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Leopold, a lion with a green mane, says to the player: “So the famous Nicole has finally decided to grace me with her presence.” Image: Nintendo via Polygon

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Animal Crossing’s villagers will not let me escape my guilt for abandoning them

After being away for a year, I had it coming

What is it with cute video games and guilt trips? Ever since my first digital puppy (in Nintendogs on the Nintendo DS) turned her back on me after a few weeks of neglect, I’ve fallen prey to doe-eyed animals making me feel bad for choosing to play something else.

Animal Crossing games have a long history of guilting players, of course. Return to your home after a few weeks, months, or years away, and you’re liable to get dragged for being gone for so long. Despite the long life of my Nintendo 3DS, I never once returned to New Leaf after six months idle, afraid of how previously treasured pals Curt, Sylvia and Rosie would react. Sure, I can logically tell myself these are pre-preprogrammed lines spat out by fake animals, but they still somehow sting — especially if I realistically only pop in once every few months after the initial gluttonous gameplay period. The inevitable guilt trips mean I’ll likely never come back.

But, of course, now Animal Crossing: New Horizon’s is getting a massive, free update, and despite not visiting my lovely Piña Isle for over a year, I dove back in last week. (As did a lot of other Polygon staff.) Were my villagers ready to guilt trip me? Boy howdy. But I endured it, and then it was over.

If you’re faced with the same squeamish feelings upon having to face your island’s residents, you’re not alone! Consider this a warm-up round, to help ease your conscience. Here’s how some of our villagers greeted us after months (or more than a year!) away.

Eugene, a koala in sunglasses, says to the player: “Oh, but seriously... you’re not an actual ghost, right?” Image: Nintendo via Polygon

Plenty of characters refused to believe we were real. Ghosts, mirages, a different person with the same name....

Agnes the pig, speaking to the player: “Well, I guess I’ve finally lost my mind. I could swear I see nicole c in front of me.” Image: Nintendo via Polygon
Agnes, a pig, says to the player character: “ It’s a really, really… REAL-looking mirage too. Like, super real! Even kinda smells real, snuffle.” Image: Nintendo via Polygon

Some villagers just wanted us to really feel it.

Miranda, a pink baby bird, to the player: “I dropped by your place to look for you, but you were never home…” Image: Nintendo via Polygon

They also just pretended to forget who we were.

A bear in sunglasses and a sweater addresses a player character in an aquarium: “Yo! Nice to meet you. My name’s Teddy. I’m big into fitness, but I bet that was obvious. I was just about to... Oh! Champ! Hey! Wow, how’ve you been? What’s your bench weight up to?” Image: Nintendo via Polygon
Canberra, a bear, to the player character: “OK, so it’s awesome to see you again, but you really had me worried. You just kinda disappeared.” Image: Nintendo via Polygon

Adventures, like Metroid Dread or New Pokémon Snap? Rosie, I would never!

Rosie, a purple cat, says to the player: “You have a different vibe about you … Have you been having adventures without me?”  Image: Nintendo via Polygon

Sprinkle deserves an Academy Award for this performance.

Sprinkle, a penguin, says to the player: “Huh? Wonder bud?! NO way! It’s been… 1 year and 2 months since I saw you last!” Image: Nintendo via Polygon
Sprinkle, a penguin, says to the player: “Yes. I counted. I have a notebook where I mark the days. And the pages are all tearstained!” Image: Nintendo via Polygon

This is a little confusing, since Zucker is one of the few characters who is dressed as a food.

Zucker, an octopus with takoyaki sauce on his head, says to the player: “You gotta stay! Show your face around here more often. I miss my snack buddy!” Image: Nintendo via Polygon

And then there are the villagers who disguise their hurt with sarcasm. I see you, Leopold.

Leopold, a lion with a green mane, says to the player: “So the famous Nicole has finally decided to grace me with her presence.” Image: Nintendo via Polygon

A totally normal comment here...

Pashmina, a goat in a sweater, says to the player: “We heard weird rumors, like a shark attack, or an alien abduction, or that you’d joined an alien-shark circus.” Image: Nintendo via Polygon

Unfortunately, I think Beau has figured out we’re all living in a simulation.

Beau, a deer, says to the player: “I tell ya … You went away and I got so bored. It’s almost like nothing happened around here!” Image: Nintendo via Polygon

Oof, that was a lot. But hopefully it has made going back a little easier.

Thanks to Nicole Clark, Nicole Carpenter, and Emily Heller for their contributions to this story.

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