Reviews

Animal Crossing: New Horizons Review

Animal Crossing: New Horizons has this way of digging into your life and eating away at every ounce of time you have to give, all while making you feel like only seconds have gone by since you started searching for a new species on the island. Nintendo has taken their time, giving New Horizons a fantastic level of polish, not only matching the fanbase’s expectations, but excelling them. While this addictive game could end up taking control of your entire life, I can definitely guarantee that it is worth every second put into it.

Anyone who knows of the Animal Crossing franchise will immediately feel at home. It’s business as usual, except for the fact that it is now a lovechild between a passive life sim and Minecraft, giving it a layer of depth that really adds to the game and turning it into something so much more.

Gone is the traditional town setting, with the game giving us a deserted island, New Horizons takes you right at the frontier of nature. All you have to your name is a tent, a few gifted furniture items, and the debt you managed to rack up getting there in the first place. Not to worry, though, there are plenty of ways for you to pay back this debt. It’s your duty to take the little you are giving and eventually create a thriving community, filled to the brim with individuals who share your ideals.

Your main priorities rotate between collecting, bug and fossil hunting, fishing, and building. This all happens to allow you to progress between bigger homes for you and your animal neighbours. This time Nintendo added a lot of crafting in the mix, eventually allowing you to change your entire landscape through terraforming.

It’s your duty to take the little you are giving and eventually create a thriving community…

You wouldn’t expect that to sound like much, but this is the most complete Animal Crossing to date, one with an astonishing amount of longevity. New Horizons starts out pretty slow, but it opens up to a rewarding amount of customization as you progress through the game.

The rather adorable way of starting the game has you decide the location of your island with a few flight-themed questions. You have to make it as close to your actual location as possible, so you have a choice between northern or the southern hemisphere. This will allow the game to determine what season and climate you begin with.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons takes a page of New Leaf’s book and plays in real-time, following your Switch’s real-world clock and a synchronised day and night cycle. The time of day makes a big difference to what is available to you, as well as the seasons. So the game will require some dedication on your end if you want to catch something that only comes out at a specific time.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons takes a page of New Leaf’s book and plays in real-time…

The game starts off with simple, yet relaxing challenges to help you get into the swing of things. The NPCs are constantly aiding you if you don’t know what to do next. Tom Nook and his nephews Timmy and Tommy give you tasks in the beginning, as the island starts to populate with new companions the further you progress.

Eventually, you will have your hands full on a daily basis, juggling between the various residents and their needs. It may seem like there is little to do in the beginning, but there is a huge payoff with every moment you spend in the game.

Animal Crossing even manages to turn crippling debt into a care-free, almost cathartic experience. A majority of what you do in the game is to off your debt. Starting with the initial settlement package, then for each level of home you construct. The game seems to revolve around the rather grim topic that nothing in life is ever free, covering it in a cute package that is easy to digest. As the game opens up, it starts to build a purpose beyond this and gives you more than enough to keep you occupied.

Crafting pairs well with this, as the game teaches you that everything you find on the island can serve a purpose. Anything that you have leftover after all our crafting needs can be sold to earn money to pay off your debt before Tom’s friendly demeanour turns into a cute version of The Godfather.

While you’re constantly reminded of the fact that your life is one large pool of debt, Tom Nook has provided many ways for you to pay him back. One of which are Nook Miles, a reward scheme that gifts you miles based on the tasks completed. Most of which can be accomplished by simply playing the game, while others are a little more specific. This, alongside Bells (another in-game currency), opens a way for you to manage how you spend both of these currencies. Both Bells and Nook Miles can be exchanged for cosmetic and DIY crafting recipes. Another useful way to spend Nook Miles would be on tickets that will allow you a once-off visit to an island to find new resources and potentially future islanders.

Rather than being a gimmick, the NookPhone feels like an extension of your utility.

Your NookPhone makes everything in the game very manageable, giving you ways to track your various tasks, and segregating things such as crafting and Nook Miles in separate apps. Rather than being a gimmick, the NookPhone feels like an extension of your utility – even going as far as vibrating the Switch, making the console itself simulate alerts of a phone. The phone will even allow you to track the various unique findings that get given to the Blathers museum. This museum allows you to explore multiple levels, with aquariums, a butterfly house, and even a section dedicated to fossils. Once you’re done with that, you can attempt catching a shark (because there’s no such thing as a limit in the world of Animal Crossing).

All of this comes to together with New Horizon’s updated visuals. Regardless of whether you’re in docked or handheld mode, New Horizons looks fantastic. There is a very cartoonish feel about it, but the game makes use of colour, lighting, and a knack for attention to detail where it counts. The various weather effects, seasons, and the cycle between day and night truly create a visual splendour that prevents the game from feeling monotonous.

To say Animal Crossing: New Horizons released at the perfect time for a simple but addictive social sim to exist would be a huge understatement. This is the most fully-realized, most addictive iteration of Animal Crossing they have made to date. It’s hard to fault the game outside a few issues with the controls, but it provides an experience that far outweighs the cons. Animal Crossing takes the franchise to new horizons with its highly addictive, leisurely loop, and packages that in a cute package. Even with the many, many hours I have invested in New Horizons, it feels like I have just scratched the surface of what there is to offer.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons
10/10

Summary

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the most addictive, yet amazing way you could spend your time. With its in-depth systems, and many things to do, Switch owners have yet another worthy investment in their library.

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