Animal Crossing: New Horizons was the calm in my COVID-19 storm (Review)

A majority of us have had over two weeks to get settled into our new deserted island lives in Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Honestly there’s no better time than now to for a game like this to be released, with almost everyone in lockdown or self-isolation thanks to COVID-19.

This is my first time playing an Animal Crossing title but I know of things and people off of second-hand information. I’ve honestly never been interested until now (though I would blame the lack of a Gamecube or NDS, really). Now I have my own Switch, I thought there wasn’t an excuse to not dive into this cult-favorite!

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Welcome to your deserted island paradise

I’m gonna start off with a negative – it takes waaaaay too long for my game to load up. I’m used to this happening with pre-launch review copies but not with finished and launched products. There have been heaps of updates since launch though, so maybe an update is coming that will fix this? Honestly, this is the one and only issue I have with this game so… On to the good stuff:

I love how much control Animal Crossing: New Horizons gives the player over their experience. Everything from the island you settle on to how silly you look is up to you. The placement of buildings, items, trees and flowers in the world is your decision to make. I get to choose where my fellow neighbours live, not them. I have all the power.

The level of detail within the game is super cool as well. Whenever you enter the Resident Services building, you’ll be greeted by Tom and Timmy Nook (later Tom Nook and Isabelle), and they’ll wave you goodbye when you leave. Your fellow island residents glance at you as you walk past them and sometimes they’ll even run over to say hello! Your progress very much relies on the others on the island which makes you want to keep playing.

New Horizon‘s main thrust is that veteran business raccoon Tom Nook is expanding his business. Nook has come into possession of seemingly infinite deserted islands, vacant land he is now selling to investors interested in a sea change. Your character is one of these interested parties, and takes on a zero-interest-pay-whenever loan from Nook to establish themselves and a handful of other villagers on an island of their choice. From there, you are tasked with helping Nook grow the island from a simple camp into a bustling town.

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Planting seeds

You start small — flimsy tools that break easily, limited pocket space and a pokey little tent — but the pace of expansion always feels quite speedy. You’ll move from the tent to a house to a bigger house in no time at all. Before long, you’ll have a garden. One day you’ll build an orchard with all the fruit you’ve collected. One day you’ll do nothing but catch and sell fish.

There’s always an infrastructural project to complete as well. One of the first is convincing the owl Blathers and his grand museum to open on your island. Once established, you can donate one of every type of bug, fish, and fossil you find. The museum is one of New Horizon‘s most significant additions, a beautiful and tranquil space you can escape to. Later, you’ll help Nook’s sons Timmy and Tommy open their own general store, and convince the Able Sisters to establish the island’s first clothes store. As your town grows, more of these businesses will start to pop up, which increases your island’s reputation, which in turn attracts more potential residents.

Nook rewards your diligent work with Nook Miles. These are frequent flier miles that can be used to purchase items from his bespoke company store or travel to other empty, randomly generated islands to gather fresh supplies. They are awarded for hitting certain milestones like buying clothes or pulling out clumps of weeds, and you’ll earn quite a few just for going about your daily business.

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Hanging out with my Giga Bit: Dylan!

Nook, Nook! Who’s there?

Each day is an opportunity to add something new to the island. This is where Animal Crossing‘s design has always shone brightest; it’s a game about little victories. You pick a new task for yourself every day and get it done. There’s something very zen in that.

The day/night cycles is a great dynamic, though I had originally expected the game to run like Stardew Valley. I can see the temptation to ‘time travel’ (as in, change the time settings on your Switch) to get all the things and get all the things done… As of yet, I’ve not done it. Not because I’m a goody-goody gamer girl but because I’ve got gamer PTSD. Anyone played The Sims 2 on the NDS? You’ll know what I’m talking about.

I thought the changing of seasons was a really fun touch as well, though I very much like AC:NH‘s style compared to Stardew. What can I say? I’m a sucker for sakura. (Get on it, ConcernedApe!) Each season brings with it different items — new plants, new housewares, new fashion — meaning there’s always a reason to log in year-round. The Bunny Day event is happening now and there is a lot of egg recipe hunting to do. I’m a bit curious as to whether the events will be the same each year or if there would be a different twist with each passing year. Wait and see, I suppose.

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Fishing with my Giga Bit: Tim!

Yes, yes

Since everyone I know is currently in self-isolation/quarantine, I finally bought myself a Nintendo Online sub to help stay connected. If you have been sitting on the fence with that purchase, let me tell you that the reason to buy has arrived. Playing Animal Crossing with friends makes the experience that much better. It’s a core component in the experience — visiting friends islands gives you access to new store items, new fruits, trees and flowers, competitive Stalk Market prices and more. You can catch bugs and fish that may not exist in your region.

One of the biggest reasons to visit your friends is to make the most of the Stalk Market. The Stalk Market allows players to purchase turnips from a specific vendor that only appears on Sundays. Turnips will stay fresh for a full week, giving you time to flip them for a profit, after which time they rot. Turnips can be sold to Timmy and Tommy at Nook’s Cranny, and the asking price for turnips changes twice a day — one price in the morning, another in the late afternoon. No two islands have the same prices and so checking the going rate when visiting your friend’s islands becomes a good way to make fast money.

In my experience, playing with friends makes me feel a bit competitive. I’ve not had anyone on my island as of yet (but I’ve visited others). I’m taking my time to make my little Alola the bomb diggidy… Just you wait, guys… Just you wait…

Hippidy, hoppidy

I love this game! I’m glad I finally got onto it. I can’t wait to play more, it is honestly the reason why this review took so long; I couldn’t stop playing!

But I have to say… As a newbie, I have to admit that I’m a bit confused as to why everyone hates Tom Nook so much. I managed to pay off my initial debt with my Miles within a day of playing and I just wondered if everyone was blowing things out of…..HOW MANY BELLS FOR A HOUSE? Oh, that’s not too bad.. Only a couple days wo…HOW MANY FOR AN EXTENSION?

…Okay I understand now.

Blaise gib dis game…

full starfull starfull starfull starempty star

 

FOUR TOM NOOK SKULLS (in the shape of stars)

Thanks for reaching the end of this review! If you’d like to play Animal Crossing with me, feel free to support me on Patreon – I play games with my Patrons when I can. Maybe you’ll end up in my next game review, like Dylan and Tim in this one – who knows!

Originally written for The AU Review. Review code for the Nintendo Switch kindly provided by the publisher, the game is available now on the Nintendo Switch. Screenshots are all mine tqvm 🙂


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Blaise

I'm a freelance photographer and writer. I'm using this blog to give myself a platform for the creative freedom in games and tech writing without the fear of analytics.

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