Sometimes we need a vacation to take our mind off of our daily job or school life. Most people book a flight and visit a faraway country for new experiences. Some stock up on games and aren’t heard from for long periods of time. But what about the people who want to do both? Animal Crossing: New Horizons attempts to do just that with the latest game of the series, but will it be your perfect virtual getaway from the hectic nature of life?
You’re given the opportunity to live on a deserted island starting off with two neighbors and the Nookling family. Before you know it, the famous Tom Nook will do what he’s best known for — sinking his paws into your pocket. It’s up to you to make an honest living to satisfy the money-hungry tanuki while helping develop the island and enjoying the many perks it has to offer.
The story takes a similar approach to previous games in the series. With the many new additions to the game, it feels as an improvement in most ways, but also a downgrade in others. Don’t expect to go for a swim anytime soon on the island.
The game gives full control over the appearance of your character. With gender as a thing of the past, players can make their character look how they want and dress how they feel like. There are no restrictions on what you can do. If you’re a male who wants to rock a dress, you can. The game surely will not discriminate.
The amount of facial customization options is sufficient. Players are able to change their skin tone, hairstyle, nose and mouth shape, cheeks, and eyes, along with various colors to choose from. Appearances can be changed later in the game if a player so happens to have a change of heart later, and with new styling options to unlock, there’s enough variety that finding something that suits you is easy.
Even though the game has a large number of clothing options to choose from, it further expands what you can wear with custom designs. Fashion choices become limitless between choosing from what the game has to offer, creating your own clothing line, and using someone else’s designs. It fits perfectly for players who want to go beyond the game’s fashion senses to match their favorite celebrities or even fictional characters.
Importing designs to use isn’t difficult either. The game makes it as simple as scanning a QR code or entering a designer code. Hundreds of designs have already been uploaded to the Internet, making it easy to find popular clothing to use for your playthrough.
New Horizons returns with the relaxing gameplay Animal Crossing fans know and love. The game utilizes the console’s clock with real-time day and night mechanics. It retains the attitude of playing at your own pace and does a spectacular job at it. Newcomers to the series will have no issues picking up the basics thanks to the fantastic tutorial, while all players will have fun discovering the hidden tricks all throughout the game.
Living The Island Life
Before you can live life to the fullest in an island paradise, you must first pick a randomly generated map layout for your island and its name. Similar to previous entries of the series, a native fruit is randomly assigned to the island along with two villagers to accompany you.
The map may seem limited at the beginning, however, additional parts are unlocked as time passes by. The gatekeeping isn’t severe, as it can all be unlocked reasonably early in the game. New objectives to complete will emerge as the days pass by. The more you play, the more you’ll unlock to fully dictate how your island looks and who live on it.
There are various activities to partake in throughout the day in the game. Veterans of the series will be familiar with most of them, such as fishing, catching bugs, gathering resources, and popping balloons. Each new day resets the harvestable resources of the island.
There’s something for everyone, and before you know it, you may be consumed in the virtual world of Animal Crossing: New Horizons. It accomplishes its mission of taking your mind off of real-world situations for the moment and gets more exciting when comparing achievements with friends.
The game gives full control over island customization through various mechanics, although it may take time to afford or acquire permission to perform the appropriate actions. With the right permits, tools, and creativity, you can turn a grassy plain into a marvelous city or even a Minecraft horror story. There’s a massive amount of content to take advantage of for decoration, and if it isn’t enough, you have the freedom to add your own stylish designs to the fray.
One problem players may find disheartening is the grassy remains left next to buildings and the island plaza when laying paths down. It’s capable of triggering someone’s OCD to unstable levels regardless of how minor it is to others, but it’s not entirely impossible to make it work with the rest of your island design to produce something astonishing.
Recipes and Crafting
Animal Crossing: New Horizons introduces crafting to the series. Players can collect recipes and craft items to use during their everyday life. The system is as simple as it could get and opens up a new world to the series that wasn’t available in previous titles, adding more mechanics and options on how players can acquire what they want. Not only does it let players create new objects, but it also lets them customize an object’s color to better decorate their island the way they want to.
Unfortunately, it has its flaws. The first is its lack of a link between house storage and pocket space when crafting, especially if done indoors. Unnecessary time will be wasted between going back and forth to look at recipes and pick out resources for them. The Nookphone app does make it easier to check recipes, but it isn’t a complete solution to the main issue. It also becomes a tedious task to mass-produce items, and there will be times when it’s essential (eg. fish bait). Fast-forwarding through the crafting animation by mashing the A button helps ease the inconvenience, but it can only do so much.
The bad isn’t enough to taint the system as a deal-breaker. The game’s slice of life persona still shines through despite some minor irritations. The fact that the same recipes can be obtained multiple times opens up the possibility of trading with other players either locally or online. Previous games have made a name for themselves in the trading community, and this will no doubt strengthen it.
The Road To Bankruptcy
Even though you’ll never have to file for bankruptcy, the game will throw no bones at you. It’s a tough road to becoming debt-free and you’ll have to figure out the best ways to climb the economic ladder to pay off house loans and make the island the best it can be. “Cheap” is not be a word in Tom Nook’s vocabulary and things will keep skyrocketing in price the further you get. On the bright side, the game’s currency will have a purpose a majority of the time and there’s always something to work towards in improving and polishing your island.
As the game lets you play at your own pace, there’s no need to rush into anything, so you can enjoy the virtual sea breeze as you reel in the hundredth Sea Bass or shake the fruit tree with medicine in hand. If it’s one thing, Tom Nook is tolerable of late payments.
Building up an island isn’t the only thing the game has to offer. Online multiplayer expands upon the normal gameplay, where you can visit other players’ islands or let them into your own to hang out and socialize. Connecting with other players is dependent on who you have added to your console’s friend list or whose active Dodo Code you come across online. As part of the online play is heavily trading-based, having a quick way to connect with a stranger you’ve met online without keeping them in your friend list comes in handy.
Up to 7 players can join someone’s island and simultaneously stay. Playing online with a full island of players where they all run around and perform some type of action is normally a smooth experience with little to no lag, however, someone’s poor Internet connection or the distance between players may affect this. Autosaving plays a major role in combating communication errors and is a relief of the fear of losing progress. Mr. Resseti sure did plan ahead this time around.
Foreigners can be unpredictable. They may not follow your island’s rules and can easily misbehave. Tools are provided to deal with such people if they ever arise, and players can rest easily knowing visitors to their island are unable to use construction tools without permission. Alex from the island named Hell, for example, won’t have the power to burn your island to the ground, unless you give it to him.
Even though the tools and mechanics put in place are capable of effectively dealing with troublemakers, there are still a few additional tools to be desired. A report button goes a long way if someone receives the complaint and acts on it, but other than reporting other players, only an option to kick all players out of the island exists. An option to kick an individual player would have been more convenient instead of having to set up and invite everyone again when there’s only one bad apple in the crowd.
An online simulation game without a way for players to communicate would only prove to be an inconvenience. Thankfully, that isn’t the case with Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Voice chat may have been what some players have longed for, however, the game’s live text chat does a splendid job at covering online communication between players.
Live Text Chatting and Reactions
A simple press of a button in a convenient location quickly brings up the game’s text chat. Keys aren’t too troublesome to locate and the Nintendo Switch’s touchscreen is supported in the game, therefore if you’re not comfortable using your controller, touchscreen typing is a wonderful alternative, assuming you’re playing in handheld or tabletop mode. In addition, in-game messaging can be accessed on the phone, using the Nintendo Online app, allowing for even faster typing if you play with your phone at your side. Unlocked reactions can also be used to show expressions without saying a word.
Adding players as a best friend in the game gives you the ability to see when they’re playing and have the option to send them messages directly without having to meet up at an island. It’s a returning feature, but also a welcomed one. There’s no longer a need to go through the trouble of calling Joshua or Katie to come and hang out on your island; you can do it all from the game itself.
Offline Messaging: Letter Sending
People do get busy and sometimes it can be difficult to play at the same time as others. That’s why New Horizons has another way of communicating with friends, this time through letters in the game, with the bonus of attaching giftable items to them. This also makes it more convenient to gift or trade items without having to go through the trouble of visiting each other’s islands.
On top of the core content of the game, seasonal events will become available around the time of their real-life counterparts and expand your daily activities when live. Nintendo has decided to take a different approach with them this time around, likely to spend more time developing the content and to help prevent spoilers. An Internet connection will be required to download each update around the real-life time of the event.
Despite having to update the game to gain access to seasonal events, other seasonal changes and appearance changes occur without updates. The bugs and fish that can be caught and the items that can be obtained will rotate as usual.
Graphics and Soundtrack
Animal Crossing has once again made its way to the big screen and its HD graphics help make New Horizons feel like the true successor to the series with its adorable-looking characters and various stylish designs. Fishes seem a bit realistic when flapping their body as they’re reeled out of the water, dangerous spiders are as frightful as they are in real life, and the museum is a sight to be seen with its massive appearance upgrade. Viewing angles can be adjusted to overcome blind spots, and creativity and imagination know no bounds with this game, as it expands the borders of what can be done whether you’re an artist or use from the many public works.
Its graphics aren’t its only appeal. Matching the gameplay, its soundtrack does a remarkable job of making the game as relaxing as it can be. The tunes played are always calming to the ears, acting as an abstract massage to the organ without consciously knowing.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons preserves the charm the series has given off for so long with its relaxing gameplay and soothing music. One hour can easily turn into five as you lose the sense of time trying to catch that pesky dragonfly or making an honest day’s living. It’s the type of game you’ll frequently find yourself picking up to play, putting down for a break, and repeating the procedure later.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons gets a 9.5/10.