Animal Crossing: New Horizons’ manga remedies one of the game’s enduring complaints, and it shows potential for how the game can improve.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons has proven itself to be one of the most beloved entries in the charming life simulator series. Released in 2020, New Horizons still sees plenty of success even today. It evolved the series from a life sim to an open-ended sandbox where players are free to create their dream island, and it’s received a lot of praise for this. However, while one part of the game evolved, another seemed to falter in comparison: the villagers.
Thanks to their colorful personalities and unique dialogue, villagers are part of what makes the gameplay loop of Animal Crossing so engaging for many players. From funny stories about their day-to-day living to weirdly profound life advice, villagers are the heart and soul of Animal Crossing. But this uniqueness has been absent from New Horizons, making it a common complaint online within the fanbase. This is where the manga Animal Crossing: New Horizons: Deserted Island Diary succeeds over the game, as it provides a comically exaggerated version of certain villagers that seeks to give them back their individuality.
The Manga Shows What Villagers Could Be Like
One of the most popular villagers online for his crisp looks and smug attitude, Raymond makes his appearance in the manga in a form completely different from the game. In the manga, he appears as a complete narcissist, obsessed with looking at himself in any way possible. His obsession with himself sees him going as far as painting himself in gold and posing for Blathers’ museum as his magnum opus. The manga shows a side of Raymond utterly absent from the game, showing a more nuanced side of him as opposed to the smug personality trait the game reduces him to.
The same can be said for Lucky, who, in the manga, is portrayed as a parody of slasher film villains in the eyes of the protagonists. Of course, he is not trying to harm anyone, as every attempt is just his way of being kind to the manga’s protagonists. For example, his bath is a flaming hot cauldron, and he serves ice cream from a coffin. In-game, Lucky suffers the same fate as Raymond, being relegated to the lazy personality type and thus only interacting with the player in a specific way.
There Is Potential for Personality Diversity
When looking at these two examples, the game suddenly feels lacking in how it handles villager interactions and personalities. This may be attributed to the fact that, out of the 400 villagers in New Horizons, only eight personalities are distributed among them. These personalities have set dialogue pools that cycle throughout interactions. However, many find that these repeat frequently and result in boring interactions. An update in 2021 secretly readjusted the dialogue system, but this change was not enough for many players.
With only eight personality types and a steadily increasing roster, it may be time to change how villagers work in Animal Crossing, and the manga emphasizes this. The manga shows how dynamic the villagers can be in the right situation. Of course, adapting the manga to the game would be nearly impossible, as each villager would need a unique personality. However, adding more personality types may be more plausible for the development team. This is only a band-aid solution, so taking villager design into account (like how the manga does with Lucky) may also work.
How Different Designs Could Improve Villagers
Like Lucky, other villagers fall into a design theme, and these themes could act similarly to the personality groupings. For example, the superhero-themed villagers could have unique interactions, like uncovering their secret identities. The same could be said for food-themed villagers and villagers who look like or are robots. The developers could design different visual-based categories that could interact with new personalities to create an even more extensive array of unique dialogue and interactions.
New Horizons is a significant step forward for the series in terms of giving the players tools to design their ideal getaway. However, the series needs to remember that not just the player inhabits the town. If the series wants to continue to prosper, it should turn its attention back to its colorful characters. Villagers are a crucial part of Animal Crossing‘s identity. They deserve to be fleshed out to give them a sense of individuality rather than relying on a small selection of preset personalities.