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✔️Fresh & Innovative. Just what the series needed.
✔️Upholds its sense of familiarity from previous entry’s.
✔️There’s always something to do, extending its quality of life.
❌A little slow at the beginning, but nothing that will turn you away.
Socialising, while maintaining distance.
Animal Crossing is a blessing in disguise for humanity right now. Its timing is impeccable, and its reach has been unbelievable in our times of hardship. If anything, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is teaching us the way of our “New Normal”, and how we will be interacting and socialising with each other, through gaming in 2020. Animal Crossing’s purity and innocence is a rich and needed juxtaposition on our noisy surroundings right now, and one that surely gamers who have their hands on the title, deeply appreciate. While the series itself has seen a massive boost in popularity on the Nintendo Switch, there’s no denying how strong its devotee’s are committed to the niche franchise. Animal Crossing’s rich history has helped bring New Horizons’ to prominence, and crush expectations. While in recent times, its modern prequels have fell short of fan’s expectations with its last home console release, Wii’s Animal Crossing: City Folk.
Relying on a complete gimmick and trying to sell additional peripheral’s was certainly a short exchange from fans, and one they were not ready to take a stronghold to. With the series jumping to the Nintendo3DS in Animal Crossing: New Leaf, it welcomed a new generation of fans that immediately fell in love with it’s light-hearted approach, and all round soft aesthetic. So it was no wonder why New Horizons’ was set to be a massive launch for Nintendo, and rightfully so. Animal Crossing: New Horizons is an incredible addition to the established fantasy simulator series. With a mixture of familiarity and much needed improvements, it showed that Nintendo were most definitely listening to their fans, and heading back to their roots. After a near decade, the innovation seen in this entry shows what the Japanese developer has learned, and adapted into what is now, the definitive version of Animal Crossing.
Sail away.. Sail away.. Sail away..
Animal Crossing has never been plot heavy, but has always been noted for its dynamic settings in each installment. For those who are unfamiliar with the ultra basic scenario of the franchise itself, Animal Crossing see’s your created avatar move to an Island Resort as part of a Getaway package. The Nook Deserted Island Getaway, has your character and two pets move to the island, seeking a change of lifestyle. However moving away from your life, you seem to have sacrificed everything you own. Beginning with nothing but a small tent and some clothing, you will be given a series of minor objectives to complete and purchase all the necessities, including your very own island house. Sounds like a hard life, right? Well, this is all part of the fun. For a fantasy vacation simulator that sails you away to a deserted island, overran by a Tanuki and his family, there is certainly a grounded notion, that has been hidden behind the entire narrative of Animal Crossing, but we’ll save that for your imagination.
Exploration is so much fun. From discovering a scurrying range of wildlife, in which you may attempt to capture and donate to a museum, to laboring and earning those bells – the island’s currency – there is no shortage of tasks to fulfill on your getaway. Spending bells on clothing, furniture, or even deciding it’s time to enter the real-estate market – something we oh, so desperately hope to do in our lives… one day – has you playing accountant, and segregating your funds to the essentials. Of course, grinding your way through multiple tasks will earn you more bells for expenditure and opportunity for those rare daily item drops. There is a daily cycle in which new items will appear for players to purchase, whether it be each for the aforementioned items, or anything else the game may throw at you, so choose wisely when shopping… another day in your tent may not be a bad idea.
An improvement from previous entries into the series is New Horizons’ innovative customisation tools. I loved having the flexibility in designing my surroundings just the way I want it. Having the choice of moving my furniture outdoors, along with other equipment made for fun activities, and some gratifying moments. The addition of outdoor items being placed where they should have been all along, outdoors… is something I always found baffling about previous entries into the franchise; but none-the-less Nintendo have finally fixed this. Understanding the title’s pacing, along with its unique ebbs and flows will have a differing impact on the you play compared to other gamers. Animal Crossing has always been a “choose your own path” style of territory; its what you make it. Without any linear guidance, you simply jump right into the solitude, and have a grand ol’ time experiencing a virtual vacation. It’s so good.
Surrounding my home with some luxurious items, such as a pool, and a telescope made for such a great environment. I was so proud to sit at my picnic table, that I had earned with my hard earned money and enjoy some downtime. The boundless features that were included within New Horizons certainly proves the series to be something extraordinary in the world of simple Sims-style gaming. Having the choice of setting yourself a daily task of creating an item, rather than plodding through another day of labor, was just an enjoyable feat in itself. Yes, as a gamer it certainly would mean the exact same thing, but there was still the sense of joy and fulfillment in crafting certain items yourself, rather than having to pay “the Nook” for it. It broke the monotony of just repeatedly working for the buck, and buying items at the store.
Same-Same, but different.
So we’re not going to kid ourselves here. While Animal Crossing New Horizons does breathe new life into the franchise, there is a strong sense of familiarity that rings true throughout the entire game. Yes there were some sparse surprises from some fresh mechanics, and nothing that was completely mind blowing. However it should be noted, that it really didn’t need to be all grandiose. Animal Crossing solely relies on the old adage of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. While there were a few elements that have been done away, with great justification, New Horizons’ gameplay loop feels all-so natural. Never once did I feel fatigued or disinterested while playing the title. Some simulators fall into the trap of becoming repetitious and dull quite quickly, but there is something about Animal Crossing that allows it to get away with being passive.
Quite evidently, it no doubt has to be its aesthetics and overall appeal that helps keep its leisurely pacing relevant to the players interest. Try selling someone on the idea of playing a game where you would be napping half the time, Animal Crossing can get away with this. Fishing, bug catching, and other tasks that seem spiritless, are just so satisfying. Playing Animal Crossing in real-time has taught me the value of “the early bird catches the worm”, with multiple rewards available at different times of the day. Yes, you will have to work around your real life schedule if you want to accomplish these goals in Animal Crossing. Sound ludicrous but if you want to get those turnip stocks, you better be up bright and early with a coffee in your left hand, and your joy-con in your right.
Oh, and if you thought that bells were going to be the only form of currency within this world? Think again. Introducing Nook Miles. My immediate thought was, “what a rort”. However, Nook Miles do serve a great purpose within the mechanics and the gameplay loop, helping extending the title’s shelf life. Obtaining Nook Miles through certain tasks such as catching fish, and delivering mail will earn you different types of rewards later on. In exchange for the token currency, you may visit surrounding islands in the area to collect rare items such as flowers or fruit. Be aware, my initial instinct was correct, as these Nook Miles have a catch-22 condition. You may find yourself on islands without what you actually need, so be prepared for some disappointment here. It’s a gamble.
Life moves pretty fast...
I could gush all day about how cute and calming, every intrinsic aesthetic helped make this title such an enjoyable experience. Animal Crossing prides itself on putting the player’s mind at ease, and it’s at no greater time that this title has delivered on this premise. From its contrasting weather patterns, that has its wildlife adapt in certain ways, to the sound patterns applied to muddy areas, there is beauty behind the mystique that exists in Animal Crossing: New Horizons. While proving to be a relaxing experience, I would argue the title’s flexibility in timing tasks can be quite the encumbrance. There are set tasks to acknowledge and complete cordially, or you ultimately miss out on that day, and may have to wait an entire week. Be advised for those who raged at Breath of the Wild’s limited weapon life-span, shovels, nets and other tools have their limits here too. While I question its intent, I can understand their logic in the title’s gameplay loop.
While I would love to say that New Horizons’ online experience is as vast as the local multiplayer from New Leaf, it can be rather desolate at times, but serves its purpose in sharing items with friends who may need some fruits and veggies. The premise of multiplayer is to virtually socialise with your friends and check out their own personal peninsula. It’s another wholesome piece of joy that enables you to simply bask in your friend’s creative vision. More than anything, it’s a new way to connect with friends and experience some needed downtime with them. The calming innocence that resonates within these moments are something that we rarely see in gaming, and I truly appreciate its deviation from the norm. We rarely find ourselves experiencing a multiplayer title with any calming aesthetic attached nowadays, but Animal Crossing surely delivers with this intent.
The franchise has taken the gaming world by storm and has connected the community in a time of uncertainty. Its wholesome aesthetic aims to ease our mind and soul, and Nintendo should be proud that they are accomplishing this feat. With an established franchise that has had its fair share of mixed emotions in prior entries, it’s wonderful to see it reach new heights, and garner a wider appeal amongst gamers. Animal Crossing New Horizons is no doubt, an essential staple to the growing Nintendo Switch library, and will be marked as such a memorable social tool in a time that humanity, truly needed it.
Animal Crossing New Horizons - Nintendo
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a 2020 life simulation video game developed and published by Nintendo for the Nintendo Switch.
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