, the games tend to get better when it comes to features as the series progresses. I enjoy talking about the changes between each AC game, so I’m going to talk about how the series has changed over time here. I call this, The Evolution of Animal Crossing. From working for Tom Nook as tutorials to play the GameCube version to placing Public Works Projects, AC had a lot of changes. Remember when Resetti made you repeat what he said? Now he gets angry if you repeatedly hit the A button during his lectures. You may also remember how you need to walk to your gyroid assistant to save and quit. There’s no other way to save your game but hit the start button (or select button) in New Leaf. Sure you can find Bells by digging up shines in the ground. Now we can get ore by breaking rocks. You can see how they have changed over time, and that is what today’s entry is about.

The Box Theory:

The Box Theory is a theory I came up with back in the first month of ACNL. It’s a theory that describes how newer video games (more particularly customizing games like Minecraft and the tycoon games) have more features than the older games. The box represents the limits of playing the games. Without the box, you are free to do anything you want in the game, but that’s going to be too much work, as this is developer mode. That’s why there is a box. You can do what you want, but there is a limit.

The size of the box represents how many features you have when playing the game. The larger the box, the more features there are. That being said, a large box means there’s a lot more customization to do and more ways to playing the game, while a small box means there’s not much to do in the game. For example, let’s say that Roller Coaster Tycoon (an amusement park building game) had a smaller box. That means, you can only build the park by determining layouts. You can’t make your own queue lines, your own rides, your own buildings, or manage stores. You can only place rides, buildings, paths, some scenery, and modify terrain. Thankfully, there’s a larger box than that, even in the first RCT game. Not only you can make your own park, but you can make your own coasters, with many colors for tracks. In RCT3, the box is even bigger. It’s not much that there are more types of rides and more scenery, but there are more options, including slopes of paths and terrain, different items on the menus and stores, day/night mode, and even the coaster-cam. If the box was any bigger, there would be more than just what I named.

The Box Theory applies to Animal Crossing when it comes to the newer features in newer games. In case if you’re wondering what I mean, I’ll throw in a few examples.

  • Character Customization – in the GameCube Version, you can only change your character’s shirt. The pattern design applies everywhere, including the hat. In Wild World, hats are now optional, as you have different hats and accessories to choose from. Plus, you can change your hairstyle. In City Folk, the introduction of the shoeshine and Mii Masks expands the box by a little. Finally, in New Leaf, character customization expanded even more. There’s more than just more hairstyles and hair colors, but you can change eye colors. Plus, more clothes (like long sleeve shirts and skirts) are available, whether if it’s for body or for feet.
  • House Design – even if it wasn’t as good with the GameCube version, it was still a good feature for a long time. You had furniture placement, carpet and wallpaper modification, music players, and house expansion. However, you couldn’t change the basement’s carpet and wallpaper, as all four houses are always within the same acre. In Wild World, your house can be larger than before, and a few more series were introduced. Lamps can turn on and off, TVs have changing channels, and furniture pieces like the kitchen items and arcade items were added. In City Folk, all four humans live in four different locations in town. Other than the introduction of Gracie furniture and re-introduction of holiday furniture, there wasn’t anything new in home design. New Leaf took home design in a further direction. You can not only customize layout, but you can re-design furniture pieces. There’s also wall furniture, freedom of choosing where you can place your house, re-design of exterior (like changing fence and wall material), and six 8×8 rooms per house.
  • Museum and Tools – back when AC was new in the US, we only had four tools (shovel, net, fishing rod, and axe). Also, the only purpose of the museum is to donate artifacts. In Wild World, the Museum had more items to donate, as well as the observatory and Café. Plus, two new tools were added (watering can and slingshot). While the museum didn’t face any improvements in City Folk with the exception of donating more items, it did introduce silver tools and quick tool swap. New Leaf didn’t do much to improvement of the tools (except for making the golden axe easier to obtain), but it did introduce another museum feature, which was custom exhibits. Not only that, but the Café had a feature where you can work.

As stated before, that’s what the box theory is. With those three examples, the box that describes the GameCube version seems small because of how you can only change the character’s shirt, as well as minimal interior design features, four tools to use, and just donating to the museum. As the series progressed, the box got bigger because of the more features added to the game. Stuff like adding more furniture to use and adding more fish to donate doesn’t expand the box, but it adds variety. Stuff like more clothing types (tops, bottoms, dresses, socks, shoes etc.) and more tools does expand the box, because it adds more gameplay/customization features. With New Leaf, the box is much bigger than ever. With customizable furniture and exteriors, changing a lot of the character’s appearance, six tools with three versions per tool, and more museum features, the box appears to have expanded from the beginning. If expanded further, there would be more features than that. Examples would be different lengths for dresses, shorts, and skirts, donation of other artifacts like gyroids and minerals, house front yards and back yards, and the kind of furniture placement like what we’ll be seeing in ACHHD.

Character, House, and Items:

Like described above when discussing the box theory, we started out with limited customization of character and houses. As the series progressed, we had more to do. It started out with where you can only change the shirt patterns. In the next game, you can change hairstyle, hats, facewear, and shirts. The next game was the same, except for the shoeshine. In the last game, we can wear shirts (three sleeve lengths) and bottoms (pants, shorts, skirts), dresses (three sleeve lengths), socks/tights, and shoes/boots. Your character can even be barefooted, as head customization includes eye color. In relationship to furniture, we had furniture placement, carpet and wallpaper, and different types. Certain pieces had new features in the next game as more items were being added. At the end, furniture can be modified at the Re-Tail, as stuff like wall furniture was introduced.

The Town Community:

Back in the GameCube days, it used to be that Tom Nook sold everything, as well as done other things. The Able Sisters could only have you design patterns. The museum was only for donations. And the rest had their own features as well (like the Post Office had mailing and paying rent). We had eight buildings in town, unless if you want to count the lighthouse and the island dock, which is ten.

In Wild World, the clothing department branched off from Tom Nook as the Able Sisters does all of the clothing options. But Tom Nook still sold furniture, carpets, wallpaper, and other items he sold in the GameCube Version. At the same time, Harriet, the hair stylist, worked for Nookington’s. The museum introduced the observatory and café. The dump, the Post Office, and the wishing well combined into one big building – Town Hall. The Train Station and Police Station combined into the Town Gates. So there were more features, but less buildings. And throughout the entire time you play ACWW, you have to be in town, whether if it’s inside or outside.

In City Folk, the hair salon split off from Nookington’s, making Tom Nook only selling what he sold in Wild World. Meanwhile, the Able Sisters isn’t next to Nook’s store. The others probably stayed the same, but the Town Hall introduced the ABD, where house payments and bank accounts can be accessed. Plus, the city was introduced, hence its name.

When New Leaf came out, the Town Hall has split once again. The dump feature is now in one type of furniture piece instead of a building. Town Hall, Plaza, and Post Office are three different buildings while more features (like Public Works Projects and Ordinances) are introduced. Tom Nook’s Store has split once again, this time kicking him out of his shop. Now Tom Nook only does house debts and remodeling like he always did, but with more options. The Happy Room Academy he tried to promote is part of his housing shop. Now Timmy and Tommy owns the furniture store, which sold everything Tom Nook’s store sold, except for plants, which was moved to the gardening store. The furniture store also doesn’t accept turnips anymore. Reese, who also has her own shop, took care of the selling and turnip prices. The hats, umbrellas, and accessories were still part of the Able Sisters, but only Labelle sold them. This explains how Tom Nook’s Store from the GameCube Version has split apart over time. The Museum and Café have also split apart, while both having their own new features. And the Train Station and Police Station are once again, their own locations.

Animal Interactions:

Although I liked the GameCube version’s way of chatting the most, I did like how animals would want to grab your attention in newer games. Conversations have been the same, but animals have been much nicer over time. If you went all the way back in the GameCube version, you could see how much it has changed. Animals back then used to be a lot meaner than in New Leaf. If you reject a Cranky villager’s request in the GameCube version, the will respond in anger, and will not calm down until later. Now they don’t show emotion if you reject their favors, at least in New Leaf. They were a lot meaner in the older games, as well as the Snooty villagers. In fact, even Normal villagers weren’t as nice back then. And the two animals that were the meanest in the GameCube version are Resetti and Phyllis. You can remember how mean those two were in the older games. They’re not even as mean now. Phyllis isn’t as rude as she used to be, and Resetti was more sympathetic if you reset due to battery outage, game freeze, or accidental quit without saving.

Not to mention, animals were more frustrating in the older games, especially in the GameCube version. They would repaint your roof without your permission, they would unexpectedly move out without you stopping them, and they could force you to giving them your bells or items. In Wild World, they were a little nicer, but if you ask what nickname they came up with, they will force it upon you. It will even spread without your permission. But when they pack up without giving you a notice, you can stop them from moving. In City Folk, they made nicknames optional rather than forced. And in New Leaf, animals will let you know that they’re moving before they pack up. Isabelle even lets you know that someone is moving in or out. Not only that, but if you talk to an animal too much, they’ll try to repulse you without showing anger.

Another change in ACNL was that two new personalities were introduced. The male villagers has a combo of Jock, Lazy, and Cranky while the female villagers has a combo of Peppy, Normal, and Snooty.

Other Changes:

Animal Crossing wasn’t just limited to enhancing features and adding more buildings, items, and villagers. It also had some features exclusive to every game. Examples:

  • The GameCube Version had NES games and journals.
  • Wild World had Wi-Fi games and Boondox.
  • City Folk had the city and auctions.
  • Aside to the multiple new features that enhanced the older features, New Leaf had town sharing, achievement system, and Streetpass.

It’s quite amazing how the series changed over time. I would recommend not playing the older games once you’re used to New Leaf, because if you are used to New Leaf, you could see how the older games, more particularly the GameCube version, aged badly. Aside to the spin-offs, I wonder what the next game would be like. Would there be a 360° camera rotation outside? Can you decorate PWPs like you can modify furniture? Do you get to specifically pick what times each business opens? We may never know.


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