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Thoughts on Animal Crossing: New Horizons

 |  Geek, Review

I’ve not played Animal Crossing since Let’s Go to the City (also known as City Folk) on the Wii (2008) — missing New Leaf on the 3DS and the mobile versions — so may be a little bit behind on what the series has to offer, but based on the games I have played from the series, New Horizons follows much the same concept as other versions of Animal Crossing. You start your life with very little, slogging it out for Tom Nook with little in the way of pay or reward. (Read my Earning Bells guide for Let’s Go to the City, updated with some tips for New Horizons).

OK, that’s a little bit harsh, your reward in this case is the opportunity to mould an entire island to your unique vision of paradise, but nonetheless I can’t help but feel it’s a bit crap that I had to work to find and pay for houses for new residents when nobody did that for me! I guess it adds variety and achievements… (roll eyes)

Faux-bitterness aside, I am in love with this iteration of Animal Crossing. The museum, which is a thing of beauty, is my main highlight; sometimes I visit the butterfly house just to sit and watch the insects whizzing around my head.

The interaction (both with me and the environment) from the non-playable characters has stepped up a notch: I watched ‘Kevin’ hunting butterflies this morning and it just felt more ‘immersive’ than ever. All of the characters examine bugs and flowers, water their own flowers and so on. Other little touches like islanders doing yoga together on the plaza or their slightly off-key singing just add to the look and feel perfectly (I was highly amused to discover that if you bop a character on the head multiple times while singing, they get into a huff and storm off — this wasn’t me though *cough* Gaz)

There are lots of other small details that I don’t remember seeing in previous versions too. The sound your feet make changes with your footwear (or bare feet) depending on the type of surface you’re on (beach vs grass vs path); the way flowers and trees blow in the wind seems more convincing than ever; everything about the tarantulas fills me with joy.

When I’m bored of shaking trees, watering flowers and stalking NPCs on my island (named Habbo; kudos if you ever used that shithole and recognise that reference) I like to visit the ‘Nook Miles’ islands. I don’t seem to have much luck with my miles islands, but love this concept and the potential for those who can’t connect to friends’ islands to get non-native fruit, although I’ve read that you can only get one other variety this way. (After writing the first draft of this post, I had a hybrid flowers island and then the much sought after tarantula island on the same day, so I guess keep trying!)

The ability to visit my sister/husband/friend’s islands has brought me genuine laugh out loud fun — playing hide and seek, chase and ‘tag’, fishing competitions, romantic dates, or just exchanging gifts — which at the moment is a vital experience and connection to people I am desperately missing in person.

Of course, it’s not all perfect. I’m not sure I like the fact that the tools break. Prior to my recent advancement to 5-star island territory, it was taking two three watering cans to water all of the flowers I was hoping to hybridise and this is only going to get worse as they spread. (Spoilers: 5-star island unlocks the golden watering can, which lasts longer and seems to have a bigger spread when watering.) I also wish there were a bloody durability meter!

It bothers me that when crafting at home your craft desk can’t access items in your storage. This is especially irritating as when e.g. arranging furniture or changing your outfit you can reach the relevant items stashed. That said, it’s nice to have the crafting desk and customisation features as an option so we’re not limited to default sets of furniture.

It’s frustrating that you can’t build more than one bridge/incline at a time, but I assume this is to slow you down (I’m really not interested in time travel). Even more so that, as it happens, the inclines are limited to 8 (and assume bridges are the same, although have not tested this limit yet).

Unskippable dialogue remains my number one gaming pet peeve and anyone who’s played the Animal Crossing games before know that its a familiar ‘feature’. It’s vaguely cute with Blathers because its literally his thing, but otherwise just get on with it! (Argh) There seems to be a hundred unnecessary prompts to do things (“do you definitely want to send a letter?” – yes, or I wouldn’t have initiated the interface) but often no way of going ‘back’ so e.g. if I accidentally click local play when trying to fly, I can’t easily go back a step and choose online, I have to start the conversation again.

The island designer is a pain in the ass. I always end up building when I want to destroy and vice versa. It would be easier / more accessible (same goes for using e.g. shovel) if there were an option to turn on a ‘tool square’ or similar, so that you can see where your tool is going to work.

More minor things that I’ve moaned about to Gaz include wishing that, having invested in the tool ring, it freed up the spots in your inventory; that I could ring the airport from my phone to open and close the gate; that the nook shopping wasn’t limited to 5 items per day (and that I could bulk buy) and so on.

Still, it’s a much-valued break from real world stresses and strains and its release date couldn’t have come at a better time. Brb, fossils to find.

Animal Crossing and Nintendo are registered trademarks of Nintendo, all artwork copyright Nintendo 2020, no infringement intended.

Jem Turner jem@jemjabella.co.uk +44(0)7521056376

One comment so far

  1. Kirsten said:

    I so badly want to play this game. I’ve only ever played Pocket Camp on my Android phone which I absolutely love. I have been considering getting a Nintendo Switch or at the very least a Nintendo Switch Lite. We only have an Xbox One. I have been watching gameplay videos on YouTube and it looks like so much fun. I am a Sims 4 fan and have been trying to find other games I’ll like.

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