I’ve spent the past few days tossing and turning, restlessly trying to find a game to play. I opened up Borderlands 2, sank a couple of hours into it and haven’t played it since. I’ve considered buying Wargroove since I’m craving something akin to Fire Emblem but the pragmatist in me knows I have a massive backlog to clear before sinking money on a new game. I stopped by my Stardew Valley farm and milled about for a jiffy, eventually turning off my Switch and focusing my attention elsewhere.
Throughout all this, I’ve been craving a new Animal Crossing experience — I think that’s why I’ve been trying to play Stardew. Perhaps it’s the countless nights of studying I’ve spent recently, all the while listening to relaxing Animal Crossing music. Perhaps I am just feeling nostalgic, aimlessly wandering around because I can’t get my Animal Crossing fix. And to those who will undoubtedly say that I could just boot up the ol’ 3DS and play New Leaf, I say that I want to conserve my Animal Crossing energy until the Switch version comes out.
But while I mill around deflated at the thought of no announcement of a release date for Animal Crossing Switch, I want to dissect the why of it. What is it about this game that has managed to — unlike any other games — made me want to play it above any others? As I mentioned before nostalgia plays a huge part, and I’d like to explain that a bit. That said, for you, my attentive reader, to get into the same headspace as the one I have while writing this on a Saturday night, I’d like for you to do me a favor: please listen to the song below as you continue to read this piece.
Animal Crossing is my childhood. The relationship that I have with the game goes so far back that I seriously can’t even remember when I first got it. My parents must have bought it for me at some point in time, but as far as I know, the game was just there. The GameCube version of this franchise was a centerpiece in my childhood, one of my most played games along with Melee. Most weekends, my sister and I would snatch a kitchen timer undetected and bring it up to the living room with us. We’d set it for 30 minutes, and each of us would get a crack at Animal Crossing for that amount of time. Once the timer ran out, we’d switch memory cards and switch places.
When I think of Animal Crossing, I think of these memories. I remember logging into the internet and looking for how to fish an Arowana. I dutifully tried to fill out the Museum collection, and talked to my animal neighbors as much as possible. When I listen to the soundtrack, these memories flood back to me and they leave me in a nostalgic state. No wonder, then, that I am so attached to this franchise.
For some reason, I never owned Animal Crossing on the DS or the Wii. I’m not quite sure what happened; perhaps in my pre-teen mind, I figured I had gotten too old for the game. Still, I played the GameCube version occasionally. My next encounter with the franchise was not until New Leaf came out, and perhaps by fortunate timing, that game became a pivotal part of my growing up. Following a bad breakup that back then seemed to be the end of the world, I found comfort in New Leaf. Every time I traveled to Tortimer Island, Kapp’n’s song brought a smile to my face. The game radiated happiness and little by little I found myself being a bit happier, too.
Animal Crossing has a magic to it, a spark that caught my attention as a child and has still lingered on. It’s wish fulfillment, yes, but it’s also inner happiness. Perhaps it’s the happy chirps of the animals’ voices, or simply the popping colors of the game. For me, I think it’s the simplicity. Games are often complex, difficult, grindy. But not Animal Crossing. It is a game in which you input as much as you would like to, and the game will always have something to give back to you. As a player, you don’t have to collect every fish if you don’t want to, you don’t have to work shifts at The Roost Cafe if you’d like to do something else. You don’t even have to pay off your debt to Tom Nook! The game gives you a world and it is yours to inhabit, your choices and wants forever inscribed into your little, pixel town.
Now, as an adult, Animal Crossing represents that little slice of heaven that is so often not present in our life. It represents a simpler time, a simpler life. It makes light of living in debt, it provides you with a world full of people that are happy to see you, no matter what. For all those reasons, I can safely say that Animal Crossing will remain one of my favorite franchises.
So when the prospect of a new Animal Crossing game is announced, of course, I’m excited. If I’m being honest, no amount of hype generated from other games can beat the excitement I have for Animal Crossing. If it came down to it, I would sit in line for twelve hours just to buy the game before it sold out. I’ve been waiting patiently for the game for a long time now, and as it draws ever closer it’s hard to not be restless. So please, Nintendo: release Animal Crossing on the Switch, you cowards.