As a big fan of the previous Animal Crossing games I’d been both anticipating and dreading the release of New Horizons… anticipating because of the excitement, and dread because of the countless hours of my life which were sure to be wonderfully sucked away. Unless you’ve been living under a conch (or perhaps a cowrie) the past few weeks, you’ve surely heard the buzz about it by now. But does it live up to the previous AC titles?
The good: New Horizons is bigger than the other games, with so much to do! This time you’ll settle on a deserted island, which is a departure from previous games, but soon you’ll be living the usual town life: living surrounded by cute animals while paying off your mortgage to the notorious Tom Nook to expand and decorate your home. Earning bells to make payments is a breeze, with the usual fishing, fruit and bug collecting being just a few of the activities to earn from. It plays just as well, with just as much to do if not more than ever. (I’m not even getting into the fashion aspects, for example.) While there a few minor elements missing from previous games, I have a feeling they could be later added with either updates or dlc. In short, all the same charm and more is here. Animal Crossing has always had sort of a comforting warmth to it, a chill yet addicting vibe. I think that both veteran AC players and newcomers will immediately and easily pick it up and have hours and hours of fun. As with the other AC games, time passes as it does in real life, for for night and day, and seasons as well.
One other aspect that should be mentioned is that the new online play on the Nintendo Switch not only works better than ever, but has really brought players together in a fun and cooperative way. Traveling to other islands to visit your friends is always exciting, and having visitors is, too. It’s been awesome seeing the gaming community coming together while we’ve been shut in during the pandemic. Personally I feel like it’s breathed new life and energy into online gaming. Watching everyone help each other and be so giving has been really cool and great to see.
Personally I’ve enjoyed New Horizons more than any other AC game already because it’s been such a bonding experience with my family. All of us pitched tents on our shared island and have been helping one another and working toward goals together. Whether it’s been saving bells to help pay mortgages, saving and gifting items that family members would love or contributing resources to craft recipes, it’s really brought us together even more, witch is a perfect addition during this unprecedented time of shutdown and social distancing.
The bad: Really, New Horizons leaves little to complain about. I only have 2 minor gripes. The first is, much like the Mayor position of AC: New Leaf, the Resident Representative (the first player on your system to play the game and get your island going, in our case our daughter) takes on the responsibility of major decisions that advance the game and grow the island. There are decisions that must be made, and certain events initiated, only by her. So my wife and I aren’t able to do certain important things. It’s not a huge deal, however, as we can log into our daughter’s account or help her with things that are more complicated to get those things rolling.
My second, and bigger disappointment (though still nothing that effects the overall greatness) is the music. As a big game music nerd (I love to listen to and collect soundtracks), I was disappointed to find that the music is far more limited in New Horizons. In previous games, there is a different theme played each hour of the day, with variations on each for snowy and rainy times. Now there are only a couple songs. The songs themselves are nice – calm and very fitting to the experience – but the soundtracks of the earlier games were beloved by players because they were so quirky, odd and fun. I truly miss the silly mood they created. Edit: Upon getting a bit further into the game and upgrading the Resident Services area from a tent to a building, my island now has the familiar clock chime on the hour with a change in music! I look forward to getting to know these new songs!
In conclusion, I feel like New Horizons is the best Animal Crossing yet. There are a few missing elements from times past, but with Nintendo’s online service being better than ever, I have a feeling they’ll in time more than make up for it. While it’s still an amazing single player experience, it’s already been perhaps the most enjoyable game my family has experienced together (yes, right up there with Mario Kart) and brought the community together like no game before it. Not into video games? This one is the perfect place to start a new and rewarding hobby.