In hindsight, Animal Crossing’s initial delay was a blessing in disguise because holy cow this game could not have came out during a better time. Animal Crossing has always been a wonderful way to escape from reality, even for just a short while at a time as you say hi to your animal neighbours, catch some fish, capture some bugs and just having a nice time. In these current times while we’re smack bang in the middle of a pandemic and asked to stay indoors the upcoming release of New Horizons became a solace for people, something to look forward to. The game has delivered some much needed good times and good vibes during these otherwise troubling times with Twitter exploding with people sharing photos, outfits, their houses, their towns and just sharing their experiences in the game. In short, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the hero we needed right now.

For those of you who are new to Animal Crossing, the game usually revolves around you – a human – travelling to a town and through some events you end up either owning a racoon a lot of money for a house and having to work to get out of debt or you end up being elected Mayor. This time, New Horizons plops you down on an uninhabited island alongside Tom Nook – the racoon I mentioned earlier – and a couple of other animals to build a town from scratch. You end up making the big decisions when it comes to where to place buildings and you end up being the Resident Representative for the island – essentially the de facto leader. You can find villagers to invite to your island to grow the community, eventually you’ll unlock a bunch of extra stuff to build or do and you will able to shape the island the way you want it to look like – essentially your own paradise.

You start off with nothing but a tent and a dream…

You’re still in debt to that rascally racoon Tom Nook (he’s a tanuki to be more accurate) as he helps you upgrade your initial tent to eventually having a big house you can be proud of. One of the main aspects that draws people into the game is the ability to decorate your house with all the decorations you accrue over the game. You can buy a bunch using your bells – the local currency in Animal Crossing – but chances are you’ll get so much STUFF via gifts from other villagers, from presents floating in the air via a balloon or if you’re VERY LUCKY, you can get furniture by shaking trees (I personally had a popcorn machine fall out of a tree, which in a physics sense makes NO SENSE). That’s the beauty of Animal Crossing through, real life laws do not apply here. You want to dig up an entire tree? Sure no problem, you’ll find it in your pocket later. Decorating your house is a wonderful way to kill some time – I’m personally going for a “my favourite things BUT IN A DESERT” theme for my room right now.

One day, I will have a whole wrestling themed house…

It’s not just your house you can throw decorations on, you can really put a lot of your own personality into the town by placing all of your favourite things all over the place. My beach has a nice relaxing area with lounge chairs and vending machines, there’s a sports corner and I even have the Statue of Liberty looking over the pier to give the new villagers who arrive by boat an inspirational view as they come into dock (in my imagination anyway, everyone flies in these days). If you’re more of a fashionista there are a plethora of clothing items to really make you look PERFECT. Except even if you don’t have the right clothes just yet, there is a wonderful creation app on your phone (in-game phone) that allows you to draw your own designs which you can either plant all over your island like a stamp or wear it as clothing. People more talented than me have created some incredible stuff and maybe one day we can look at some of our favourite designs. I’ve only managed to make that S thing that everyone drew during English class when they were 12.

A new thing added to this entry of Animal Crossing is the ability to craft. It’s a simple system, you get materials and your get recipes and if you have the recipe and the materials you can build a thing. You can craft tools and decorations and eventually you’ll even get to customise whatever you craft to add your own personal touch to these items. You’ll get new recipes all of the time, either through your neighbours, buying them at the shop and in bottles that wash up on the beach. Some items require you to have crafted other items first, such as upgrades for tools. It’s a fun addition that works pretty well and there are materials everywhere. Trees can be hit with axes for wood, rocks can be shovelled for rocks and iron nuggets (once a day so if materials is something you need DO NOT SMASH ROCKS) and even all the weeds can be useful crafting items.

Got stung? Talk to your neighbours, one might just have the recipe to fix that for ya…

If you’ve run out of a specific material in your village because you keep SMASHING ROCKS (yes I’m speaking from experience) then you can swap Nook Miles (more on that soon) for a special plane ticket that will take you to a random island for you to completely drain the resources of. You can find exotic fruits, more rocks, flowers and maybe even a villager or two to convince to come to your island while you are there. It’s a fun way to make sure you can always make some form of progress in your goals.

Blathers is the best by the way.

The freedom that is offered you is perfect for making the experience your very own. In order to fund this lifestyle you gotta earn bells. To do this you will likely be catching a lot of fish and bugs to sell to Timmy and Tommy’s shop, as well as growing fruits on trees and literally everything can be sold to fuel the capitalism dreams on THAT DARN TANUKI. Bells are mostly used to pay off the loan for your house but also for various other infrastructure constructions such as bridges and the like. I am still very early on getting everything in the town that I want – mainly because I want to have the biggest house possible and that is more important than the needs of the town as a whole.

The Museum is a bit of a maze, but it’s also my favourite place

Fishing and catching bugs are the two ways of making money that I use a lot but that comes with a price of its own. You see, also new to Animal Crossing is that your tools can now break much like the weapons in Breath of the Wild but a little more forgiving than that. It’s easy enough to craft new tools and you can upgrade your tools to make them more durable. I feel like some people have really not taken to this change very well and I’m not going to pretend it isn’t annoying when your rod explodes and you’re not prepared for it doing so. It’s a mild inconvenience that I understand why it is there – to make sure you are crafting as much as possible – but if there’s eventually an infinitely strong tool then I will grab it ASAP and never let it go.

The biggest criticism I can really see is the one island per Switch console which is not even a problem for me or perhaps even a mass majority of players but it does limit the freedom for certain people unless they buy a second Switch. If two people share an island and they are in sync and work together to make their island work than that is a wonderful option and probably makes the game so much better when you can play it with a significant other or sibling or child or parent or whatever. However if you have two very different personalities who want to make their island their own then not being able to play individual islands on one console really strips away one person’s experience in a household. It’s a shame for those people.

Animal Crossing is best enjoyed with some good pals!

However, Animal Crossing has always been a wonderful social game and New Horizons is no different. This game is a blast with friends. Myself, Blake and a few of our friends had a great time last week, playing hide and seek (which I am especially bad at) and generally causing chaos on the island (sorry Siobhan). If you have a group of friends who are all playing the game there is so much potential for fun as well just nice things like sending your pals gifts you think they would like such as a wrestler figure (thanks Siobhan), or a stick. Being ‘Best Friends’ on Animal Crossing also allows you to help around on your friends islands, meaning you can dig holes until they get annoyed at you and kick you out or in the case of another friend of mine, they can come in and steal a tree. Again, you can just put an entire tree in your pocket and they took advantage of that fact. I ain’t mad, to be fair, that’s impressive.

Sometimes a special person will visit your island for a little quest or challenge for you

Animal Crossing is a game that is designed to played for years and the upcoming Easter event shows that the game will have special events that will happen over the year to keep things fresh and introduce new limited-time seasonal items. I’m already looking forward to the inevitable Christmas and Halloween events because I’m looking forward to decorating my entire town in christmas lights and also pumpkins. This is also a prime game for just adding a bunch of content to over the next few years especially with more people playing the game than ever before it seems. (NOTE: I originally wrote this review before the Bunny Day event begun and my hatred and fear of EGG began)

“A perfect passport doesn’t exi-” I beg to differ…

This game is almost unreviewable because it is a game that is designed to be enjoyed over a long period of time rather than just nine days at the time of me writing this. However, there is something special about Animal Crossing right now. It might be a case of we’re all stuck indoors so a game where you have a good ol’ time outdoors with your pals is somewhat of an escapist’s fantasy right now. It might be that the cuteness of the game is able to override the bad times going on. It might just be a nice anxious-free zone for people who need it (apart from when you’re face to face with tarantulas). Someone on Twitter pointed out that Animal Crossing has hit some sort of zeitgeist almost akin to the summer of Pokémon GO, except with one big difference. The two share the same innocence and wonder but the times they have been released in could not be more different. The Summer of GO felt that true peace had been achieved in the world somehow as the world united in their love of catching virtual animals. Animal Crossing, on the other hand, feels like the one beacon of light shining through the darkness. It could not have come at a better time though and I can’t think of a more perfect way to spend lockdown than with Animal Crossing and some of my best friends.

FINAL SCORE –

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