Review written by Stephen Deck; originally published 04/09/2020 on Teacher by Day, Gamer by Night
Animal Crossing is a series that I’ve heard a lot about from a lot of friends and always meant to get into but somehow never did. I even bought New Leaf on 3DS when I saw the Nintendo Selects release on sale for like $15, but I never actually got around to playing it. When New Horizons was announced for Switch, I knew that this game would be my entry point to the series, and wow, what an entry point that was!
I knew going into this game that it would either be a game of which I quickly grew bored or a game that quickly consumes my life. Unsurprisingly, it turned out to be the latter. As of the time of writing, the game has been out for just under three weeks, and I’ve put nearly 100 hours into it. The premise is simple; the ruthless venture capitalist, Tom Nook, designs this “island getaway” package where you can move to a deserted island and start a new life (a new life that immediately begins deeply in debt). It’s basically just indentured servitude but with cute animals and fewer beatings. At first, you only owe Tom Nook for the moving expenses. If you want to upgrade from a tent to a house, though, that’s another loan. From there, you can expand your house six times, each expansion requiring an increasingly large loan. When all’s said and done, you end up owing Nook a total of 5,696,000 bells. That’s a lot of money. You also have to pay him whenever you want to change the outside appearance of your house (although that becomes free once you pay off the last upgrade loan), whenever you want to move your house, whenever you want to build a bridge, or whenever you want to build a staircase. You also have to pay him if you want to add a new house to your island to get a new villager. Donald Trump wishes he had the business acumen of Tom Nook.
The most striking thing about the game for me was the visuals. They’re bright, they’re colorful, they’re gorgeous, and they’re CUTE AS HELL. There are a ton of different villagers you can recruit to your island, loads of clothes to wear, and an ENORMOUS selection of furniture and designs to use to decorate your house and your island as a whole. You can also make your own designs to use as wallpaper, flooring, canvas paintings, clothes, or wall art – something they should NOT have let me do. I spent my entire playthrough jumping from outrageously lewd outfits to fabulously effeminate outfits. Especially once that Bunny Day event hit. NOBODY can pull off that cute flowery yellow dress like I can. #swag
So as for the “goal” of the game, your main objective (other than do whatever the hell you want because it’s Animal Crossing) is to get your island to a three-star rating so the world-renowned musician and all-around Good Boy K.K. Slider will come to perform a concert on your island. To do that, you need to get villagers to move to your island, upgrade your resident services, and make your island generally appealing to folks. Build bridges, build stairs, clear away weeds, put up decorations, etc. Once you get K.K. Slider to perform on your island, the credits roll, and you unlock the terraforming ability, letting you add or remove waterways, cliffs, and paths from your island.
My favorite part of the game, though, is the connectivity. You can visit friends’ islands. You can have them visit your island. You can send each other letters and gifts. It’s just such a nice, relaxing, friendly game. Unless Flake visits your island and digs up all your flowers. >_> You can also build the museum where you can donate one of each bug, fish, or fossil you find to show off in exhibits, and being a TOTAL and unrepentant nerd, that was probably my favorite part. I liked discovering a new fossil or catching a new bug, but my absolute favorite thing was catching a new fish. Some bugs and fish only appear during certain hours and certain months of the year, so there’s a lot of reason to keep coming back to the game now and then easily built in.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons may have been my first Animal Crossing game, but it certainly won’t be my last. Honestly, I really can’t think of much negative to say about it. The fishing can be annoying with the big fish sometimes fleeing within half a second of biting your lure, giving you almost no time to start reeling in, and it’s annoying that you can’t craft in bulk, but those are such minor complaints in the grand scheme of the game. It’s such a perfect little relaxation game. “What do you do?” is a question I see online a lot, and legit, you just do whatever you want. You just vibe, man. Fish. Hunt bugs. Landscape. Whatever. Animal Crossing is what you make of it, and that’s exactly what we need during the biggest pandemic in over a century.