Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the fifth and latest installment of Nintendo’s Animal Crossing franchise. Featuring a familiar cast and newly updated activities, players are immersed into a real-time simulation of life on a deserted island. It’s up to them on how they want their island adventure to play out. There are no objectives, and there is no story. It’s just you, your new, quirky, anthropomorphic animal friends, and the life before you.
For the unfamiliar, the premise of Animal Crossing is simple. You, a young individual, move into a new place where you are the only human. You purchase a small home that you remodel, continuously paying off your debts to the elusive Tom Nook, a tanuki entrepreneur. Day to day life consists of running errands, such as bringing items to villagers who request them, as well as gathering bugs, fish, fruit, and fossils to pay off your debt or contribute to the betterment of your town. While the formula remains relatively unchanged since 2001, New Horizons offers players a new way to navigate their island life.
The most upfront change presented by New Horizons is the immediate presence of Timmy and Tommy, or the Nooklings. These are young tanukis who are carrying on Tom Nook’s original business, Nook’s Cranny. While Timmy and Tommy run the storefront of Nook’s Cranny, Tom instead runs Nook Inc. on the island. This small organization is responsible for your relocation to your new home, as well as the island infrastructure during development.
When you arrive on your island, you’re accompanied by Tom and two other charming villagers. Together, you establish the new name of your island and your adventure begins. Over the course of the next few days your deserted island begins to grow, allowing structures such as a beautiful museum (hello, Blathers!) and a tailor shop (hello, Able and Sable!) to accompany an updated residential services (hello, Isabelle!) and Nook’s Cranny. Eventually, more villagers arrive and Tom opens up to you about his goal: for the famous K.K. Slider to play a concert on your island.
In order for K.K. to visit, your island must achieve a three-star rating. A month into release, it’s fair to say that achieving this rating is not only doable, but also easy. So many people have not only brought K.K. to their island, but they’ve also unlocked a tool never before seen in prior iterations: terraforming. Terraforming allows players to completely customize their island by modifying land, cliffs, and even rivers, allowing for the ultimate customization experience.
Another new feature is the introduction of Nook Miles and Nook Miles+. Tom Nook introduces a secondary currency to Bells, the Nook Mile. Using Nook Miles, players can redeem them for different items to enhance gameplay through customization or efficiency, getting an award by doing different activities. These activities include actions like breaking a tool, or planting a non-native fruit, usually marking milestones. Nook Miles+ reward players for different activities, such as cutting down a tree or crafting. Nook Mile+ objectives change throughout gameplay, whilst Nook Miles are predetermined.
One of the most exciting features of New Horizons is online play, or the ability to visit other players and allow others to visit you. While this concept isn’t new to Animal Crossing, the ease and accessibility of it is unprecedented; never before have I seen so many people online playing the same game together. Even people I follow on Twitter were in awe at the amount of people that were playing New Horizons together. The Animal Crossing community exploded overnight, welcoming newcomers left and right.
While New Horizons at first feels like the perfect game, almost like the Animal Crossing game to end all Animal Crossing games, there is one deep flaw: crafting. Crafting itself isn’t flawed, but the mechanics of it are. Players can gather crafting materials and make items, such as beds or tools. However, items can only be crafted one at a time, leaving players who need to craft a lot in one sitting rapidly tapping A. The best solution to this would be the introduction of bulk crafting, where players can input how many of an item they can make, based on their supplies. Despite this, the excitement one’s character makes upon finishing a crafted item is somewhat worth the trouble and time.
I decided to wait a full month and play the game before reviewing to get the full experience of New Horizons. Honestly, there’s no way to fully review an evolving experience such as this one. Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a vast improvement when comparing to its predecessors; with impeccable detail (like kneecaps!) and beautifully integrated new features, it offers a charming experience. Veterans and newcomers alike can experience a moment of escapism, being whisked away to a faraway island for relaxation. It can really offer a moment of peace during one’s hectic life.