One of the biggest games that people have been demanding from Nintendo since the Switch came out is another Animal Crossing game. It took a while, but you got one. The last official game that wasn't a spinoff was Animal Crossing: New Leaf on the 3DS, released back in 2012. And shy of all of us begging Nintendo to release Mother 3 in the states, a new game in the franchise has been up there for years as one of the most-requested titles for them to make. But now that Animal Crossing: New Horizons is out, is it everything players have been hoping for this entire time? Nintendo sent us a copy for review so we could hop on a plane and be dumped in the middle of nowhere.
Off On A New Adventure
The story behind this game is much what regular fans might expect. For the uninitiated, you start off as a villager that you get to design who has decided to make the bold choice of settling somewhere new. You get to pick the island, how you look, and a few other details before setting off to be a founding member of a new society. When you land on the island you are greeted by a familiar Tanukichi by the name of Tom Nook, along with a pair of his helpers known as Tommy and Timmy. These three will help you get set up by giving you the basics you need for survival, which includes a tent, a mobile phone, and information on how to craft things that you need to survive. (Yes, first-timers. Part of this game is a crafting experience.)
The Reality Of Debt In Animal Crossing: New Horizons
After you get settled, you learn the disturbing truth that Tom Nook has decided that you owe them a debt for moving out here. Because it cost money to fly you out, get your equipment, and get you settled. So right off the bat, you learn the adulthood lesson of crippling debt. But that's okay because he's come up with a plan for you to work it off called Nook Miles. Much like how frequent flyer miles work, the more you get the more you earn status in the community and can use the miles to pay off your debts to Nook The Crook. You earn miles by doing simple tasks across the entire island like fishing, catching bugs, chopping wood, picking weeds, growing plants, finding fossils, harvesting fruit, and a library of other things that are on your phone. When you complete tasks, Nook Miles are added to your account, which you can use to pay Tom back or you can use to get other items in the game.
What's This List Of Things To Do?
If Animal Crossing: New Horizons sounds heavily task-oriented, that's because it is. But don't let that dissuade you from playing it. The reality of the situation you're put in throughout the game is that you're essentially starting a new society with others who have come to do the same. And like any new experience, there's a lot that needs to be done before your comfortable. For example, you start the game living in a tent. Along with your fellow island friends who you help find places to stay. You eventually build a house. You do so by paying off debt, growing the community, getting the resources needed to build it, and so on. This is basically an RPG simulator where you level up in tasks and expand the village into a town. One that you can decorate however you wish.
Island Makeover – Animal Crossing: New Horizons Edition
One of the fun things about the game is that you can design the island however you wish. While the hub of the island remains near the lower-center, which is where Tom has set up shop, the rest is open territory. You can put your home and the homes of your fellow travelers wherever you'd like. You get a museum in the game, which can be put down anywhere. More people will eventually move in, as well as businesses that will start-up, which can be placed almost anywhere you'd like. There's areas of the island that you can eventually build bridges and steps to get to, which can be expanded into gardens and forests or turned into part of your metropolis. When people move in, you can choose to keep them around or complain enough to have them leave and get someone new to move in. (The island takes up to 10 NPCs as residents who are not business owners.) You can eventually build greater buildings, add roads, and create a destination everyone will enjoy.
Cheating Time Traveler!
If you're curious how the game plays out compared to the real world, it follows along in regular time. If you play Animal Crossing: New Horizons at 2pm on a Sunday, it will be 2pm on that day. So you can experience the changing of the day if you play long enough. It also changes with the seasons depending on the hemisphere of the world you're in. So right now, as we're doing this review, it is about to be Spring in the game. While in Australia or South America, it's about to turn into Fall. Now, here's the controversial part of the game that is fun but annoying. You can cheat the system by time traveling. All you have to do is exit the game, go into your Switch's menu options, and change the date and time. Then reopen the game to see the change. Depending on the kind of gamer you are and how much time you have on your hands, this can either be a lifesaver, or an extreme cheat to get what you want quickly. Nintendo should have curbed this or patched it so the game detects when you try to cheat, but that's more of a personal gripe. At the same time, it's understandable why people cheat if they don't have the time to wait for things to happen.
Everything Has A Price
Animal Crossing: New Horizons also isn't shy about taunting you with the idea that you have to buy everything. Ther are certain items that are free and others that are given or found. But the vast majority of stuff you get on this island is purchasable. In fact, there's a point in time where you really can't progress much further until you spend Nook Miles or Bells (the other in-game currency you get for selling stuff) on certain things to unlock them. This is an annoying aspect because part of the crafting aspect should be discovery. A perfect example of that is the Fishing Rod, which you learn how to make a flimsy one that keeps breaking at the start. In order to make one that lasts longer, you specifically have to go to an ATM in the game and purchase an item called Pretty Good Tool Recipes. There is no learning curve, there is no carpentry teacher, there is no way to learn how to do it. You have to purchase instructions. And that gets really infuriating over time. Yes, there are enough activities in the game where you can eventually purchase all that you need, which includes stable tools and an expanded inventory. But Nintendo forces you to do the work for a looooooong time before you get there.
Come Visit Me (Virtually)
The last aspect we wanted to touch on was the online options, which allows you to open your island up to visitors as well as give you the chance to visit other friends. People can come say hi, leave notes, drop off items you maybe didn't have, charges fruit of there own and more. You have the option to restrict what people can do so no one can mess with your island, or open it up so people you trust can help you. The one downside to this is that you can't just do it freely, it will cost you 2,000 Nook Miles to travel each time. It's fun to go check out other people's places and get ideas of what you can do with your stuff. Aside from the ticket, you will need to be friends with whoever you want to go visit, and they need to be online with the island active. So be sure to snag the friend code from your buddy before you start buying tickets and try to connect.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons Is A Needed Break From Reality
Overall, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a pretty awesome jump forward for the series. It keeps a lot of what makes the series fun for returning players while blending in new elements that they will enjoy seeing in the game. For new players, this is basically the best possible version of Animal Crossing you'll see. It doesn't have every little thing that's ever been added to a game in the series, so you may not understand every meme you'll see online about it. But you have the essentials of what the game is about and what you can accomplish. If you're into Minecraft or Stardew Valley, you'll probably enjoy this. Primarily because you may notice that in the eight years between games, the developers borrowed a couple of elements from both. Which, you know, flattery is fine, but it would have been nice to see the company acknowledge that others expanded on the genre.
This game was a lot of fun playing this and visiting islands and chilling with my friends. Which was especially comforting as we're writing this review in the middle of the coronavirus outbreak. This is a game where you can simply turn your brain off and focus on things that have nothing to do with the real world. Even though it is based in a stressful situation you may find yourself in the real world someday.