Well, here we are. It's been more than six months since Animal Crossing on Switch was announced, and Nintendo hasn't provided any additional details beyond the fact that A) It's real and B) It's releasing sometime this year.
It'd be difficult to imagine AC Switch won't be at E3 this year, and it's quite fun to imagine the ample Nintendo E3 show space giving it the Super Mario Odyssey treatment from 2017. Hopefully, we'll get a Nintendo Switch Animal Crossing release date plus a load of new gameplay details into the bargain at any rate.
Until then, it's time for complete speculation and wish-listing, talking about what we want to see from the new game and why.
From new tasks and public works projects to a revamped holiday system, what follows is but a sampling of some things we want to see in Animal Crossing on the Switch — whenever it gets here.
Including a town library could serve several different purposes, and I mean a real library, not just bookshelves in your house. The kind of library I'm envisioning is like an extension of the museum in terms of mechanics.
Players would come across books during their time on the town, and then they could be donated to the Library — or sold, of course, since this is Animal Crossing, and amassing Bells comes before altruism.
Crazy Redd could have forged copies of rare books as well, with the occasional legitimate copy thrown in for good measure, just like with paintings. But some could be bought from Nook's too or given as gifts to other villagers.
The books might have a practical function beyond just being collectibles. Including real books could possibly cause division for one reason or another, so these could act sort of like an expansion for the Animal Crossing world — books about bug catching, about raccoon/tanooki business...animals, even about town traditions and how kappa tend to be good at transportation services.
It could tie in with villager requests as well, for instance, returning a book on time or retrieving it from someone or someplace else.
The Library would need a staff member too. The crane is traditionally associated with solitude and would be a perfect fit for the librarian archetype. However, it would be nice to see more of Blathers's relatives show up too, for reasons we cover later in the piece.
The unfairly-reviled Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer might not have been what everyone wanted from a new Animal Crossing game, but it certainly took the series forward in terms of design and decorating.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf finally introduced touch screen furniture moving with the Welcome Amiibo expansion, but it needs to be there from the start in Animal Crossing Switch.
Apart from being an excuse to sell a specially themed stylus with the game, it's just a lot more convenient. I'm as nostalgic about the original Animal Crossing and all its quirks as any other longtime fan, but the dark days of pushing and pulling each piece of furniture really don't need to come back.
Completely revamping your house becomes so much more enjoyable when you can drag things around without moving your character, stack and hang things regardless of your own placement, and do it all quickly, so a redesign doesn't take an entire half hour or hour long play session.
There's more than that, though. Happy Home Designer finally let players decorate the outside of a house — just not their own houses. New Leaf's hedges and exterior facades are nice, for sure, but having a specific space outside you can decorate too opens up a whole new realm of possibilities and adds substantially to replay value.
The GameCube Animal Crossing introduced a variety of events each month, from the quirky aerobics exercise program to Tortimer's special lighthouse request, along with the usual big holidays. Special events have been a staple ever since.
However, most of them revolve around those big holidays and some minor ones like Nature Day; we haven't seen unique events related only to the town in a long time.
It doesn't have to be that way, though. Summer cookouts, the return of mushroom hunting or something unique to fall, more random events where you help special villagers out for a set time — all of these would give players a reason to jump back into their town more often.
What would be especially nice is redesigned older events, like Bright Nights and the Flower Fest from Wild World. On paper, these were excellent ideas, even if they did replace more interesting holidays like Toy Day.
In practice, they were incredibly annoying, since no one would do anything other than go on and on about lights and flowers for that week. Worst of all, the player can't even take part.
New Leaf made gardening more central with the Green Thumb ordinance and having NPCs take a greater interest in it in general. A bigger garden competition similar to the Chelsea Flower Show, or even a collaborative effort where everyone in town has to contribute, would be the next logical step.
A new version of Bright Nights could take advantage of outdoor decorating and let the player actually get involved this time too.
Image via YouTube
Most Animal Crossing games let you change the camera angle when you're inside your house or enter a building, City Folk and New Leaf let you look up from time to time, and that's about it. Otherwise, you get the same camera angle throughout the entire game.
That's not necessarily a bad thing, but even just a slight change can help make the entire game feel even more immersive and dynamic.
Wild World introduced a feature where it seemed as if you were walking on a globe as you progressed through your town. It helped make the world feel bigger, which was a good thing given how the maps were substantially smaller than the GCN version's maps.
Imagine taking that concept and then changing the camera angle so it's closer to being over the shoulder instead of top-down. Then, the world would literally unfold before you, as you make your way through the trees.
Even better would be if the camera is completely adjustable, like it is inside the player's New Leaf house.
Presumably, Animal Crossing Switch is going to boast a new visual style, and it'll be the first mainline AC game in HD. Even Amiibo Festival looked gorgeous, whatever its other faults were. A lush new world that hopefully looks even better than Amiibo Festival deserves to be experienced as fully as possible.
Animal Crossing doesn't change much in each iteration, which is fine for the most part. However, one thing that's stayed almost exactly the same since the beginning is how villager requests are handled and what you do for your neighbors.
The vast majority of requests revolve around finding or returning an item, with some fishing and bug catching requests thrown in for good measure. There are fossil requests too, but seriously — who gives up valuable fossils just to make their neighbors happy? Bells first, friendship later.
The system doesn't have to change drastically, but it would be nice to see some variation here and there.
One thing that'd be interesting is to expand on the NPC friendship aspect. Since Wild World, each game touches on the relationships villagers have with each other, and that could easily be added to by having you take on requests designed to help further those relationships somehow — finding out what that animal likes then giving them a specific gift, for instance.
Tailoring requests to villager personalities would add both variation to tasks and a bit more to each personality type. For example, grumpy characters could periodically have you write letters to other villagers they had a falling out with or peppy characters might have you design a new outfit just for them.
It wouldn't hurt to bring back random requests like fishing for lost keys either, just to add even further to the sense of daily life in your quaint animal town.
The GCN Animal Crossing gave us towns with layers. Depending on the layout, a town could have three tiers. Apart from that, the only difference in town style was where your pond was and sometimes where your stores would be, though Nook's and the Post Office were always somewhere in row A.
Since then, the main variations in town design have focused on positions of rivers or how close your house is to the stores, whether the beach is prominent, and things like that. Otherwise, it's down to the player to fancify their towns using custom patterns or going all-out with garden designs.
It's time for some new topography.
Hills or some kind of gradient slopes, secluded nooks on the beach, rocky terrain — just something extra to help change the experience up a bit and give more possibilities for public works placements, should those make a return.
Why stop there, though? If public works projects do make a return, it'd be great if they could be even bigger than before.
How about a boardwalk for the beach? Complete with pier, rides, and arcade games, all of which count as extras requiring funding, it'd be an excellent excuse to spend more time in the game and put that Bell hoard to good use.
Or even expand existing ones, like the campsite. That could turn into a multi-purpose campsite to attract other villagers and be a multiplayer area as well, with different features and games added on as separate mini-projects.
Every Animal Crossing game adds at least a few new furniture sets and some random items to an already-hefty catalogue of stuff you can deck your house out with. The Switch version will (hopefully) be no different. Like the expanding Pokedex, though, it can't be denied that after a while, keeping up with all those extras and picking what you want is a challenge in itself.
The Nook stores often don't help matters much, especially in New Leaf. I can't count the times I'd visit T & T Emporium only to see the same shelves, striped furniture, or robo-themed furniture over the three consecutive years spent in my town.
That's why Nook needs some competition. (The Re-Tail store doesn't count, since it's mostly for multiplayer or customization, and stock rotates very rarely.)
Introducing some additional stores that unlock depending on certain conditions being met or even introducing them as new projects would help give shopping a much-needed boost — and help players potentially get the furniture they want.
The stores could be themed, selling only furniture of a specific type — chairs, sofas, knickknack-y things — with other stores for wallpaper and flooring. Since the selection would be broader, it could rotate every few days or every week, to give players a chance at nabbing a long-desired item even if they don't have Bells that day, or, every AC fan's worst-case scenario, they forget to buy it.
It's always exciting to wonder what a new game in a favorite franchise might offer and speculate about how it may, or may not, innovate. Whatever Animal Crossing on the Nintendo Switch does or doesn't include, it'll be a day-one purchase for me. It's just that kind of timeless, universal series where even if only a few new things are included, the game is worth playing anyway.