Oh how the world needs a new Animal Crossing game in these troubled times.
After all, with its bright colour palette, super-cute characters and endless gameplay loop, the Animal Crossing series has always been the perfect escapism tool.
Luckily, Animal Crossing: New Horizons (the first core series entry since 2012’s New Leaf on 3DS) is here. And, as Nintendo’s first major offering of 2020, there is a lot riding on this game.
So, what’s new with this latest instalment? Well, unlike previous Animal Crossing games, New Horizons offers the player a blank canvas when it comes to personalising their island and town.
You begin the game by flying out to your new deserted island home, and from there, the rest is entirely up to you.
Starting with a simple tent, you’ll be able to upgrade your temporary accommodation to a small house after paying off your island relocation fees. You do this via Tom Nook’s new Nook Miles rewards program.
You earn Nook Miles by completing challenges ranging from collecting shells, catching bugs, and reeling in a set number of fish.
Essentially, the Nook Miles system encourages the player to explore the full expanse of their new home and truly embrace island life.
And, as you explore, you’ll realise that New Horizons looks much better than any Animal Crossing game to date. Individual tree leaves shuffle in the wind, sunlight glistens off the ocean and aurora flushes across the night sky.
As your island develops, other buildings and facilities (many of them upgradeable) will begin to appear. These include new shops, a museum to house all the critters you collect and improved Resident Services.
You can also buy new items to further explore and decorate your island, but it’s easier to utilise the game’s brand-new crafting system. And what an excellent addition crafting is!
With the help of Tom Nook’s crafting bench and the plentiful natural resources your deserted island offers, your villager will be able to craft basic tools once you’ve learned the corresponding DIY recipes.
Twigs, stones and weeds can be collected and used to craft shovels, axes and medicine. As you learn more DIY recipes your crafting opportunities will broaden to include furniture, outdoor accessories and better tools.
During the early game, your furniture will be limited to basic tables and chairs, but customisation kits let players add a splash of colour in order to inject some style into their interiors.
Speaking of style, New Horizons offers an incredible amount of decoration options. Taking elements from spinoff games Happy Home Designer and Pocket Camp, players can now decorate the outside of their homes as well as the inside.
What is Animal Crossing: New Horizons?
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is an upcoming life simulation video game and the fifth entry in the Animal Crossing series.
According to Nintendo:
Players will embark on an ultra-exclusive Nook Inc. Deserted Island Getaway Package and enjoy a peaceful existence full of creativity, charm and the freedom to roll up their sleeves and make their new life whatever they want it to be.
Players can collect resources they can craft into everything from creature comforts to handy tools as they set up a homestead they can decorate freely, both inside and out.
But the improved customisation doesn’t stop there. Don’t like the direction a river flows in? Frustrated that a cliff face is blocking the view from your garden? It’s not a problem.
With the new landforming tool (obtained by progressing through the game) you can redirect rivers and re-sculpt hilly terrain to perfect your island’s geography.
It’s difficult to overstate just how much of a game-changer the landforming ability is. The customisation potential it offers is near infinite, and it’s an exciting mechanic for casual players to mess around with as well.
In fact, landforming means that you’re free to reimagine the entire island template you begin your adventure with. Going forwards, it really is exciting to think of all the amazing island designs the Animal Crossing community will come up with and share.
If collaboration is your thing, you may well want to call on friends and family to help you realise your perfect town. New Horizons allows up to four players to live on one island (only one island per Switch), and they can all indulge in couch co-op multiplayer sessions (Party Play) together.
Simply open the Call Resident app on your Nook Phone and you can summon friends and family. A quick controller recalibration and you’re good to go, with no noticeable compromise in game performance regardless of who’s playing.
During these sessions one player will be designated as Leader, with other players taking on the role of Followers.
Should the Leader move to a new section of the map or separate from the other players, all displaced Followers will pop back onto the screen right by the leader. This makes playing with younger family members nice and simple.
However, Party Play can sometimes be a little awkward as Followers can’t pick up items or access their inventories. To combat this, you will frequently have to change who is designated Leader by shaking your Joy-Con – a bit of a nuisance with lots of players.
It’s not only other human players that can visit your town though. As your island advances lots of new animal villagers will turn up, with a few of these new arrivals being special NPCs that aim to freshen up gameplay.
These special characters make checking into your island every day an exciting prospect, meaning that you never quite know what to expect from a new sunrise.
And that’s really the best thing about Animal Crossing: New Horizons, every day is an exciting new adventure!
Animal Crossing: New Horizons – VERDICT: 5/5
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch, with a code provided by Nintendo Europe
Similar to how Breath of the Wild and Odyssey reimagined 3D Zelda and Mario, New Horizons represents an exciting new milestone for the Animal Crossing series.
By truly handing the player the reins, Nintendo has delivered a deeply customisable and effortlessly joyous experience which is, quite simply, an essential purchase for all Switch owners.
• Landforming and crafting mechanics revolutionise the Animal Crossing experience
• Vibrant island setting works beautifully
• Smart progression and game design
• Just as wholesome as other games in the series and still perfect for all age groups
• Party Play can be a little awkward at times
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