If the development of the city and building relationships in Animal Crossing: New Horizons laid the groundwork for an archetypal JRPG story, it could have been the most heartbreaking JRPG of all time. Animal Crossing games are a relaxed life simulator, and the lack of high stakes is one of the main features of the series. In New Horizons, players go to an uninhabited island and turn it into a full-fledged city inhabited by charming talking animals. Many typical stories of Japanese role-playing games begin with showing the life of the main character in the same quiet rural village before the disaster breaks out. These peaceful hometowns are often destroyed as a result of an attack by monsters or the evil empire in such narratives, which prompts the beginning of the heroic journey of the protagonist. Some gamers are already speculating about what might be in the next Animal Crossing instead of islands as the central theme, but very few players will be ready for the tragedy of the invasion of goblins and orcs.
While there are some JRPGs that throw the player into action in media resolution, a more traditional format involves establishing a status quo that is disrupted by some malicious force or unexpected circumstance. This category is present in many Dragon Quest games, the most iconic series of traditional role-playing games in Japan, as well as in other classic genres, such as Chrono Trigger. The Festival is a common plot device used at the beginning of such games, as the hero of Dragon Quest 6 is asked to receive the Spirit Crown needed for the Village Luck Festival when they first enter the Dream World. Similarly, Chrono Trigger begins with Chrono attending the Millennial Fair when Marl is transported back in time for the first time. It’s not hard to imagine that Animal Crossing Bunny Day eggs are hidden in preparation for the arrival of Zipper T. Bunny when something even more terrifying is approaching, like an angry red dragon or a fleet of airships with a magic engine.
The idea of turning Animal Crossing into a JRPG was popularized by a recent tweet from @LonelyGoomba: “After 5 years of playing Animal Crossing, your city should be attacked by an evil wizard, and everything will burn down. Then you have to embark on an epic quest to save the world. That’s when the real game begins. This is the most exciting introduction to JRPG.” The five-year prologue to the heroic JRPG adventure goes far beyond even the longest games, of course. Dragon Quest 7, one of the longest games in the legendary series, still showed only about two hours of preparation for its first battle.
Some JRPGs have mini-games for building cities in the style of Animal Crossing
Reflecting on five years of communication with the inhabitants of the animal village and the construction of the island city before its destruction, it can be assumed that by the time the epic plot unfolds, the main character will have aged out of the childish human avatar ACNH. On the birthday of the player K.K., Slider has a birthday surprise in ACNH, but it consists of music and good mood of the residents of the city, and not from some apocalyptic event or a startling revelation. The most recent eleventh Dragon Quest game, Echoes of an Elusive Age, begins with the hero’s coming-of-age ceremony in the village of Cobblestone, during which the true origin of the protagonist is revealed. Given the player’s ability to change the shape of the earth and the flow of rivers in ACNH, it is not surprising if Tom Nook reveals the truth about the player’s origin from an elemental or demigod on his birthday.
Not every JRPG is focused on the destruction of a city, and some even offer a limited taste of the urban-planning gameplay of Animal Crossing. The original Dark Cloud combined a standard dungeon crawler with a city construction simulator, and Breath of Fire 2 also included a mini-city construction game along with a traditional turn-based JRPG epic. Although the cities in Dragon Quest 11 are pretty good, none of them can compare to the player’s own ACNH city, built with the power of DIY and friendship. Hybrid role-playing games, in which the development of the city is combined with the fight against monsters and dungeon exploration, continue to find an audience, for example, My Time At Portia. Fortunately, none of these games destroys the player’s hard-earned creations just to increase the dramatic stakes of the story. For the best that Animal Crossing: New Horizons remains a relaxing break from the stresses of life, protected from the threats of wizards and JRPG monsters.