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With Animal Crossing: New Horizons, the perpetually money-hungry Tom Nook is back to his old tricks
This time around, Nook Inc is dumping unsuspecting tourists on a deserted island, charging them
large sums of money for the privilege.
Tom Nook has even invented his own made-up currency, Nook Miles, so that he can have
complete control of the island's economy.
Yet while many see Tom Nook as the villain of the Animal Crossing games, its developers
really feel like the player has misjudged this tricksy tanuki.
Longtime series director Aya Kyogoku in particular feels the need to defend Tom Nook at every
Aya has insisted, time and time again over the past few years, that Tom is not evil,
he's just “misunderstood”.
In interviews dating back to 2013, she's expressed frustration that players often don't
give Nook the benefit of the doubt.
Indeed, when producer Hisashi Nogami was asked about his favourite character in Animal Crossing:
New Horizons, he said: “If I have to pick one, I think it's Tom
This is background information on Tom Nook, but he was unsuccessful earlier in his life.
Because of this early failure he has this sense of sadness to him.”
Time for a lesson in Japanese folklore.
Tom Nook is a tanuki, a real life Japanese animal that's a little like a dog, but which
is often misinterpreted as a raccoon in Western localization.
Traditionally, tanuki have a strong association with wealth – metalsmiths used to use tanuki
pelts to soften their hammers when dealing with gold, and ever since, these creatures
have been seen as a symbol of good business.
Many shops and restaurants across Japan place tanuki statues outside their doors in the
hopes of attracting customers, so it's easy to see why a tanuki would be a good fit as
a businessman in Animal Crossing games.
Tanuki are often seen as tricksters – not evil, but certainly mischievous.
In many folk tales, tanuki transform into people or objects, mostly just to play practical
jokes on humans.
They'll also use this transformative power to turn leaves into money, spend them in shops,
then run away before the illusion disappears.
According to Aya Kyogoku, Tom Nook similarly isn't a bad guy; in spite of his brash sense
of humour, he's fairly harmless.
In an interview all the way back in 2013, she said:
“We think he is very misunderstood.
He's just passionate about his business.
He's not like a loan shark.
He doesn't add a handling fee or anything like that.
He can wait as long as it takes for you to pay back.
He's not as bad as other people might think he is.”
This is technically true.
While there's no mechanic within the game that forces the player to make a payment,
Tom Nook will definitely threaten you to pay off your loan quickly.
In the very first Animal Crossing game, he says:
“If you can pay off about 1,000 bells a week, that'll work for me.
Otherwise, I'll send for the raccoon goons!”
As with Mr Resetti, Tom Nook's threats have been softened in Animal Crossing: New Horizons,
but players still remember these earlier outbursts.
Indeed, Aya and the rest of the Animal Crossing development team have had to work hard over
the years to fix Tom's reputation.
Speaking about Tom's role in New Horizons, Aya said:
“Tom Nook, this time around, he has this place called Resident Services.
He tirelessly works 24 hours making sure that all the residents on the island are happy
and are living a good life.
Whenever Tom receives those debts paid back from the residents and the players, I think
that because these resident services upgrade as time goes on, I think he's investing
that money toward the Resident Service for the residents.”
More recently, Aya said: “Even if we borrow money from him and it
takes time to pay him back, he never gets angry, he never gets mad.
So if we could all try to be a little more responsible and pay him back, it might make
him a little happier.”
But why make Tom so money hungry in the first place?
After all, Mr Resetti's big gimmick was removed as the game series was refined over
time, so why does Tom still offer mortgage loans even when the player lives on a deserted
The answer, according to producer Hisashi Nogami, is that Tom Nook is essential to give
the player something to strive for.
The concept of paying off a large loan is a gameplay device within Animal Crossing.
In such an open-ended, free world with no limitations and no threat of failure, the
player needs a mission to achieve, and that mission is overcoming debt.
Said Hisashi: “It's one of the biggest motivations that
users have to continue playing Animal Crossing, and Tom Nook is the man behind that motivation.”
Aya agrees: “I love Tom Nook.
Even though sometimes he upsets me, I do have to admit that because of him and his hard
work, I have a pretty good life in the game.”
So if you're mad at Tom Nook for constantly trying to trap you in debt, the developers
of Animal Crossing: New Horizons want you to cut the tanuki some slack.
The moral of the story seems to be, don't hate the player, hate the game.
Tom Nook is not the problem.
I guess the real problem is, capitalism?
What a strange message for a game about befriending talking animals…
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Why Tom Nook is "Misunderstood" According to Animal Crossing Devs

21 Folder Collection
ally.chang published on May 13, 2020
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