Animal Crossing: New Horizons will be out in less than a month—on March 20, to be exact. It’s been seven years since the last mainline entry in the series, and as it moves forward and explores…new horizons, we thought we’d look back on some old features that haven’t returned and that we sorely miss. If you’re reading this, Nintendo, consider it an official request.
In the original Animal Crossing, you were able to do morning aerobic exercises with fellow villagers, as well as the esteemed Mayor Tortimer, from July 25 to Aug. 31. It’d take place in your village’s Wishing Well and was hosted by one of the only good cops, Copper. You’d head to the well between 6 a.m and 7 a.m to follow his lead with other villagers. When villagers would mess up, they would panic and sweat, which was always amusing and adorable. This is absolutely one of the fan favorite features of the series, so it’s a pity it was never brought back.
This was one of the most fun activities each year. It would occur twice—once in the fall and one in the spring. You didn’t actually participate in the events, which would be Aerobics, foot racing, ball tossing, and a game of Tug-o-War. But the joy and amusement was in seeing your fellow villagers compete against each other; in rooting for your favorite friends and feeling like you were part of this communal tradition. Also, they trip during the foot race. It’s funny. Like, really amusing.
One of the biggest criticisms that Animal Crossing: New Leaf received was that the villagers were too nice. In older entries, especially in the original, villagers weren’t afraid to act realistic. If you set up a time to hang out with them and you forgot, they would rightfully get mad or upset. If you failed to deliver an errand or hit them with a tool, they would get furious (again, obviously, rightfully). Perhaps to some they might have seemed a bit mean at times, especially the cranky and snooty villager types, but the villagers always had their moments of kindness even if they weren’t the nice type. It makes sense that they would treat you with respect and kindness since you’re, well, the Mayor, but I do miss the villagers having more depth and personality.
As cherry blossom petals would fall from the trees, villagers in the original Animal Crossing would set tables with pastries and snacks at the town’s Wishing Well. Villagers would laugh together and excitedly comment on the beauty of the trees. Mayor Tortimer would participate in the festivities too; he would even tell you a haiku. All future entries did away with the festival; by the time New Leaf came around, the only remnants left of the festival could be seen in the cherry blossom trees during the first ten days in April. Although it was a relatively insignificant event, it helped foster a sense of community that feels less present in newer entries.
The original Animal Crossing arrived during the early days of ‘80s nostalgia, when players in their early 20s were wistfully looking back at the original Nintendo and the childhood freedom they most likely took for granted and now missed dearly. Animal Crossing tapped into that by including a number of NES games from the 1980s. They could be found buried throughout the village, or won through Nook’s Lottery, and then you’d just place them in your house like you would any piece of furniture. There’s always something a little weird about playing a game inside of a game, but once you loaded up the NES titles they appeared on your TV as if you were just playing the original console. Few major NES classics were available, although it was still easy to neglect your animal friends and play Excitebike, Clu Clu Land or Balloon Fight for hours. This feature hasn’t returned in any of the subsequent Animal Crossing games; that makes some sense, as Nintendo has regularly rereleased all of these games for all of its systems since the Wii. At the time it was rare to have access to games like these outside of emulation or owning the originals, and that made it a big selling point for Animal Crossing.—Garrett Martin
In the original Animal Crossing, Gracie the giraffe would sometimes (illegally) park—just to be clear: she sometimes parks, but when she does, it is always illegally!—in your town. She would complain that her flashy red convertible with cheetah print on the seats was dirty and ask you to clean it. In return, if you made it shine, she’d give you a clothing item from the famous Gracie collection. I loved the simple but nonetheless stressful (at least for child me) mini-game, and, like Gracie, I wanted to be a semi-glamorous fashion icon. Her car in Wild World doesn’t look as ridiculous, which took away a bit of the fun, but I miss her ordering me to clean her car since the idea that she’d do it was preposterous, period.
It’s natural that the series’ trajectory has been toward one of more freedom and more things to do—that’s typically what happens with long-running videogame series. You were a mayor in New Leaf who could build town projects and decorate your town as you wished. While you’ll just be one of several people taking advantage of the deserted island getaway package in New Horizons, you’ll be able to do even more than as a mayor. You’ll get to pick where people’s houses will be built, create pathways, and even modify rivers and cliffs. Even though these options won’t be immediately available to you, you’re still able to get them eventually like some kind of Minecraft god. I miss when you were just one of several villagers making up a community—someone who wasn’t special in any particular way.
Natalie Flores is a freelance writer who loves to talk about games, K-pop and too many other things.