If you have been on the internet for the past few months, you have likely heard about “Animal Crossing: New Horizons,” a video game developed by Nintendo for the Nintendo Switch that was released on March 20.
The game is the fifth and most recent installment of the “Animal Crossing” series, which primarily focuses on an open-ended, world-building experience.
I initially became aware of the game through its first announcement in a 2018 Nintendo Direct—a video presentation revealing upcoming Nintendo content—but my interest failed to spark until the name began popping up everywhere across the internet since late March of this year. So, I decided to give it a try to see what the excitement was about.
The game case itself promises “the ultimate island escape,” which seemed very appealing to me during quarantine.
The general story is that the player is provided with the “Deserted Island Getaway Package” and is flown to an island layout of their choosing via Dodo Airlines, an in-game airline company. Players are then declared the “Resident Representative” and must help develop the island to their liking.
Players must decide a name, flag and tune for their island, and I ingeniously named mine “Dreamland” as a nod to the Kirby franchise.
The NPC (nonplayer character) animals that appear in the game are adorable and comedic; they each have their own personality and charisma, which surprised me and made the interactions with them much more enjoyable. The island will slowly fill up with more residents as the player makes progress in their world building.
One of the most important aspects of the game is another in-game company, Nook Incorporated, which is operated by Tom Nook with the help of his assistants, Timmy and Tommy, who are both adorable raccoons. They essentially guide you through your journey on the island and are always ready to assist when their help is needed.
Tom Nook provides players with a “NookPhone” because, in today’s world, no one can live without technology. The phone acts as a menu option that gives each player access to features such as DIY recipes to construct items, a passport, a map of the landscape and other apps to aid players.
Customization for a player’s avatar, furniture, plants and more can be purchased with bells or “Nook Miles” (two types of currency in the game). In addition, there is the option of creating customizable clothing or art pieces, which is entertaining as long as they stay in PG territory, please.
Once players pay off their initial “Getaway Package” debt, they can pay Tom Nook in larger and larger amounts to upgrade the quality and size of their houses. However, this is more of a commodity and not required in order to progress in the game.
The game can become very addicting. For example, I found myself becoming a fashion hoard, buying any fashion statement I could find without actually having a use for it. Other players might find themselves invested in filling up the museum, customizing their house or obtaining certain characters.
The visuals are very clean, and there is noticeable attention to detail. I was a little freaked out at first by how realistic the bugs in the game are. The game’s background music provides a calming mood as well.
This game is definitely the relaxing escape from reality I expected it to be. It is a fun island getaway where I can do virtually whatever I want while staying in the comforts of my home. However, not all that glitters is gold, as I did find some minor issues throughout my experience with the game.
Over time, the task of gathering large amounts of items became tedious and as players are given more and more tasks, it can become a bit overwhelming to stay on top of it all.
While the game is primarily open ended, players do have to complete various tasks before they can unlock new features. So if a player buys the game expecting to be rocking out with the iconic character Isabelle from the moment the game is opened, the player will be disappointed to know it takes a lot of time and hard work. Personally, it took me a week before Isabelle arrived at my island, but the amount of progress a player makes each day depends on individual work ethic.
The game does operate in real time, which means the environment matches the player’s real-life surroundings. However, it also means that some aspects of the game, such as waiting for your package to arrive or waiting for a building to be constructed, takes actual days. Although, if this is an issue for the player, there is the option to cheat the system by changing the date in the Nintendo Switch settings. Even so, whenever I skipped time, I did not feel as much pride in my work compared to when I waited the intended time, and I found that special occasions such as the “Bunny Day” Easter event were changed to different dates.
In the end, the payoff is definitely worth the effort. While it does take a lot of time to perform seemingly meaningless tasks, being able to see all the progress I have made does make me proud. The game has endless possibilities on which direction players will take their islands, and no player’s experience will be the same.
I gladly recommend this game for those seeking a fun, addictive way to kill time and relieve stress. However, if someone is more into straightforward action in gameplay, then I suggest they look somewhere else.
The game’s content is so expansive it cannot be contained in a single review. There is no exact “ending” to the game, just endless variations of world building according to each player’s desires.