I am big enough to admit when I’m wrong, and I was wrong about my ugly villagers.
I downloaded Animal Crossing: New Horizons on release day and I was pumped; I couldn’t wait to escape into a cute island paradise. Before I started my game, I decided that I would reset it if my native island’s fruit was lame or if my starting villagers were just plain awful. This is a really common mindset in Animal Crossing that can be boiled down to the phrase, “no uglies.” It makes sense in a way; you paid $60 for a game so if you don’t want to look at Beardo’s suspicious lower body hair every day I wouldn’t blame you.
So, I went in with this mindset and booted up New Horizons. My starting villagers were Tank, a jock rhino with a little leaf on his head (cute!) and Hazel, an orange squirrel. She turned around when I talked to her and I realized that she had a red bowl cut and a unibrow, and her catchphrase was even “uni-wow”. My first thought was, “well, this isn’t a very good look.”
I didn’t restart, though, because I got cherries as my native fruit and I didn’t want to lose them. I figured I would let Hazel move out whenever she was ready and replace her with a cooler looking villager.
It’s also really common for people to bully villagers they don’t like, usually by hitting them with nets or trapping them in places with fences: a phenomenon that seems hilariously misplaced in the soft and adorable Animal Crossing world. I didn’t have the heart to do this to Hazel even though I wanted her to move out, but I can’t say I didn’t complain about her being on my island to other people.
In this game, cute designs are king. The most popular villagers are the ones with aesthetically pleasing designs. Within the Animal Crossing black market (another hilariously dark sounding part of the Animal Crossing community) players can trade their villagers. Before New Horizons, one of the most wanted villagers was Marshal, a little white squirrel that is admittedly adorable with his little jean vest, and smug face. Today one of the most sought after villagers is Raymond, a business casual cat that was added as a new character in New Horizons. Through one of these online trading communities, I could trade for any villager I wanted. Villagers like Raymond and Marshall are often bought for a lot of in game money. Looking at nook.market, you can see that at the moment, Raymond is going for 400,000,000 bells (Animal Crossing’s in game currency). Villagers like Hazel or Barold would never get that kind of price tag.
Raymond the ridiculously expensive business cat
Barold, known ugly villager
It was a perfect plan for achieving an island with perfect villagers, except that I’m soft. Hazel, a “sisterly” villager, was kind to me all the time. She gave me medicine when she saw my puffy wasp-stung face and asked me for help with lyrics for her punk rock song. There was no doubt about it, Hazel was cool as heck.
All villagers have the same eight pre-set personalities. These personalities determine their dialogue and interactions with the player. For example, a peppy villager like Rosie would mostly talk about how she wants to be a pop star and call you her best friend. I have three peppy villagers on my island so you can imagine how many future pop stars I converse with on the daily.
But if all the villagers have the same eight personalities, what separates the Raymonds from the Hazels? Well, it’s all in their designs — each villager has a unique look. It’s on the basis of these designs that people are driving Barolds out of their islands and selling Raymonds for millions of bells.
The thing about Animal Crossing villagers is that they were all designed to be your friend. Whether they’re your snooty friend or your cranky old man friend, they were created to make you feel good regardless. It’s no wonder that people get attached to their villagers — they were made to be lovable, and Hazel is no exception.
When Hazel finally asked to move off my island — the first of my villagers to do so — my answer was a strong, resounding “absolutely not.” At first, I was so consumed by the idea of perfect villagers that I didn’t realize how cool the villagers I already had were. Hazel’s unibrow and choppy bowl cut is what makes her unique; there isn’t another squirrel like her out there! She’s my best friend now, and I wouldn’t give her up for a million bells. So this is my formal apology to Hazel: my first impression of you was wrong and you are uni-wonderful.