“Animal Crossing: New Horizons” was released for the Nintendo Switch on Friday, March 20 after much anticipation and boredom from self-isolation. “Animal Crossing,” a Nintendo game series with a large cult following, is a simulation of real life in which players create a life for themselves in a village, city or, in this case, on an island.
Island living becomes a reality in this new game as it begins with the player landing on a “deserted” island. The game continues to call the island deserted even though familiar faces, like the racoons Tom, Timmy and Tommy Nook are waiting for you at “Residential Services” to guide you through developing your island.
Tom Nook has obviously undergone some character development since the last major game, “Animal Crossing: New Leaf.” Nook no longer seems to be only concerned with profit, and actually exchanges some pleasantries with the player, even though the player is immediately met with an “itemized bill” from Nook and, of course, has to pay off their house loans, which is no surprise to returning players. However, Nook even makes an announcement about the state of the island at the beginning of every game day, which is different from “New Leaf” where the player would be greeted by their secretary Isabelle, the adorable shih tzu, who seems to not appear in the game until later.
The game follows the time and date of the outside world with each day resetting at 5 a.m. as opposed to midnight. A new development in “New Horizons” is that the seasons change to match the seasons that the player is in determined by whether the player lives in the Northern or Southern Hemisphere. In addition, the player is able to pick the layout of their island, which is a lot bigger than previous islands or towns, and is open to more character customization, in comparison to old games where the island was pre-set and the player’s appearance was based on a mini quiz they took at the beginning.
Each player’s island begins with two villagers aside from the player and the Nooks. These villagers, as well as what fruit grows on the player’s island, are assigned randomly. It’s fun to compare what villagers you and each of your friends get. A player also gets recognition and “Nook Miles” if they cultivate and have different types of fruits on their island that are different from their native fruit.
Like previous games, the player collects resources from the island and uses them to craft decorations for their house or goods to sell. Players can also fish, catch insects and dig up fossils to sell or donate to the museum. However, “New Horizons” has introduced new tools to players: the ladder and pole vault. Unlike previous games, the island or town does not come with built-in bridges; the player has to build bridges to connect the island, once they get the OK from Nook. So in the meantime, players have to use the pole vault to sling themselves across rivers and ladders to reach higher cliffs and pieces of land on the island.
In this game, the player must complete tasks in order to have a museum on their island. The player must first bring five new species of fish or insects to Tom Nook who will then call Blathers, the museum curator, and tell him that the island has enough “science” for him to set up a museum. The next day Blathers will arrive and then ask the player to donate 15 more new species before the museum can actually open. The museum will be under construction for the whole next day and will open on the following day.
The museum in “New Horizons” is absolutely beautiful and has a different layout than in “New Leaf.” It is a cute place to go on a date during social distancing. The museum has three branches: one for insects, one for fish and one for fossils. For new players, it can be frustrating that the museum takes so long to open considering they may not know they can store fish and insects in tanks and have to release some because they do not have enough storage. However, the museum is so beautiful and a lot grander than previous games, so it is definitely worth the wait.
Newly introduced in “New Horizons” is the Nook Miles program and DIY recipes. Nook Miles are given for completing certain tasks assigned by Tom Nook. These tasks can be anything from creating a new custom clothing design or catching five fish. Because of Nook Miles, there are two separate “monetary” systems, Bells and Nook Miles. However, Bells are used to buy clothing, furniture and other types of accessories for your player or villagers, while Nook Miles can purchase special items, like different hairstyles and crazy hair colors, which could be purchased from Harriet and her hair salon, Shampoodle, in “New Leaf.” Most importantly, players can purchase “Nook Miles Tickets.” In “New Horizons,” the player has access to an airport and with 2,000 Nook Miles, players can purchase flights to random islands where the player can chop down its trees, take its flowers and more, in order to gain more resources, if the player’s island is out for the day. The Nook Miles are fairly easy to gain and create more of a sense of duty for the player, as well as daily goals.
A player is also able to build furniture and other types of island infrastructure with DIY recipes, which are either found or given to the player throughout the game. A player must use their island resources to craft them. One thing that can be frustrating for new and old players are the DIY-ed tools a player has to use. There are different degrees for tools; they are either “flimsy” or “pretty good” and then a regular shovel or fishing rod. The “flimsy” and “pretty good” tools are not very sturdy, and all tools break after a certain amount of time or use, so the player either has to buy or craft new tools constantly. This is more burdensome to the player because in past games, tools never broke and players could stick with the same ones throughout the entire game.
However, the DIY recipes also allow players to customize items with “customization kits.” For example, if a player crafts a wooden bed, the player is able to use a kit and choose which color wood they want the bed to be or the color and design of the bed sheets. This is a lot different than past games where players just had to purchase furniture and be OK with the entire item, since there was no customization.
Overall, the graphics and visuals of “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” are absolutely gorgeous thanks to the Switch’s resolution. The level of customization is also awesome and makes a player’s island, home and character seem more personal and loveable. The character designs and settings have definitely evolved, but of course, players see familiar faces and some of the favorite villagers from past games, making old players nostalgic and overjoyed, while new players are introduced to the adorable, friendly and calming atmosphere of Animal Crossing.
“Animal Crossing: New Horizons” can be purchased through the Nintendo eShop on the Nintendo Switch for $59.99 plus tax.