Time travel refers to the player manually changing the time of their game or game system to immediately return to, or advance to, a specific point in time. There are both positive and negative consequences of time traveling across the Animal Crossing series.
Time traveling is not considered "cheating" by the games developers, although they do discourage it for the most enjoyable casual experience. Series producer Hisashi Nogami stated that he and director Aya Kyogoku "think that in order for the players to play for a very long time, and also for players to share the experience with their friends or family, we do think that playing without traveling would probably be the ideal way." At the same time, they did not intend for seasonal updates to be a way to "shun away time travel," simply to keep the game enjoyable throughout the year.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf director Isao Moro similarly stated that "I'm sure there are plenty of players who have fiddled with the clock when playing the game, but this is a shame as a really nice aspect of Animal Crossing is the sense of unity that comes from time passing in sync with the real world. It means that everyone gets to share that sense of the seasons and the time passing, so we were keen to retain that element of the game." This was part of the inspiration for him and Kyogoku to implement the town ordinances that change the operating hours of shops and bedtimes of villagers, to still allow the player "to adjust things to fit [their] own lifestyle."
In Animal Crossing
In Animal Crossing, the player can adjust the time and date using two methods: either by changing the Nintendo GameCube clock, or accessing the in-game clock during the start-up sequence. Changing the system clock provides the least interference with gameplay, as the in-game clock dictates the growth of trees, the way letters are sent, and how the police station and dump restock items. While the furthest date supported by the system clock is December 31, 2099, the highest the in-game clock can go is December 31, 2030, after which the date will reset to January 1, 2030. (In Doubutsu no Mori, due to the Nintendo 64 not having an internal clock, the game uses a battery-powered clock in the cartridge that can only be changed in-game.)
The ability to travel to any date immediately allows the player to attend any event, access any fish or bugs, or purchases any seasonal items that are restricted to certain dates or date ranges. By time traveling forward, letters can be received sooner, but the player's mailbox may fill completely, which prevents incoming mail until the mailbox is emptied. Additionally, the process of a villager moving out from the player's town can be expedited, as well as new villagers moving in. Time traveling forward can also force fruit to regrow on trees and stores to refresh their current item selection.
Time traveling any amount, forward or backward, causes all turnips in the player's pockets or storage to rot. Weeds will grow at a faster rate if time traveling, and too many weeds can harm the town's environment rating until enough weeds are removed (however, all weeds can be removed by Wisp if the player catches his Spirits and asks to "Pull weeds!"). Time traveling forward may result in villagers moving away without asking the player, or cause the player to miss events, birthdays, or One Day Sales from Tom Nook's store.
In Animal Crossing: Wild World
The player can also change the time and date in Wild World through the Nintendo DS system clock or the in-game menu. The furthest date supported by both the system and game is December 31, 2099, after which time will reset back to January 1, 2000.
Time traveling to future months now allows the player to accrue interest on their savings account.
In Animal Crossing: City Folk
Animal Crossing: City Folk also allows the time and date to be changed by changing the Nintendo Wii system time or editing the in-game time during the start-up sequence. While changing the time via the in-game settings will affect fruit and weed growth, flower wilting, and savings account interest, changing the system time does not. The furthest date is now December 31, 2035; after this, time loops back to January 1, 2000.
In Animal Crossing: New Leaf
Time and date settings in New Leaf can be edited through the Nintendo 3DS system clock, or through the start-up sequence by telling Isabelle "I need help first...". The furthest date is December 31, 2050, after which time resets to January 1, 2012.
Any processes relating to building, demolishing, or moving infrastructure (such as bridges, Public works projects, or buildings in Main Street) can be completed immediately by time traveling to a different day. Any facilities that require multiple days of commitment, such as talking to Sable to access the sewing machine, can also be unlocked more quickly.
The Beautiful Town ordinance can prevent weeds from spawning and flowers from wilting, removing these consequences from time traveling. Weeds can also be cleared using Leif's weed-pulling service if his Garden Shop is available. However, time traveling will cause Phineas to not appear for a while.
In Animal Crossing: New Horizons
New Horizons is the first game in the series that does not have an in-game option to change the time. However, by disabling "Synchronize Clock Via Internet" in the Nintendo Switch system settings, the system time can be manually changed, which is reflected in the game. The furthest date supported by the system is December 31, 2060, and while the game can progress into January 1, 2061, going beyond this date will result in an error message, warning the user that the date is unsupported and that they should set their time in between January 1, 2000 and December 31, 2060.
As seasonally restricted content has expanded to DIY recipes and Nook Shopping seasonal events, the associated items can also be obtained at any time via time travel. Time traveling to previous visits by shopkeepers such as Redd will re-roll their stock, allowing the player to purchase new items from them. In 1.9.0, traveling back in time five days or more resets the visiting special characters for the target week. In all other versions (both before and after), this limit is only in place if the target and present date are in different months. Outside of version 1.9.0, NPC visitors fill up seven slots within a given week after the day moves from Sunday to Monday. Time traveling between specific days in a given week will initiate that specific visitor (e.g., Leif will always be present on Tuesday unless the day moves to another Monday).
Villagers will no longer move out without notice after longer periods of time, now requiring the player's explicit permission to leave. Weeds still occasionally spawn on the island, but they will no longer negatively impact the environment rating unless the quantity of weeds on the island is above 100. In addition, Rafflesia no longer spawn in islands with the worst rating. Bed head has been changed to be only temporary, and is now unlocked as a hairstyle option when it occurs for the first time. However, in addition to turnips rotting after any time traveling, turnip prices will reset if time traveling backwards. Flowers may end up overpopulating the island by either duplicating or breeding if nothing is done to prevent new flowers from spawning in grass or dirt tiles. Overgrowth of weeds can again be dealt with using Leif's weeding service if his commune is available on Harv's Island.
Before version 2.0, events were more difficult to experience by using time travel, as many events were gradually introduced through updates. Some events were unable to be accessed until their real-world starting date, such as Bunny Day, Nature Day, May Day, International Museum Day, Wedding Season, Turkey Day, Toy Day, and Festivale. Events could also be locked after being unlocked in a previous year, such as Bunny Day's date range of April 1–12, 2020 being disabled in the 1.9.0 Free Update in favor of the new dates of March 28–April 4, 2021. Since version 2.0, all events can now occur every year; however, as of version 1.9.0, the Nature Day event is no longer accessible, due to its replacement by the Nature Day Nook Shopping seasonal event.
- Elise Favis (March 23, 2020). "Nintendo explains philosophy behind Animal Crossing’s big changes, such as gender expression and terraforming". The Washington Post. Retrieved Septe,ber 23, 2022.
- Nintendo (2012). "Iwata Asks - Animal Crossing: New Leaf". Iwata Asks. Retrieved September 23, 2022.
- If you GO to 2061, this happens There is a WARNING message that I 've never seen where I can't go!?