Animal Crossing: New Horizons

“That’s just bad luck,” said my husband when the second nest of wasps attacked my character within the first five minutes of playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons. I was too irate to listen. The long-awaited next installment of one of my husband’s favorite childhood games was torturing me. I was a gal who had never really played many games during her childhood. Ten minutes later, I was begging him to show me how to quit the game.

I persevered in the game, however, for the sake of my readers. I wished to provide for them an initial impression of their beloved game series after several hours of gameplay. What do I think after 15 minutes turned into nine hours? Well—simply said—I’m hooked. Animal Crossing: New Horizons has more than adequately implemented ideas from peaceful games like Stardew Valley and My Time at Portia (…and yes, I know these two games also took ideas from the previous Animal Crossing games…) and created an entertaining crafting and designing game.

Storyline in Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Unlike My Time at Portia and Stardew Valley, this installment of Animal Crossing has nothing in regards to a main storyline. It is better compared to the previous installments of the game with its live-and-let-live atmosphere. However, there are quests for the players to accomplish in order to attain Nook Miles, one of the currencies found in this game. These quests entail fishing, catching bugs, gathering resources, crafting outdoor and indoor furniture, and more. As quests are completed, new ones unlock.

Placed on an island with animal NPCs, players will have to do without love and romance. Instead, the game revolves around building up the island into a working residential area, starting with only five animal NPCs. Tom Nook, a business-minded raccoon, controls the Nook Miles. Players will need to earn Nook Miles to pay off their residential tent. More currencies will unlock as the player’s tent is upgraded into a home, and these currencies will be used to continue to upgrade the home. Though I have yet to see it, I hope to eventually raise barn and coop animals and to grow vegetable crops and more fruit trees.

Characters in Animal Crossing: New Horizons

The characters in Animal Crossing: New Horizons are abysmally dull. The five initial characters on my husband’s and my island appear cute, but are as shallow as kiddie pools. Yes, Biff, you think my biceps are huge. Even though I’ve never performed in any athletic endeavor and I have zero interest in sports, I tend to think whenever I have the misfortune to cross paths with this resident. Already my husband and I are scheming to find ways to encourage Biff to leave our island. If any reader who already owns and plays the game would care to take Biff off of our hands, then by all means, send us a message and come and play with us online!

Of the five initial animal NPCs, I like Nook’s sons the most. I believe their names are Tommy and Timmy, though I can never keep them straight in my head. For such young racoons, they have a great understanding of how a business should be run (…can you tell I was a business major in college…?). They’re also delightfully cheerful, but their cheerfulness does not feel overdone.

Another resident on the island is a goat who frequently ends her sentences with “kidders.” This animal NPC tends to drive my husband up the wall, but I’m rather fond of her since she teaches me emotes. As for growing our population, we plan on visiting our friend’s island frequently and befriending her ewe with friendly chatter—maybe this will convince her to come live with us instead. But if that doesn’t work, my husband and I will continue to make a pleasant place to live and hopefully attract more animal NPCs to our little island.

Multiplayer in Animal Crossing: New Horizons

If my readers and their friends own this latest installment of Animal Crossing, then I encourage them to visit each other’s islands via the airport. When playing online, up to eight players can pick weeds, pluck flowers, and fish on the same island. Locally only four can play on one Nintendo Switch. However, even playing with just two people on one Nintendo Switch can be frustrating, so I imagine that four would be even more so. For example, I play with my husband on his Nintendo Switch. I consequently must play on the island which he chose because there can only be one island per console.

The game isn’t split screen, but the game developers did their very best for the shared screen to be entertaining and cute. Whenever the non-lead players wander off the screen, they pop back to the location of the lead player. However, I tend to agree with my friend who stated that the gameplay is better when everyone has his or her own Nintendo Switch. When the players have their own consoles, they don’t need to worry about what the other players are doing or want to do on the island.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons also has the added comfort of being able to adjust the privacy and interaction setting, making visiting friends via the airport the ideal multiplayer situation. Everyone who plays video games online at length understands the need to sometimes block strangers from joining his or her game. The visitor may be a young child who doesn’t understand the game mechanics, consequently running amok and creating a mess in your game. And let’s be perfectly honest: some online players can be really nasty. Setting the privacy setting to only allow friends in makes sense in such scenarios. There is a “Best Friends” option in New Horizons where your friends are able to play on your island without any restraints regarding shovels and axes.

Sound, Graphics & Playability in Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Soothing music and subtle sounds flow throughout the game play, sometimes lulling players to sleep in real life. I enjoy this, as I think that too many games have intense violence with accompanying nerve-racking musical scores. Animal Crossing: New Horizons uses guitar strings for the ambient sounds, with one such being the subtle ping of a shooting star. The relaxing effect of the beautiful songs and sounds could calm even high-strung adults and children.

Compared to Animal Crossing: New Leaf on my small Nintendo 2DS, Animal Crossing: New Horizons on the Nintendo Switch has amazingly bright and clear graphics. Then again, I expected such perfection from the likes of the Switch. However, unlike games such as Zelda, the shapes in Animal Crossing tend to be rather round. Most noticeable are the round characters, but even the tools and the trees are curved around the edges. Once again, this reminds me of an ideal children’s game with the rich colors, sound physics, and smooth gameplay. Though with so many adults playing the game, I know I cannot claim it as only a game for children.

Regarding game bugs and glitches, the developers of Animal Crossing: New Horizons can brag about containing virtually no problems. There existed one bug that allowed two players to work in such a way as to gain infinite resources, but it was soon fixed. And even in places where bugs would have been expected because of their novelty, there were none. For example, the storage within the homes is immense and immediate, allowing players to store items in their upgraded homes with the hit of a button. I find that feature to be both incredible and useful.

Personal Opinion & Conclusion

This game does much more than provide an excuse to skip chores—although I must admit I do so more often than not. My husband tells me that the crafting is new to this version, but I am overwhelmingly delighted about its inclusion. The mini cutscene where the character shifts this way and that while crafting and customizing warms the heart with its cuteness. I also enjoy the ability to craft useable items, such as wardrobes and fences. All one has to do is buy the DIY recipes at Timmy and Tommy’s shop, making dozens of new items available to craft. My Time at Portia introduced me to the love of gathering resources and using tools and worktables to craft items, and I’ve been hooked to such simulation and crafting games ever since. Animal Crossing: New Horizons will simply be added to the list.

Score: 8.2/10

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a new take on the previous games, now including crafting and gathering resources. When played alone or with friends, the game encourages a sense of accomplishment and excitement each time a quest is complete and new activities open up.