The wonderful world of communication and connectivity in Animal Crossing
The upcoming Animal Crossing New Horizons seems to have some weird and strange rules about save files and transferring data. However, this is nothing new, “weird” and “strange” are the perfect ways to describe some of the things that Nintendo have done with Animal Crossing and communication between systems, games and the internet in the past. With the technology of the time, Animal Crossing has managed to do things very differently for a number of different features, even as far back as the GameCube.
Let’s have a look through the wonderful world of communication and connectivity in Animal Crossing.
We all know the GameCube’s history with online support (or lack thereof), so what about if you wanted to gift your friend an item on the other side of the world, or even down the street? All you had to do was head into Nook’s shop, create a 28 character code and send it along with your town name to your friend (probably over MSN Messenger). That unique code can then be used at your friend’s Nook store to get said item.
Luckily (or perhaps unfortunately for Nintendo anyway) an entire list of universal codes was eventually discovered, and you could just get any item you wanted easily. There were also secret codes for unlocking more NES Games, and for receiving items from villagers. You would need the code from the back of an eReader card. Once you mailed the code (in-game) to that villager, you’d then get a new item the next day. See, easy!
Visiting a friend’s town in Animal Crossing is a bunch of fun for many different reasons. You get to meet new people and villagers, there are different items in Tom Nook’s store, and most importantly, there may be different fruits growing on the trees. Taking them back to your own town and selling them for a greatly inflated price was a sure-fire way of making a quick profit.
Despite the GameCube’s spotty history with online, there were still two ways to visit another village. Method one requires you to have a second memory card, and since Animal Crossing came with one – you likely already had one for all your other games anyway.
In the game you speak to Porter who makes travel data on the second memory card, you then put your friend’s memory card in slot A and play from there. The other way is a little easier and just involves your friend putting their card in the second memory card slot and you visit from there in your game.
See it’s all very cool and totally makes sense.
Passwords, memory cards – that’s all very ancient technology. What about physical cards with dot codes that have data on them. That’s modern and cool right? Well, maybe in 2002 it was – but really it wasn’t.
Animal Crossing had a number of eCard series printed for it. You scanned them into the game via the eReader machine in the in-game post office. To use the eReader with the GameCube you had to, of course, have the Gamecube to Gameboy Advance cable, as well as the eReader itself.
At the end of the day, there were more than 300 Animal Crossing eReader cards across four series of cards released.
Scanning a card in a game led to a few different outcomes, all of which depending on which card you had scanned. Some characters just gave you a letter from that character in your mailbox with an item, some of them gave you an NES game to play inside the game and some of them were just for patterns to wear or place in the game.
It’s the early 2000s version of amiibo cards!
Again using the Nintendo GameCube Game Boy Advance cable you could set sail with Kapp’n to a tropical island where you can go fishing, catch bugs and decorate a bungalow. You didn’t play as your character instead of you’re a floating hand interacting with the sole character on the island, catching bugs and more. You could only get Kapp’n to take you to the island with the Game Boy connected.
Once you return to your town on the GameCube your Island will live on in the temporary memory storage of your Game Boy Advance. You can play with your islander, keep them happy – just don’t turn off your Game Boy Advance or they’re gone forever. You could also exchange your island with a friend using a Game Boy Advance Link cable if you really wanted to.
Finally, speaking to Mabel whilst having a Game Boy Advance connected to the GameCube also opened a pattern designer function on the system. So, if you really wanted to design a pattern on a Game Boy Advance on a tiny screen you could.
With the creation of the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection for the very first time, you visit a friends town from the other side of the world. All you had to do was open your Town Gate and let your friends flow through. Provided you had their friend code.
Animal Crossing Wild World was only the second Nintendo DS game to feature online connectivity. Four players could explore one village at any one time – hopefully, you trusted these people as your perfectly manicured gardens could be ruined, trees could be chopped down and more. Luckily these people had to be your “friends” to do this right? You could also receive patterns, items, letters from friends and Nintendo. Because of the rudimentary online the Nintendo DS had you would have to “go online” and wait for possibly someone to drop by.
Playing Animal Crossing, opening the gates and using forums to coordinate meetups might seem like ancient times – but it was fun. At least it was fun until Nintendo shut off the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection in 2014 and your village is now closed to the world forever.
Before StreetPass, there was tag mode, a passive online mode that allowed you to post out a message in a bottle at the beach and perhaps get one back among other things.
You would have to manually put your DS in tag mode and hope that the letter you sent out got picked up by someone else who also had their DS in Tag Mode. Rover would tell if you were lucky enough to find someone. This mode while rudimentary setup StreetPass for New Leaf.
If you’re beginning to sense of theme here, you’re not wrong. Nintendo puts out a lot of hardware that features one or two little things that get used once and never really gets used again. However, some of these features are often incorporated in later systems with a wider application. Wii Speak and voice chat in Animal Crossing is the epitome of this.
Wii Speak connected to the Wii via USB, sat on the top of your TV and allowed you to talk to your friends in-game for the very first time. Any friend in your village who also had Wii Speak could be heard. Like all other Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection services it too no longer functions, and Animal Crossing hasn’t had voice chat since – maybe that’ll change with New Horizons?
Along with pretty much the same online system as the DS version of the game, City Folk also had the addition of Wii Connect 24. Basically, your Wii always connected to the internet and you could receive in-game data and messages from friends even when the system was off.
Despite having almost the same way to play locally and online as the Wild World, New Leaf introduced a number of new ways to play with your friends – some of them interesting – some of them just alright.
Like the Tag Mode before it (albeit running passively in sleep mode no matter what game is loaded) Street Pass in Animal Crossing swaps not only villagers with passers-by but also other people’s homes. Yes, empty the litter tray, and pick up the rubbish because your home could end up in someone else’s game.
Once Street Pass’d, you’d be able to find other players towns in the Happy Home Showcase in the Main Street. You’d then get items for each time you connect with someone and be able to explore their house. You can’t take items from other people’s home but could instead order them.
While you’re here, let’s look around Reggie Fils-Aime’s house…
What if you want to visit a friend’s house but they’re not online? Why not visit them in a dream. Using a Dream-ID you can visit a dream version of another players town and take a look around, but you can’t bring anything back except for patterns. You may also find people’s Dream-ID’s from Street Passing them as well.
Aside from the general fun and tomfoolery, you can have in Animal Crossing just by visiting another person village, New Leaf added Island Tours to the game. Island Tours consisted of multiplayer minigames like shooting down the most balloons, catching the most bugs, diving, playing hide and seek, gardening and more. You could choose to play these by yourself but they were much better with friends.
Animal Crossing New Leaf made it super easy to not only visit another friend’s town but also share parts of it with your mates as well. Using QR codes and the inbuilt cameras in the Nintendo 3DS you could share custom works of art, clothing patterns and even titles for the ground. You were able to unlock this feature eventually after bothering Sable in the Able Sisters for ten days in a row. Poor Sable.
Entire blogs, websites and forums were dedicated to creating fashions and outfits – even Nintendo made some.
The Wii U never got an Animal Crossing game, we all know the reason why. We did, however, get a hint at what it might look like in the Animal Crossing Plaza.
This ‘extension’ of Miiverse allowed you to share your Dream Address, favourite characters, birthday and more. You could also post to Miiverse and interact with the characters in the plaza. The ‘game’ acted more like a Wii U based hub than an actual game and really wasn’t anything useful without New Leaf. The best feature was being able to take your SD card from your 3DS and put it into the Wii U to share your images.
It has since, along with the rest of Miiverse been shut down but in 2013 it gave a glimpse into what HD Animal Crossing would look like.
Happy Home Designer was a weird game, it was Animal Crossing but just the designing your room part of it. You didn’t just make rooms to look good either, you had to make them have a theme so others could judge you. The one great thing Happy Home Designer did was redo the controls for how to move things around in houses using the touch screen.
This was an entirely packaged game available at full price as well. For the absolute die-hards only. It also supported amiibo… which we’ll cover now.
Like the eReader cards before it, Nintendo would go onto to release not only a number of amiibo figures for Animal Crossing but also a series of cards.
All in all, there were 16 different Animal Crossing amiibo and over 400 different amiibo cards. Not only that, Nintendo actually reissued Animal Crossing New Leaf as a new game with a “Welcome amiibo!” subtitle, everyone who bought it digitally got a free update.
It was a pretty hefty update adding Wisp’s Wishes to the game, the RV Campground that would later feature in the mobile game, new mini-games were added and there was also an amiibo camera to take photos with the inbuilt camera on the system.
The Animal Crossing amiibo and amiibo themselves came out around the same time as the New Nintendo 3DS. This new console had NFC built into it so you could scan your amiibo figures or cards through the bottom screen. If you didn’t have a ‘New’ Nintendo 3DS then you had to have one of these.
This infrared enabled NFC reader would scan the amiibo and beam the information to your Nintendo 3DS.
Nintendo even went so deep with Animal Crossing amiibo that it released a whole board game about it – Animal Crossing amiibo Festival – but probably the less said about that one the better.
So, for almost 20 years Animal Crossing has been pushing different ways of not only communication but connectivity. Usually with the help of some plastic accessories but not always. Animal Crossing has pushed into new online arenas for Nintendo but ultimately, it’s set out to get people communicating. It’s just done it a whole lot of different ways.
What will New Horizons bring? We’ve not got long until we find out.