Almost eight million copies of Animal Crossing: New Leaf have been sold to date. It’s also outpacing, of all games, Sony’s exceptional The Last of Us. Believe me when I say that it’s not a fluke either, as the Animal Crossing series continues to grow and innovate with each and every installment. New Leaf, which is the latest Animal Crossing game, is the pinnacle of the series, which is a big part of the reason so many players have embraced it. There are still a few areas, though, where Animal Crossing could stand to see some tweaks and improvements made. Let’s break down what Nintendo can do to make the next installment of the series sell even better!
Put Mii in the Game
One of the things that disappoints me with each subsequent Animal Crossing release is that there’s no way of truly customizing the Villager to be more like, well, me. Or you. Or anyone else who’s playing. Now, for all intents and purposes, the fact that Nintendo has kept him (and the girl Villager) looking largely the same between installments does imply that we’re supposed to interpret him as a character and not necessarily a true avatar of ourselves. That would be easier to accept if the game didn’t make personalization such a huge part of the experience.
There is some customization, but it’s limited. Players are able to influence subtle changes to the Villagers’ faces and hairstyles when the game starts, and once the hairdresser Harriet arrives, they can even throw the face of a Mii on, instead. Still, there’s something cold and impersonal about it all. My Mii face’s skin doesn’t quite mesh with the pale skin of the Villager, but for someone a darker shade of brown or black, it really looks off and pulls you out of the game. For a series that pushes individuality, the most important thing, the main character, is very restrictive. I think the next Animal Crossing would benefit greatly from much more robust and inclusive character creation, or true, full Mii integration. If Tomodachi Collection can do it, Animal Crossing can, too!
Bring Back the Video Games
I enjoyed how the GameCube installment of Animal Crossing had a ton of classic NES games available to play. It was in the days before the Virtual Console, so Nintendo was more inclined to give the titles away as freebies (essentially), which is part of the reason I suspect they’ve been absent ever since. There could be a happy compromise for players, though, if classic consoles could be bought in-game and then act as conduits to/emulators of whatever VC games the player has saved on the console. So, if I have Metroid on my Wii U’s VC, for example, and buy an NES in-game (with Bells, not real cash!), I can access Metroid through the NES I just bought. It could also draw more people to the service if the console leads to the eShop to buy more games.
More Interactive Items
This sort of goes along with bringing the video games back, but it would be wonderful if the next Animal Crossing made the items more than just lifeless props. I realize that not every item would be able to do something, but there’s real possibility to interject more activities into the game via the items themselves. The karaoke machine, for instance, could be tapped to prompt a simple rhythm game; if you have someone visiting, maybe it could turn two player! Have the pinball machine bring up an actual, simple pinball game. The possibilities are endless and wouldn’t require all that much effort to put in. I know sandbox games like Grand Theft Auto do it all the time, so there’s no reason Animal Crossing can’t.
There are some neighbors who move in that just stink, but others are so cute and adorable that I never want them to leave. New Leaf‘s StreetPass feature allowed players to select the model homes they wanted to stick around forever, so I say do something similar with the neighbors in town. A checkbox or menu option that allows the player to say they want neighbors x, y, and z to never move would free people from the needless fear of missing a day in the game only to find their favorite friend is gone forever. I do enjoy seeing new people come through town (which in turn opens the possibility of making new friends), but when I get a group of characters who make it a joy to turn on my 3DS every day, I don’t want to see them go. Animal Crossing is the ultimate escape, so it should also let me leave behind the impermanence of real life if choose. If Tex moves, I’ll be depressed for days, dang it!
More Freedom With Public Works Projects
It was a brilliant move to allow players to put items like benches, light poles, and even entire structures onto the landscape of their towns. What wasn’t brilliant was capping how many and being so restrictive about where they went. I can see not being able to build twelve coffee shops, but there’s no reason to limit more innocuous things like lights. In the future, players should be able to place items where they want on a simple grid, not be limited as to how many of an item exist within town, and offer more customization of those items. Basically, I should be able to make a mini park with multiple benches of the color of my choosing! I’d also appreciate options like laying roads or sidewalks without having to put down a thousand custom patterns, instead.
Small changes, certainly, but I believe the enjoyability of Animal Crossing would skyrocket because of them. The series continues to evolve and address players’ needs, but these are issues I’d prefer not to wait much longer for. Here’s hoping the next Animal Crossing is as enchanting and fun as New Leaf!