After 8 years, the long running Animal Crossing franchise has finally dropped the next instalment, Animal Crossing: New Horizons. I’m proud to say that this is the first ever Animal Crossing game I’ve played and I gotta say I’m pretty surprised at how addictive and fun it can be.
With the current Covid-19 situation happening around the world, my partner and I decided to jump on this hyped game series to figure out what all the fuss was about. At first, I just watched my partner play the game, and honestly, I really couldn’t get into it.
The whole premise is that your character has decided to leave the nest and start a new life with 2 other villagers on a deserted island. Your objective is to renovate, decorate and populate the island with even more villagers and stores to turn it into a bustling island town.
With your given objective, you have to forage the island for resources like wood, minerals and wildlife. These will then aid you in the building of your own tools which, in turn, will allow you to further forage parts of the island for more resources which can be sold for Bells, in-game currency). These Bells will help you not only renovate your house but also build up the community since Bells is everything.
On paper, watching someone else play it, it really does sound mundane but when I finally picked it up, I understood what made this game so great.
The gathering of resources also becomes pretty addictive. There is a variety of basic crafting materials which help you catch the wildlife and these wildlife also adds an increased element of interest–from a huge variety of insects and fish to an extensive differentiation in terms of rarity.
There is honestly a very euphoric feeling when you catch a Coelacanth or faint-inducing Tarantula for the first time. Additionally, there will eventually be a museum built on your island where you can donate and display all the wildlife and fossils you’ve acquired throughout the game.
Seasons also play a big factor in the game due to it being in “real-time.” Similar to real life, the wildlife are seasonal. This means some can only be caught during certain months of the year.
The trees and scenery around you will also change depending on the season, allowing you to experience snow, falling leaves and even blooming Sakura flowers. There are also constant updates for events such as the current Bunny Day event, with Easter just around the corner.
This feature however, is a double-edged sword. It certainly gives you the option of playing the game for a very loooooong time so you can experience everything it has to offer, but at the same time you may be stuck playing it constantly at night or day depending on the nature of your occupation or schedule.
This may cause you to miss out on wildlife or events that are only available at certain times of the day. However, there is a way to work around this issue with ‘Time Travel‘ but Animal Crossing purists will almost definitely spit on your grave for doing so.
I think the feature that makes this game stand out so much is the freedom of play and the endless possibilities of customisation. The game gives you the reins with the Island Planner and allows you to craft and place a plethora of decorations and furniture to design your dream island.
You also get to control where everyone’s houses are and where the stores are located. Later in the game you have the opportunity to terraform the island to create even more space and choose where water bodies are located to your liking–kind of like a scaled down Minecraft feature.
You are also given the option to personally design your own clothes, flooring, decorations and even music that can be uploaded online to be shared with the world (as long as you’re subscribed to Nintendo Online)!
There is also a new feature called Nook Miles. Kind of like Travel Miles, you complete hidden and non-hidden objectives to earn these Nook Miles. They can then be spent on exclusive items that cannot be bought with Bells. This system also opens up daily objectives that can be completed for double the Nook Miles once a day which encourages you to engage the game on a daily basis.
Nook Miles can also be spent on travelling to special islands that allow you obtain rare fruits, flowers and even wildlife that may be rare or non-existent on your island.
With a Nintendo Online subscription, you also open up the opportunity to visit and play with friends on their islands. Visiting your friends’ islands allows access to resources that are not available on your island due to the hemisphere difference or just because they have different native flora and fauna. Even if you don’t have an online subscription, local play is also an option with other human villagers on the island.
My partner and I, for example, can play together at the same time, albeit one player has very limited actions while the ‘lead’ player can go about doing their game normally. Also, with 2 people playing on the same Switch, it meant that we shared the island space. So all progress or modifications done to the island is shared.
Overall, I feel like Animal Crossing: New Horizons caters to a wide array of gamers, be it collectors, Second-Life players, simulation players, or many other. It is also very welcoming to new and old players of the franchise as the previous animal characters make a return once again and trying to get your villagers from previous games to stay on your island is always a fun gamble.
My only gripe is the negative effects of the real-time element causing players to wait for time to pass if their daily objectives are done, or if their only free time is certain periods of the day. But, if this doesn’t really bother you and you need a game that will definitely be a long term, and honestly very addictive investment, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a really great pick-up… if you can get your hands on a copy.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is only available on the Nintendo Switch