Given how the world outside might be a little crazy at the moment, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to hide from the world on your own private island? Having full autonomy to rule over it, develop as you please, and invite anyone of your choosing to love on it? Well, that’s Animal Crossing: New Horizons in a nutshell.
Since Animal Crossing: New Horizons was announced by Nintendo in 2018, fans have been waiting for this new chapter with bated breath. With the hopes of more interesting villagers, a bigger map, and most importantly, more customisation.
After 20 hours of play, Nintendo certainly has delivered and then some.
As with every life simulation game, the first task upon starting the game is to customise your character. Players start off by selecting their skin tone, hairstyle, eyes, nose and lips. While the choices seem limited, players can expect more character customisation later in the game.
With enough in-game currency (Nook Miles) earned, your now nerdy looking hair can be a cool undercut in the latest Sonic Blue. But only if you have spent 2,400 miles for the Top 8 Cool Hairstyles set plus another 3,000 miles for the Top 8 Stylish Hair Colours set.
The horrendous bright yellow striped tee can be quickly replaced with designer wear by the Able Sisters. Once again you’d need to have spent enough miles to entice them to open a store on your island, that is. But more on that later.
For the talented, you’d really want your character to wear something that is one of a kind. There is an option to spend some miles to get the Custom Designs Pro app and start working on your pixel art.
We loved this feature the best and the results speak for itself.
Instantly look like Lightning from Final Fantasy XIII? Done!
Up to this point we’ve not even talked about the brand new island in Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
Animal Crossing fans will rejoice at this huge upgrade from a little town in previous installments to islands rife with customisation. And it doesn’t end with picking the default four island options. Players can change the landscape of their island once terraforming is unlocked. Don’t like that waterfall separating your land? Fill it up with land. You are an islander with the power of a god.
One can’t help but be overcome with calm while exploring the island. As the waves roll on and off the shore lazily, the sunlight glistening in the river, Animal Crossing really just wants players to take it easy.
This is complemented with the impressive sound design. Soothing resort music is subtle in the background, supporting the different footsteps sound as you run on wood, grass and sand, and the gentle crash of the waves on the beach. Even the soft music in the Custom Designs app is so therapeutic that I did not realise I have spent almost an hour designing a hoodie.
It’s not exactly “lofi hip-hop radio” but it gives off the same vibe.
Remember the Able Sisters who sold you new threads? Animal Crossing: New Horizons has 70 over villagers to unlock. Each with their own distinctive personality. By travelling to random islands which cost Nook Miles to unlock, players are given a chance to invite them to your island. The dialogue between villagers is a charm to unravel. With the handful met so far, some range from quick-witted responses to those which really do sound pretty heartfelt. It’s remarkable to experience how fast Nintendo is able to have players make a connection with new villagers purely via text.
If anything, Animal Crossing: New Horizons really wants players to take their time. With time synced to the Switch’s clock, a typical day would be straight forward. Players could explore the island, harvest some materials, catch some fishes or bugs, or mingle with their two villagers, and they’re done! At the start, you would need to literally wait till day two to get into more action.
The real beauty of the game would be to unlearn how games are traditionally played and take it easy.
For the next few days, one could choose to keep yourself busy with making Bells and Miles to pay Tom Nook for that ludicrously huge loan. Or, decorating the island and your tent with painstakingly crafted or random furniture falling from the sky. There’s no one path to “success” and simply many routes to a variety of activities.
If you’re really stuck on how to get the ball rolling here are some suggestions to get you started:
- Craft a shovel so that you can dig up that shiny spot on the ground that would appear on a random location every day. You would find 1,000 Bells buried, but hold your horses. Instead of pocketing those Bells, rebury it in the same hole and you can grow a Bells tree!
- Don’t keep your Bells in your pocket. Deposit them in the ABD to earn interest. The only question is, should you pay Tom Nook back and clear your loan as soon as possible; or should you just keep them in your account awhile longer since Tom is charging you 0% loan interest?
- Complete the quests in Nook Miles+ to earn more Miles so that you can get the Pocket Organisation Guide to increase your inventory slots as soon as possible. You will get even more storage space once your 98,000 Bells house is ready, but your pocket inventory space is crucial to allow you to bring back more exotic flora and fauna from the random islands you will be visiting.
- While it is frustrating that those flimsy tools are breaking so often, don’t spend all your iron nuggets on upgrading too early in the game. You need to save 30 iron nuggets for a certain major development on the island!
Once you’re tired of talking to two villagers and the Nook family, it might be time to play with your friends. Multiplayer support is a key selling point for this game. Players can connect with friends via face-to-face local communication, or internet connection. A maximum of 4 (internet) or 8 (local communication) players can visit one player’s island. There are incentives to visit your friends. You might get some inspiration for your own island, and you can shop at their store and buy stuff which are not available on your island!
Remember, Animal Crossing is made for taking it slow. There’s no power gaming to be found here which might be a good change of pace from the hustle and bustle of real life.