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Turning ‘Peaceful’ Into ‘Frantic’ With Animal Crossing’s Speedrunning Scene – Feature

Animal Crossing New Leaf© Nintendo

There’s an entire generation of players who hold dear fond memories of dipping their stubby toes in the coarse sand of Animal Crossing: New Leaf’s beaches. There was a calm warmth that came with the villagers that called your slowly built-up town home. The game was a beacon of creativity where you could let the whooshing sound of the ocean’s waves and the crickets and chirpings of the wildlife wash over you. It was and still is a title perfect for unwinding after a long day, and that tranquillity has carried over to the Switch iteration, New Horizons.

Yet, there are those who opt to put aside that blissful and melodic world in favour of the adrenaline and sweat brought about through speedrunning. It’s understandable, for most games, that there’s a pool of players trying their hand at one-upping each other’s time — shaving off seconds in celebratory booms of cheer — but there’s usually a clear and defined end goal to aim for; think Mario Kart’s race tracks that require pixel-perfect jumps off the map to reach just the right spot. There’s often something less exacting that any non-speedrunning player can go for to shave off some time, too. Something for both parties.

Animal Crossing doesn’t have that. The game is an open sandbox dedicated to doing what you want at your own pace, steady or otherwise, enjoying the little world you hatch and nurture. Because of that, speedrunners in New Leaf have had to set their own parameters; ‘first debt cleared’, for example, where they try to scrounge up enough money in as fast a time as possible to repay the loan for their home.

“When the game came out in 2013, I went into it casually”, Canadian streamer Nick tells us. “I love playing the game as it is. Animal Crossing is by far one of my favorite series, and New Leaf is probably my favorite game ever.” Playing it casually didn’t last too long, though, as three years later Nick got into the speedrunning community, going on to (as of earlier this year) nab the top spot for first debt cleared.

No time to sit around
No time to sit around (Image: Nintendo)

Nick managed to pay that first home debt in only seven minutes and 36 seconds, shaving six seconds off the then-world record. The pain of dedication and thrill of hitting that record is all over his face throughout the final moments of his attempt, until it all slips away and genuine cheer is visible as he shoots his hands into the air and starts shouting in joy…

But let’s backtrack. The ending is one of explosive giddiness, but getting there requires not a small amount of luck. Still, you need to know what you’re doing to avoid losing valuable time.

In a game that’s so fueled by RNG, the best way to get my time down was just to be more lucky

“The category is completely glitchless,” says Nick, explaining how exactly Animal Crossing: New Leaf’s first debt run actually works. “There’s no need [to use glitches] since it’s so straightforward. In a game that’s so fuelled by RNG [Random Number Generation], the best way to get my time down was just to be more lucky.”

“The run is as follows: get off the train, talk to Isabel or Nook to place your house, plant the town tree, buy a shovel, and then find the money rock. The time-saving primarily comes from getting the money rock first try, or getting a map where the tree and town plaza are closer to each other. One other notable technique, as silly as it sounds, is holding the ‘R’ button while going through text. This speeds it up significantly, and no runner was really using it until golderzoa, a former WR holder and pioneer.”

Watch the video of his record-breaking run (check it below, although be warned that it features some strong language), you may notice another little oddity regarding text. Nick, an English speaker, plays in Korean, and with so many speedruns out there having little tricks, glitches, and exploits to shave off fractions of a second, we assumed this was one of those. As it turns out, the text scrolls faster in Korean, and that time adds up — but playing a Korean copy of the game is one of very few reliable tactics for speeding things up.

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