Enlarge/ You want to move your SAVE file? Forget about it! Use your head, punk!
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When it comes to Nintendo’s relationship with online services and save-game backups, we feel like a broken record pointing out every time the big N fails to keep up with the competition. But this morning’s announcements about a hotly anticipated gameand how it doesnt play nice with a key feature in Nintendos paid Switch Online servicemake the sting feel a bit stronger, especially when the companys line varies depending on where you live.This morning’s Nintendo Direct video presentation was full of exciting details about the gameplay and features in next month’s Animal Crossing: New Horizons for Switch. But the presentation also confirmed some details about the game’s save file management that will be unwelcome news to anyone who wants to back up their Animal Crossing island or play the game on more than one Switch unit.
Like all Switch games, Animal Crossing: New Horizons won’t let players simply copy a save file to an SD card for easy local backup purposes. But New Horizons will also be one of the few games that doesn’t even allow unlimited cloud backups if you subscribe to the Nintendo Switch Online service.
That means there’s no convenient way to access the same Animal Crossing save file across multiple Switch systems. The best you can do is coordinate and use the game’s online functions to “visit” the island from a secondary system.
A note on the European Nintendo site suggests that “a function specific to Animal Crossing: New Horizons to move users and save data to another console is planned for release later this year. But the US version of the site simply says “Animal Crossing: New Horizons does not support the ability to transfer your save file from one Nintendo Switch system to another.” We’ve reached out to Nintendo about this discrepancy and will let you know if we hear back.
What if something bad happens to the original save file on your Switch? “We’re planning to offer a service for recovering backed up data from the server in certain circumstances such as console damage or loss,” Nintendo said during today’s video presentation. According to the fine print, though, this capability will require a Nintendo Switch Online subscription and can only be performed once.
These save restrictions are somewhat in keeping with the spirit of the Animal Crossing series. The games are supposed to take place in a single, persistent town that progresses and changes throughout the year (that also may be why different users on a single Switch system will play on “one shared island”). Using save-scumming or external save file modifications to alter that process would go against that artistic intent.
Previous Animal Crossing games have used the character Mr. Resetti to hammer this point home by yelling at players who quit the game without saving. Resetti will reportedly not appear in New Horizons, though, since the game uses the Switch’s auto-save feature to track progress continuously.
Issues with save file management aren’t exactly new for Nintendo, which didn’t have any option for Switch save file backups until over a year after the system’s launch (and still doesn’t offer local backups). Even on the Wii, save files for games like Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Mario Kart Wii couldn’t be transferred to an SD card for backup, likely to hinder hackers’ attempts to mess with online competition. That’s a fact I learned the hard way when my Wii failed unexpectedly, requiring a circuit-board replacement that totally erased anything that wasn’t backed up externally, those save files included.While most Switch users are stuck playing on Nintendo’s terms here, we will note that players willing to jailbreak their consoles have been able to use homebrew save transfer tools on other Switch games. We can’t be sure such methods will work on Animal Crossing save files just yet, but it might be something worth checking out after the game’s March 20 release.