Growing up, my family owned a Wii. My brother and I enjoyed playing games such as Super Smash Bros, Mario Kart, WiiPlay, Just Dance, or Super Mario Bros. However, one of the games that we always ended up fighting over was Animal Crossing: City Folk. We loved decorating our houses, collecting different species of fish, and pushing the villagers around until they got mad at us (oops). Of course, at that time, I was around 9 years old, and I had not played an Animal Crossing game since. So, when Animal Crossing: New Horizons released a couple of weeks ago, I debated on whether or not I would still enjoy such a simple game, or if I would even understand all the new updates and features. Eventually, I gave in and decided to give it a shot. Since then, I have been properly neglecting my responsibilities just for a little more play time.
If you are looking for a way to kill some time, I would recommend that you give this new game a shot. The idea of the Animal Crossing games is simple, but they are incredibly fun, and you will find yourself losing hours and hours into your own little world. I have been surprised to learn that I enjoy New Horizons just as much as I enjoyed City Folk when I was younger. The idea is the same, but there are a lot of new features that make it just as exciting.
If you have never played an Animal Crossing game, that’s okay! The game controls are very easy, and the story doesn’t rely on any previous games. New Horizons is kind of like Minecraft or Sims in terms of content; you get to run around and do your own thing, so you can make the experience whatever you want it to be. In this game, your character moves to a deserted island and slowly progresses to turn it into a civilization. You can decorate your house, fish, catch bugs, plant flowers, interact with the other villagers (who are all animals with excellent puns and witty comments), build new furniture, or visit the museum. All the while, you are working towards finishing goals, finding new creatures, and making money to pay off the debt of your new house. This game follows real time, which means it reflects the time of day and season that you are currently living in yourself. Furthermore, there are different events that occur either on random days or on most holidays. The game is simple, relaxing, and strangely addicting.
If you are familiar with the series, then New Horizons brings a few new aspects to the table. When you initially arrive at the island, it truly is deserted; the only characters living there are you, two other villagers, and Tom Nook and his two assistants. It is not until later that you will be able to bring in familiar characters such as Blathers or the Able Sisters. I enjoyed this because it gave me something to work towards in the early stages of the game, whereas previous Animal Crossing games already had these features set up. Another awesome new detail is full character customization, including the ability to change your hair, face, and clothes, allowing for a more personalization than previous games. There is a new type of currency that now accompanies our beloved Bells. ‘Nook Miles’, as they are called, are earned by completing goals on your new NookPhone. They are awarded for doing things such as interacting with villagers, shooting down floating gifts, or buying things from Tom Nook—basically, for playing the game as you would anyways. Another significant new feature that New Horizons brings is the ability to craft your own items and tools. Using resources that you find on the island, you make your own fishing poles, bug nets, outdoor/indoor furniture, clothes, etc. This addition especially reminds me of playing Minecraft. The tools have different levels of efficiency, and you unlock better tools as you continue to play. Furthermore, you also unlock more recipes to craft different kinds of clothes or furniture out of different materials.
One of my favorite aspects of the game is the online component. If your friends also own the game, you can swap friend codes and fly over to visit their islands. There, you are able to hang out, trade items, and explore. This social aspect really sells it for me, as I have always enjoyed games that I can play online with my friends. Unfortunately, as far as multiplayer goes for people on the same console, this game is very limited. There can only be one island for console—even if you open the game under a different profile. While people are allowed to run around and play simultaneously, only the first player to open the game will be able to choose what the island looks like or where buildings are placed. In my opinion, this limitation would particularly hurt families that share a console.
Overall, I would highly recommend this game. Not only is it a good way to kill time while we are all practicing social distancing, but it also allows people to unwind, relax, and take a break from their stressful lives. Whether you are familiar with the series or not, I believe that anyone can enjoy the simplicity of virtual island living. If you do not have a Nintendo Switch, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp is also available as a smartphone app. While it has less features, the idea is still the same. Both of these games are available to help you step away from real life and relax.