When I first played Animal Crossing: New Leaf in 2013, I was depressed and unemployed, yet found solace in the cutest little Nintendo 3DS game. I became Mayor of a little town with access to bug catching, fishing, shopping, renovating, interior design, a museum and taking the train to trade with others from around the world at their own unique self-contained villages.
Cut to 2020 and while I am no longer unemployed nor depressed (at present), I still have anxiety and like many, am very stressed regarding the global pandemic of COVID-19. It seems once again that Animal Crossing has come to the rescue with its new addition to the series, Animal Crossing: New Horizons. This new game is part of the core series in the Animal Crossing franchise (the rest in-between New Leaf and New Horizons are just spin-offs) and is the first to come out exclusively to Nintendo Switch.
Like all previous games in the series, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is an on-going game and still has the bug catching, home designing and fishing activities that we have grown to love. Unlike New Leaf and mobile phone game Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp however, New Horizons does not have the cute adorable pup, Isabelle greeting you from the beginning (although, she will appear later when you have completed a number of tasks). Instead, business raccoon Tom Nook and his two little racoon minions Timmy and Tommy help you get started, with your character (after you customise an avatar) travelling by plane to a deserted island, which you can name and essentially call your own.
Be mindful of naming both your character and the island, as once you lock names in, that’s it. They can’t be changed. You also cannot change the hemisphere you choose when beginning your game. With the choice of the Southern Hemisphere or the Northern Hemisphere, it is highly recommended that you pick the hemisphere that you live in, so that the game’s seasons change alongside the real seasons that you experience in real life.
The great part of the customisation options for your characters is that you can pick different skin tones, hair colours, hairstyles and that they are all gender neutral. Even the outfits; dresses can be worn by male avatars if that is what you desire. It may just be a little thing for some, but the equality in this game is astounding and I am incredibly impressed.
To be honest, Tom Nook is a bit of a hard ass (he always has been throughout the series), shoving majority of the island’s responsibility to you and giving you the made-up title of ‘Island Representative’. These adorable but somewhat manipulative raccoons request all sorts of things from you; from plotting fully furnished homes for other anthropomorphic villagers (not a deal which you get because you have to start off in a poverty tent), to helping establish their permanent shop Nook’s Cranny (which you gain no profit from, after running around like a headless chicken to help them).
Don’t even get me started on the rambling owl, Blathers who opens a museum on the island and fully expects you to curate it on your own with bugs, marine life and ancient fossils. Admittedly, it is a deserted island, so there’s not much to do, and doing all these activities is actually real a lot of damn fun.
Adapting from the mechanics of Pocket Camp, in New Horizons you can craft and build your own items using ingredients from the island with DIY recipes, whether it be tools, furniture, shoes or accessories. However, the game also allows you to scan QR codes (with your phone through Nook Link via the Nintendo Switch App) of custom designs by fans that were created for 3DS games New Leaf and Happy Home Designer. I love this feature so much because when New Horizons was launched, you already had an abundance of outfits that you could scan and use in the new game.
Who knew that old designs from 7 years ago would still be useful in the latest Animal Crossing instalment today? I wish I did! Because then, I would have kept all my custom QR codes of designs I used all those years ago as opposed to them being lost in the past. There will also be opportunities to design your own clothes and share your designs with a unique code, but this is also a feature that is unlocked at a later date.
If you have a Nintendo Switch Online membership, the game is that much more fun to play, as you can connect with your friends (provided you have added their Switch code into your console), flying to different islands by plane. When you host visitors, there is a total capacity of 6 on the island. Make sure you be mindful of who you add as a ‘Best Friend’ in the feature, because adding people to your Best Friend list allows them more power to your island; they can cut down trees and smash rocks, actions that would be limited if someone is not on your special friends list. After you have connected with friends in the game, you have the ability to send them mail, which you can also send to villagers on your island or even a gift for your future self.
It is still early days for New Horizons, as the game was only released on the 20th of March 2020 and we’ve all yet to experience a fully-fledged thriving town, as well as the surprises that the game is yet to reveal. I am also unsure if like New Leaf, whether this new instalment will celebrate holiday events such as Easter and Christmas and provide unique items to collect in relation to these festivities. But honestly, I am so very keen to find out. So, grab a Nintendo Switch (if you don’t have one already) and self-isolate whilst diving into this promising, wonderful, clever little game.
Although Animal Crossing isn’t the first life simulator game out there, it is definitely one of the best. Unlike most games which can be incredibly anxiety-inducing, adrenaline pumping and super stressful, Animal Crossing is relaxing. Whether it be the pleasing chilled-out music, the sound of the ocean waves crashing onto the shore or making wishes on shooting stars during a meteor shower. Everything about Animal Crossing: New Horizons is fun, calming, and exactly the game that we need right now.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is out now worldwide and is exclusively on Nintendo Switch.