With 5 games in the main series and over 7 other spin-off titles and mobile apps, Animal Crossing is one of the most popular and longest-running Japanese video game franchises of all time. In total, the franchise has sold over 30 million copies of their games, with the most popular being Animal Crossing Wild World (Nintendo DS) and New Leaf (Nintendo 3DS). Despite the popularity of the games, many people don’t know that there is a different Animal Crossing Japanese name for the game.
The Animal Crossing Japanese Name
In Japan, the Animal Crossing game is known as Doubutsu No Mori (どうぶつの森). To break that title down, Doubutsu (どうぶつ) means “animal,” no (の) means “of,” or used to show possession, and mori (森) means “forest”.
In English, the full title translates to “animal forest,” which makes a lot of sense seeing that the game is set in a village full of anthropomorphized animals. As you know, once the game was ported to other countries, it was renamed as Animal Crossing.
The Origins of Animal Crossing
Japanese game developers often make name changes when porting titles into English for various countries. While the exact reasons for the change from the Animal Crossing Japanese name hasn’t been publicized, there are obvious connotations in the English name that are not present in the original Japanese name.
Firstly, crossing could be a reference to the cross between animals and humans in the game. Seeing cute furry animals walking around as the town mayor, shop keepers, and your neighbors is one of the staples that make the game unique from The Sims and other life simulators. Secondly, “crossing” literally means “a place where roads cross”. At a crossing, you can continue on the path you're currently on, or take a turn and head in a different direction. Metaphorically, a crossing could represent a place or time in your life where you have to make an important decision. This representation of important or turbulent times in one’s life lies at the heart of Animal Crossing’s origin story.
What was the inspiration behind Animal Crossing?
The acclaimed creator of Animal Crossing is Katsuya Eguchi, who has Star Fox, Super Mario Bros. 3, and more on his impressive resume. In an interview, Eguchi explained his main inspirations for the game:
“Animal Crossing features three themes: family, friendship and community. But the reason I wanted to investigate them was a result of being so lonely when I arrived in Kyoto!”
At a lonely time in Eguchi’s life when he was separated from his friends and family, the longing for those human connections is where Animal Crossing was born.
“Chiba is east of Tokyo and quite a distance from Kyoto, and when I moved there I left my family and friends behind. In doing so, I realized that being close to them – being able to spend time with them, talk to them, play with them – was such a great, important thing. I wondered for a long time if there would be a way to recreate that feeling, and that was the impetus behind the original Animal Crossing.”
Finding a job, furnishing your house, forging new relationships, and building a new life are all core aspects that make Animal Crossing the unique game that has touched the hearts of countless people. Evidently, Eguchi was having those same experiences when the idea for Doubutsu No Mori (どうぶつの森), or Animal Crossing, was born.
If you are want to find out more about Animal Crossing's Japanese roots and history, check out this short, but interesting, blog post on Animal Crossing Japanese History - you are sure to learn a thing or two!
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