Gameplay modification, or hacking, in the Animal Crossing series involves the manipulation of gameplay in a way other than permitted in a game's original programming. By using codes and following some other methods, hackers can perform a variety of things to play around with the game, including, but not limited to:
- Being able to add any object to the inventory, including unobtainable objects.
- Gain any amount of Bells in their inventory, and in the savings account.
- Stop the grass from deteriorating (in City Folk and New Leaf).
- Change the layout of their town.
- Create hacked villagers or custom villagers.
- Create custom objects and HDLC.
- Jump, and therefore reach inaccessible areas, such as the top of cliffs.
Hacked distributed items
Hacked distributed items, sometimes shortened to HDLC, are distributed items that are not created by Nintendo. They are usually created with the help of a cheating device, such as an Action Replay. At random times, the player will find them in the Able Sisters, if they have visited a hacker's town or a hacker visited their town.
The villager modifier is a cheat code used with devices such as the Action Replay in Animal Crossing: Wild World. It is used to change a villager in order to get rid of an undesired one, bring back one that has moved away, or have new villagers move to the town. However, the code cannot alter their personality, something that may lead to problems such as a female villager with a male personality.
This cheat code can change a villager's name, their character model, their house's color, their default catchphrase (unless it had been changed by the player), and the picture they give to the player; but it will not change their personality, their relationship with other villagers and the player, their current catchphrase, clothing, hobby, and the furniture in their house.
Save file hacking
Despite the vast quantity of cheat codes and other methods mentioned above, over time, hackers may notice that what they are capable to do in-game will still present many limitations to their final desired changes, and will prove frustrating, as most of them may require being applied to the game whenever it is booted up. This is where editing the game's save file itself may come in handy.
Such is achieved by using a guide on how-to extract the save files from the game to be modified, and by using an external program for modifying the extracted save game, like for example, this program called ACSE (Animal Crossing Save Editor), which is compatible with all main games and some spin-offs (excluding Animal Crossing: New Horizons to the date).
Save file editing
Editing programs like ACSE enable hackers to permanently change certain aspects of their town and villagers that are usually hard to change via cheat codes, and it all can be done in a more interactive way on a computer.
This program, that also allows fixing previous hacking attempts with unwanted results, has many other options that can:
- Change the player's whole appearance, and their birthday date, on any game.
- Fill all of the player's inventory slots with any objects.
- Complete or clear all collections at the museum, all encyclopedias, emotion slots, the store's catalog, and the song library.
- Change the amount of Bells in the player's wallet, in their saving's bank, and still in debt.
- Change the quantity of Nook Points, Island Medals, MEOW Coupons obtained.
- Disable Mr. Resetti's visit after a reset.
- Switch a type of acre for another.
- Place any kind of object possible in the town.
- Edit all player's houses, the private island, and the patterns they carry.
- Change the town name, its station type, gate type, grass type, the native fruit, town ordinances, and even the current weather.
- Modify villagers to more safely replace them with other villagers.
- Add new villagers to the town, including an extra option to add DLC villagers.
In the same vein as ACSE, another external program called Custom Villager Creator, that can be used to create or edit e-Reader+ villagers.
Currently only designed for Doubutsu no Mori e+, this program comes with some reduced options focused on the creation of villagers. It has a texture editor and an editor for other villager characteristics like; their name, their initial catchphrase, their initial clothing, initial umbrella, initial house furniture, initial wallpaper and flooring, initial music, their personality, and their Zodiac sign (affecting the GBA minigames).
It only stores and opens villagers contained inside of ".yaz0" files, the default file type for villagers and a format used on many different Nintendo games.
Hacking per game
In Animal Crossing
In Wild World
Seeds were a major threat to other player's towns in Wild World before online play was discontinued. Also, hackers in that game had access to a larger variety of tools and map editors to give themselves large sums of money and items, and a town layout of their choice. Action Replay codes are commonly used in Wild World.
In City Folk
Although the seed threat is diminished in City Folk, there are still hackers who play the game. Most use ACToolkit to customize the town layout, inventory, etc., and on the whole this works similarly to hacking in Wild World. Hackers may give even non-hackers DLC, which can appear in shops like the Able Sisters. The tool used to hack villagers in this game is known as Animal Villager Customization (NPC Tool).
In New Leaf
The Nintendo 3DS is commonly hacked with homebrew and custom firmware, typically used to edit the town's map layout. New Leaf can also be "hacked" with an Action Replay, being a more simple option with no known consequences compared to the possibility of the 3DS "bricking" using the homebrew method. Injecting and extracting saves is extremely common in the AC community.
In New Horizons
PC tools such as NHSE can be used to modify an island's details, such as the villagers living on it, the number of Bells and Nook Miles players have, the items catalogued by players, and the placement of buildings such as the Resident Services building, which cannot be moved in normal gameplay.
Mods can be used to alter the gameplay in various ways, such as allowing only certain species of fish to appear, or replacing the human player with a different animal character.
Popular uses of hacking in New Horizons have included "treasure islands," which have many rare items placed on them for visiting players to catalogue, and "star fragment trees," which are money trees that have been modified to replace the Bell bags with star fragments.