I have never played any of the Animal Crossing games before, and although I’ve watched others play from the side-line for years, and heard many gamers out there praise the series. I’ve always wanted to delve into this strange, cute and animal-filled world myself. Finally, with the release of Animal Crossing: New Horizon on the Nintendo Switch, I got the opportunity. But is it worth all the hype and anticipation?
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a game that slowly, really slowly, sucks you into its colourful world.
Unlike the previous entries in the series, New Horizons starts you off on a weed-invested deserted island. You find yourself quickly indebted by the series loan shark, Tom Nook. Getting out of debt involves creating a brand-new community on the island from scratch. This means lots of resource gathering and crafting to create all the items and furniture you and your animal friends need.
Crafting is a lot easier and less complicated than we’ve become used to over the years. With a handful of resources, like iron ore and wood, you can create basic items and tools to help you expand your capabilities and your village.
As with most games that include some sort of crafting, it takes a while for things to kick-off. You’ll spend quite some time collecting the necessary resources as you wait for the days to pass so new buildings are unlocked, and depleted resources respawn.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is linked to your Switch’s internal clock, meaning that the day-night cycle, and even seasons, are all linked to the real world. This meant that it took a good few days before buildings such as the Museum and some of the shops became available. This was also true for the variety of tools you need to access parts of the island, such as the pole that helps you skip over rivers you couldn’t previously cross.
The game basically boils down to the addictive loop of doing a few tasks and crafting some stuff before logging out until the next day and seeing what it has to offer. It’s a loop that takes a few days to get used to. However, after sticking with it, the game soon sucked me in as my village slowly kept expanding.
Outside of building and crafting, the game offers a myriad of other activities to keep you busy. There are the surprisingly addictive bug hunting and fishing, which sees you capturing all kinds of different species. Once the Museum opens, you can release them there so that you can go and visits them to your heart’s content.
There is more than enough here for those who love tracking down and collecting things. Better yet, if you have more than one of a specific creature or fish, you can always sell them for bells. This is Animal Crossing: New Horizons’ in-game currency, which you can use to buy some truly unique items or pay off your debt.
Players also have the ability to visit nearby islands and collect various different fruits and resources. Although these islands are randomly generated, they tend to feel the same after a while, which feels like a missed opportunity.
Keeping you company on your ever-expanding island empire is a whole host of animal friends. Each of the animals that can move to your island has its own unique personality. Seeing them interact with each other makes the whole island feel alive and really adds to the immersion. These animal friends can even give you minigame challenges or if you are lucky random gifts.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons offers some multiplayer options for those that want to spend some time with friends, which in the current times has become more important than ever. There is the new local Party Play where up to four islanders can play together on one system. There is also online multiplayer where you can visit each other’s islands and do your own thing.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the game the world needs right now. It’s like the warm comforting blanket that lets you forget about all the chaos currently out there. Some might be put off by the game’s slow start but those that stick with it will find a game that lets you move at your own pace.
How Animal Crossing: New Horizons Has Evolved
Animal Crossing: New Horizons was the runaway hit of 2020. Its simulation of outdoor relaxation during a pandemic plus an eager player base made it one of the fastest-selling games of the last few years.
It’s hard not to see Animal Crossing: New Horizons‘ mass appeal.
There are no mechanical gameplay barriers. All the characters are super positive. No daily quests and other pressures are present either. It’s just a jolly good time that anyone can dive into.
New Horizons wasn’t without its blemishes, however. Compared to past titles, like New Leaf, the latest Animal Crossing lacked a fair bit of features and content. Luckily, Nintendo has been dropping free updates regularly that have added a fair bit of events and features, as well as a few beloved characters.
Whether you’re a lapsed player or haven’t picked up the game yet due to its lack of content, our post should give you an idea of how the game has evolved since launch.
Earth Day Update
Animal Crossing: New Horizons’ first big update came one month after the game’s release. With it, came two of the series characters that were MIA at launch, Leif and Redd.
Leif is a vendor that appears during regular intervals. His wares contain bushes, which were another added feature, and flower seeds. The bushes themselves could be used by players to expand their island landscaping and home exterior designs. The flower seeds sold by Leif are typically the kind you can’t find in Nook’s Cranny, meaning you can potentially add flowers to your island that are non-native.
Redd, on the other hand, adds a bit of shadiness to the game. He appears during certain intervals with his Jolly Treasure Trawler, a boat that docks at the north beach of your island. In there, he stocks works of art that you must identify as authentic or fake. By buying authentic paintings and sculptures, you can store them in the newly opened art gallery section of your museum.
The next major update of Animal Crossing: New Horizons came in two waves of Summer updates.
The first wave added the diving mechanic to the game. As of this update, you can now dive into the water to obtain new materials, such as sea stars. These can then be used to make a whole slew of new items. On top of that, wave 1 of the Summer update also brought back another missing character, Pascal. This red swimming otter is your one-stop-shop for all Mermaid and sea-themed recipes.
This update also included a brand-new character to the series, Gullivarrr. Not to be confused with Gulliver, Gullivarrr is a pirate captain who washes up on your beaches periodically. Helping him out by diving to find his lost communicator will reward you with pirate-themed items and clothing.
Wave 2 of the Summer update introduced a hotly anticipated feature called dreaming.
By sleeping in a bed, you can enter a dream state where you meet a character called Luna. Luna will allow you to share your island as a dream location as well as allow you to visit other dream locations. This effectively makes it possible to explore other people’s islands without needing to connect with each other.
Fall and Winter Updates
Both the Fall and Winter updates of Animal Crossing: New Horizons introduced a slew of events, reactions, and items to the game.
The Fall update included the Halloween event which included limited time-themed recipes and activities involving your villagers and travelling vendors. Similarly, the Winter update introduced Turkey Day and Toy Day, celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas respectively.
Again, these included new time-limited themed items and activities. The most important feature that was added with the Winter update was the Save Data Transfer, allowing players to transfer their island or player save data to another Nintendo Switch console.
In its current state, Animal Crossing: New Horizons has introduced limited-time events based on collaborations with other companies and franchises. These include the well-received Super Mario 35th-anniversary event that included many Mario-themed items to decorate your island with.
Another collaboration event was with Sanrio, the company that owns the Hello Kitty brand. Again, this update included many new colourful items inspired by the beloved, adorable cat mascot.
The Future of Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Compared to its launch in 2020, New Horizons is a vastly bigger game today. That doesn’t mean, though, that it won’t continue to expand. Dataminers and leakers have been revealing a bunch of nuggets that may or may not be in the works.
There is speculation that cooking may be coming to the game down the line. There’s also a lot of hope that a 2.0 update may be arriving in a matter of days, boasting a huge amount of content. We’ll have to wait and see.
In the meantime, if you’ve stayed away from the game due to lack of content, then now is a good time to explore all the cool new stuff that has been added over the course of the last 12 months.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Animal Crossing: New Horizons couldn't have released at a better time. It' everything a fan of the series could want, although it does start off a bit slow.
- Charming world
- Addictive gameplay loop
- Let's you play at your own pace
- Has a very slow start
Sound and Music