Was Animal Crossing almost Human Crossing? Files unearthed in the massive Nintendo “Gigaleak” suggest that homo sapiens were once intended to appear in the first entry of the popular life-sim series, a Japan-only release called Animal Forest.
Some background: Animal Forest—or Dōbutsu no Mori, in Japanese—released in 2001 on the N64. Later that year, it was expanded and re-released for the GameCube, and that’s the 2002 U.S. Animal Crossing you probably know and love. That’s the basic story, but if you’re looking for something more than a flash-pan retelling, check out this episode of Complete In Box:
In general, there are three truths baked into Animal Crossing’s DNA, all of which date back to that very first version of Animal Forest.
- One: You, a human, live in a rural town populated by anthropomorphic animals, where game time passes in real time and true fun only happens when a nudist canine shows up and whips out his six-string.
- Two: Tom Nook’s a dingus.
- Three: A human non-player character has never popped up in an Animal Crossing game.
That third truth is why the existence—or potential existence—of human characters in Animal Crossing is such a shock. If humans lived in Tom Nook’s depraved cultish enclaves from day one, would Animal Crossing even be Animal Crossing? How different would the paradigm for this beloved series be today?
One person, a game developer who’s known as TV, has been sharing Animal Forest files related to the Gigaleak on Twitter over the past week. Earlier this morning, he shared two modeled first-draft characters, Oba and Soldier.
“Soldier” is clearly wearing an outfit inspired by the Queen’s Guard, those silent, solemn soldiers that protect Buckingham Palace, Clarence House, and other official royal residences in the United Kingdom. Soldier may not have made it to the final version, but his outfit lived on. As pointed out by TV, Soldier’s uniform shows up in both the DS game Animal Crossing: Wild World and the Wii game Animal Crossing: City Folk. Copper and Booker, two guard dogs (literally, because Animal Crossing can’t resist a pun), wear nearly identical digs.
“Oba,” a character in traditional farmer attire, could be a reference to Joan, a turnip salesboar who’s been a regular presence in every game other than this year’s New Horizons. According to TV, “Oba,” in its full length, is “Obaba,” one of two names Animal Forest used internally for Joan. The other? “Kabu Peddler,” or “Turnip Peddler.” Whatever the case, Oba is likely just as silent as Soldier, on account of the fact that the bottom half of his face isn’t rendered.
These aren’t the first Animal Forest assets TV has shared. Earlier this week, among other discoveries, he also shed light on a feline character affectionately called Catty (file name: CAT13). [Correction — 07/30/20, 7:30 p.m. ET: The Bell Shrine referenced in a previous version of this article was not actually hidden or new, as it existed in Animal Forest and Animal Forest+.]
It’s fun to comb through first-draft Animal Forest assets and other reveals included in the so-called Gigaleak, even if we don’t quite know how it all came to see release. Right now, whoever knows is staying as silent as an unearthed human character from Animal Forest.