Wednesday, September 14

Animal Crossing; New Horizons Review

I played on: Nintendo Switch
I paid: £38 (CEX)
Available on: Nintendo Switch
Notes: This was my first Animal Crossing game, and now I utterly love the series, and it’s all thanks to my beautiful wife ^_^ God, I love her so much

Animal Crossing is an exceptional series. The premise is so unique that it sounds like it shouldn’t work in a million years, yet it’s got me hooked! You play as a villager starting a new life on an island along with Tom Nook, Isabelle, Timmy, Tommy, and two other random villagers. You begin by building basic facilities such as a town hall and a supply store. Before long, you have access to an airport, clothing store, museum, and coffee shop with other services a short plane ride away. 

What makes Animal Crossing stand out is that it takes place in real time. An hour in real life is an hour in the game. The weather will change as the months pass on. New insects and fish will come out or disappear depending on the time of year. After you finish the opening section, you can do anything you want. That said, most of New Horizons is based on collecting, socializing, and decorating. The museum has four sections, an aquarium, an insectarium, a fossil collection, and an art gallery. You must fill out each of these yourself. Bugs are all around you, chilling in trees, flying around or sitting on flowers, or even hiding underground; you catch them with a trusty bug net. The rivers and beaches around your island are teeming with fish; using a fishing rod; you can catch them. Fossils are hidden underground, meaning you need to dig them up with your shovel. Redd, a fox of questionable trustworthiness, will visit your island and sell art. A warning: Not all Redd’s products are genuine, so look closely before buying. Your island also has a rating that is affected by how you decorate and populate it. An island with lots of weeds and trash everywhere will score low, while one with carefully placed furniture, flowers, and easy access will score high. Fans of the series will be happy to know that you can finally place objects freely outside! Making my island, the perfect little getaway was an obsession for a few months. I’m over 300 hours into the game, and I think I’m happy with it. As well as placing furniture, you can build bridges across rivers and ramps or stairs up levels. Once you reach a 3-star rating for your island, you can even terraform, moving the cliffs and rivers to your liking. Then you have the socializing so let’s meet some of the people on your island.

Tom Nook will take on the same role he does in earlier games and will manage your debt and house expansions. Isabelle will help you manage any issues you may have with other villagers. She will also tell you your island’s rating and offer feedback to help improve it. Tom’s little nephews, Timmy and Tommy, will manage the supply shop. You’ll talk to these two adorable little raccoons if you want to buy or sell. You also have Blathers, the owl that works in the museum. It’s him you’ll talk to if you want to have any fossils examined or if you want to donate any bugs, fish, or art. Then you have the villagers. You can have up to 10 living on your island at once. I think that the villagers are one of the weak points of New Horizons. Since falling in love with this game, I’ve played the older games, which opened my eyes to how dull villagers are in New Horizons. Don’t get me wrong, they are adorable, and I would fight an army single handily for my boy Bam. The issue is that there is a total of 413 that you can invite to live on your island, and they all feel very similar to each other. They are happy, kind, and supportive of you. When I returned to the Gamecube original, I found Sue-E in my village, and she was downright rude to me. This made her and the other villagers feel so full of personality. They tend to create drama and conflict, which helps create dynamic stories. It also feels more realistic. For example, I was asked to pick up an item by one of my villagers that they had left around another villager’s house; simple enough. When I went to collect it, I was told that Sue-E had been round to visit and had taken it without asking. More reasons for me to dislike Sue-E. In New Horizons, the villagers behave more like NPCs, unable to oppose you as the player no matter what you do to them.

Beyond this one real complaint, I have loads of minor nitpicks that just come from spending 300-plus hours in a single game. The tools you use every day seem to break too often, and having to run to a DIY bench to make a new one or the store to buy a new one takes up time you could spend doing more fun things. You cannot store flowers in your home storage, so they end up feeling more annoying to deal with than the literal weeds. Bridges can only be placed over rivers and not from one cliff to another, which feels pointlessly restrictive. Tools such as the pole vault or ladder stop being useful after around 100 hours into the game. I think it’s worth mentioning that these are only tiny problems I have with the game after hundreds of hours. Much more of my experience has been one of pure joy.

Finding the perfect table for my little outdoor café area made it feel dreamy. That one-time Bam offered to play a mystery swapper game and then took a rare, expensive item and swapped it for a set of workers’ overalls. After which, I redecorated his home to look like a dirty city alleyway. I then felt bad and proceeded to redecorate it as nicely as possible. I have also enjoyed sharing my vast amounts of money and resources with my sister and wife, who have put less time into the game than I have. I feel like a helpful fairy godmother when I drop by their islands with thousands of belles and rare resources to share. These are just some of the fantastic memories I have of this game. It’s made me feel unbelievably happy, so the minor nitpicks I have pale compared to the vast amount of fun I’ve had.

Ultimately this game is unique in a way I think that only really Stardew Valley is to me. When I’m feeling down, anxious, or my trauma is starting to influence me, New Horizons makes me feel better. It’s a game with more charm and good memories waiting to be made in it than almost any other out there! Is it perfect? No, I know a few things I would change for the sequel, but do I recommend it? Hell yes, 100%! Everyone should at least try this masterpiece.

Recommendation Rating: 10 out of 10

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