In a weird way, Animal Crossing: New Horizons had perfect timing. The game came out right before coronavirus worries hit an all-time high. In a time when everyone was confined to their homes, Nintendo released a game that let us envision building a better life on our own island paradise.
New Horizons manages to be the best entry in the Animal Crossing franchise. It is beautiful, refreshing, and relaxing to the point that it may redefine how you view video games.
Not Always Newbie-Friendly
If you’re new to the Animal Crossing games, you probably have a simple question. “What do I do in this game?” The answer sounds a bit like a Zen paradox: you do both “nothing” and “everything.”
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a game with very few specific goals. For example, you’ll need to pay Tom Nook back for loans, but that’s really just an excuse to find and collect various animals and treasures around your island.
Beyond basic stuff like that, this game has no real structure. You create your own goals and make your own fun. While that is liberating to plenty of gamers, complete newbies may spend plenty of hours early on trying to figure out what to do.
Art Imitates Life
One of the nice touches in New Horizon is that it makes nice use of your Switch’s internal clock. If you fire the game up first thing in the morning, it will also be first thing in the morning on your island. If you start playing late at night, it will be nice and dark on your island.
It sounds like a small thing, but this nice touch makes the game feel that much more immersive. And beyond the aesthetic changes, the night/day cycle doesn’t impact gameplay very much. You can pick the game up anytime that you need a serious dose of relaxation.
And that’s the word most commonly associated with New Horizons: “relaxation.” In a game with no real structure or goals, you can do whatever you want to do, whenever you want to do it.
Want to collect everything under the sun and pay back Tom Nook? You can do that. Want to craft creative goodies until your home and island is dripping with your personality? You can do that, too!
It’s hard for some gamers (including myself) to get over the lack of structure. But that’s the Zen magic of the entire game. Once you realize you don’t have to do anything, you understand that you have the freedom to do everything.
Most of New Horizons follows the formula of previous franchise entries. However, they made one change that will have micromanagers the world over singing for joy.
You basically have complete control over where everything goes. This includes plotting out where other villagers will live and placing furniture anywhere in your house or on the island.
This level of control was absent from earlier games. And while it may not tickle every player’s fancy, this level of granular control truly does take your island planning to the next level.
Crafting is one of the best features in the entire game. Furthermore, crafting really embodies the entire New Horizons design philosophy.
For example, it usually doesn’t take long at all to find the resources you need to craft something. This isn’t like World of Warcraft or even Minecraft, where finding exotic materials makes for a long adventure of its own.
You have plenty of control over everything you make. Some players spend countless hours putting classic NES pixel art on their sheets. Others don’t rest until they make their whole home look like the Starship Enterprise, right down to the classic Star Trek uniforms.
Long story short? Crafting in this game doesn’t simply make you feel like you created a simple object. The sheer number of customization possibilities gives you a sense of pride and ownership over what you create.
Share With the World
That customization brings us to the next point: to get the most out of this game, it’s worth it to connect with different Animal Crossing groups online.
Doing so is not a requirement, of course, and you could always play this game in total isolation. But joining these groups is a great way to find inspiration for your future island projects. And, of course, joining gives you a chance to share your creations with the world!
Ultimately, this social experience really enhances gameplay. As does the game’s built-in multiplayer options.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons features a fun multiplayer option. And that feature is just as chill and stress-free as the rest of the game.
You can fly to islands created by your friends and scope out what they’ve done with the place. While visiting, you can chat and trade with each other and generally have a good time.
Worried that a newcomer will trash your island? Unless you’ve marked them as a best friend, they can’t create shovels, axes, or other tools that might destroy your hard work. Nothing about this is meant to be competitive–just an opportunity for you to marvel at everyone’s creativity while showing off your own work.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is definitely worth playing. No matter how long you play, the gamer offers a sense of relaxation and accomplishment.
And the lack of structure actually serves as a nice challenge to players. How great can you make your island? How many customized themes can you create?
The replay value of this game is endless. For that reason alone, it definitely belongs in your Switch library!