REVIEW | Animal Crossing: New Horizons

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While they were still developing it back in 2019, Nintendo announced that the newest installment in their extremely successful Animal Crossing series would be delayed until March 2020. What no-one could have anticipated, however, was the COVID-19 pandemic. This, in a way, ended up working out in Nintendo’s favor: with everyone staying at home, more and more people started buying a Nintendo Switch and a copy of said game, including myself. So, let’s take a look at what is one of, if not the most wholesome game in recent memory – “Animal Crossing: New Horizons”

This was my first foray into the series, and boy do I now understand the hype around it – especially this new entry. In this “non-linear life simulation game”, as Wikipedia calls it, you’re offered a shot at a new life, through a “Deserted Island Getaway Package”, offered by series-long character (and “lovable” debt collector) Tom Nook & Nook Inc. You can customize your character’s appearance, choose between a few different layouts that your island will have, as well as the hemisphere the island is located in (more on that later), and then you’re off to start your new life. At first, you start with a small, simple tent, which you can later turn into a house – here’s where the loan mechanic comes into play. The only difference from real loans, is that you can actually pay these ones off.

The appeal of this game, and I imagine any other previous game in the Animal Crossing series, is that you can do everything at your own pace. While everything takes place in real time, matching the date & time on your Switch console, there’s no rush in paying off your loans, or in growing your island by adding a museum, proper shops, and inviting residents to live there. If you choose to, you can spend whole days fishing & catching bugs, or visiting other deserted islands through the Nook Miles Ticket program (yes, Tom Nook’s invented his own currency this time, that greedy tanuki). There’s also an emphasis on crafting items, with the omnipresence of DIY recipes, which can detail the crafting ingredients for anything from tools to furniture and everything else in between.

In the 10 days that I have had this game for, I have logged “40 hours” of playtime “or more” (according to my Switch’s Play Activity counter), and I am not even close to reaching the potential my island holds: there’s still animals to invite to live on my island, plenty of fish, bugs, fossils AND paintings to find and donate to the museum, expansions to be done to my house, and I’ve yet to unlock the island terraforming tools! As if that wasn’t enough, there’s also the fact that Nintendo will be updating this game continuously for the next few years, offering seasonal activities and more – a good example of this was the Bunny Day update (which was over before I managed to get the game, but I digress), where there were a bunch of eggs to be found everywhere on the island. I also mentioned the fact that you can choose the hemisphere in which your island is located – that is because most of the fish and bugs you can catch can differ based on what time of year it currently is. For example, in the Northern Hemisphere, you can only catch tarantulas until May, which is when they become available in the Southern Hemisphere, until the end of October, when they make the switch (pun intended).

Though it has received almost universal praise, with The New York Times naming it “THE game for the Coronavirus pandemic”, Animal Crossing: New Horizons isn’t without its fair share of issues. When placing something on the ground, it’s hard to figure out *exactly* where it’ll go, as there’s no way to select its destination – you just put it down, and if it’s not there you want it to be, you have to pick it up and do it again. If you want to get some fossils assessed by the museum curator, but select the “Make a donation” option instead, you’ll have to listen to the same message about “only being able to donate insects, fish, and properly assessed fossils” – meaning that he can see what you have in your inventory, but can’t just look at the unassessed fossils, because reasons – before being able to make the proper selection. Then there’s also the multiplayer. Long story short, it’s horrible, in typical Nintendo fashion. Whenever someone visits an island, you (and whoever may also already be on your island) have to sit through the same two-minute-long animation, which is only cute the 1st (and only first) time you see it. When someone leaves, the same story applies. If you happen to be in a menu – your phone, buying something, literally any menu whatsoever – you’ll be asked to “close the window”. It’s extremely frustrating and there’s nobody out there who thinks this whole process is a good idea. Sure, none of these issues are deal-breaking, by any means, but they’re still incredibly annoying, to say the least.

Having said all of that, the game still continues to be one of the most successful and wholesome releases of 2020. If you like your games to be 100% pedal-to-the-metal, guns blazing, you *probably* won’t like this completely different game – but then again, stranger things have happened (i.e Machete star Danny Trejo playing the game himself). So who knows, maybe you can try the game for yourself at a friend’s place (when the lock-down is over, of course), or watch some game-play videos online. Even in spite of its shortcomings, people continue to buy and play it, logging upwards of 200 hrs, in their quest to perfect their island and get the elusive 5-star rating. It’s a highly enjoyable bundle of cuteness, which is why I can’t give Animal Crossing: New Horizons anything other than a 9.5/10. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have more fish to catch and a turnip stock exchange market to get the hold of.

Source: Animal Crossing

Florin Petruț

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