So, Nintendo’s latest Animal Crossing main line title has launched today for the Nintendo Switch and Switch Light! Heralded as a savior from Coronavirus-related lockdown blues and the first home console release in the series since City Folk on the original Wii back in 2008, the series returns to its roots and breaks new ground all at once in a new deserted island adventure!
Just what is Animal Crossing, you ask? Well, briefly, it’s a series of social/life simulation games that got its start with the original Animal Crossing on the Nintendo Gamecube (okay, technically that was a port of a limited-release, Japan-only Nintendo 64DD title, but, ugh, whatever). Each game invites you to embody a twerpy-looking little human Villager who is freshly arrived in a town inhabited by cutesy, nonsense-speaking animal critters and make a life for yourself. Each game begins with you deeply in debt to notorious late-stage capitalist raccoon Tom Nook, who has financed your new home and starting gear, and you can engage in myriad little minigame-esque activities to harvest resources and perform tasks for the other Villagers to earn Bells to purchase increasingly bigger homes, nicer furnishings, swankier outfits, and more. Meanwhile, you can wander around chatting up the animals, collecting seashells and fossils, getting and receiving gifts, and even inviting friends to come visit your town!
The games aren’t terribly complicated, but they are known for one interesting twist on the life-sim formula. All AC titles use a real time clock that maps the in-game activities to the real world time and date on your console. Although you can fiddle with system settings to “time travel” your save, the intent is that you play in sync with the real world around you – shops might close at night, some critters might only show up during a particular season, and goodie-filled holidays only crop up at the right time of years.
This encourages a relaxing thirty-minutes-a-day sort of atmosphere to the game once you’ve gotten the initial set of fetch quests and gather-em-up’s taken care of to get the town up and running. Pop in, chop some wood, shake some fruit from trees, make a few Bells to tick down your debt to the Nook clan, and see how your animal buddies are doing, then sign off and do it all over again tomorrow.
New Horizons changes the formula up in a few novel ways. First and foremost, you begin play on a “deserted” island, lush with flora and fauna and populated only by your Villager, two randomly selected pals (chosen from the game’s huge library of returning and novel animal Villagers), and the ever-present Nooks, with everyone roughing it in temporary tents. It’s up to you to help your neighbors choose where to live and to gather up the resources needed to turn this campground into a proper settlement! Moreover, in a series first, DIY crafting is available to use all those resources you can gather from refreshing sources each day. No longer are you restricted to merely buying up your worldly goods like furniture, tools, and clothes from the shops in town! No, you can make your very own! Once you roll in the custom design maker tool that lets you craft pixel art skins for clothes and furniture, the customization options scale to infinity.
Hop on a plane and visit a neighboring isle rich with harvestable resources, invite your pals to visit your private island via the internet (or local play – important note, all AC:NH players on a single console will share a joint island), stock up a newly revamped museum with your novel findings, and eventually even gain a permit to reshape the island and its waterways! Eventually, time-limited “DLC” holidays will join the fun (released via patches to prevent people from time-traveling forward), too.
Anyway, that’s enough blathering from me. I’ll link a few reviews and video overviews below. I mostly just wanted to create a proper thread to extract the ongoing discussion from the main Switch thread here on the forums :)