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  • Writer's pictureSam Barris

Animal Crossing: New Horizons Review - Nothing Beats Island Life With Your Sweetie.

Playing dress-up has never been more interesting.



Life has been stressful recently. With school or work tasks piling up you could really use a vacation. Don’t worry, Tom Nook Travel Agency has the perfect getaway for you! A lovely island paradise where you can eat fresh fruit straight from the trees, spend all day on the beach soaking up the sun or go hiking up in the hills with pine trees swaying in the breeze. Sounds like pure bliss, right? Just one teeny tiny problem… When you get to the island it's deserted. There are no accommodations, no restaurants, no shops, nothing but you and two others who also fell for the scam. Not to worry though, your good buddy Tom Nook brought a tent and sleeping cot for you, how generous.


Gameplay


From here on out it’s your mission to collect materials like wood, stone and iron to develop the island. You will build a town hall, a general store, a clothing store and a museum. Don’t forget about that shabby tent you sleep in every night. It can be upgraded multiple times, first into a real house, then adding more rooms and finally adding multiple floors.


Animal Crossing: New Horizons also follows the internal clock of your Nintendo Switch. This means that when it is 10 p.m. where you live, it will be 10 p.m. on your island. When it is winter outside, it is winter on your island. Day and night cycles and the different seasons are not just visual differences either, all are important parts of the game too. Some events only take place at certain times of the day, shops close at night, specific bugs only come out at night (e.g. fireflies) and each season changes the fauna that appear (e.g. grasshoppers in summer and dung beetles in winter).


You read that correctly, your island has a lot of bugs living on it and it is your mission to catch at least one of every kind so it can be donated to the museum once it is built. But it’s not just bugs you can collect of which there are 80, there are also 80 fish to catch, 73 fossils to dig up, 40 deep sea critters to dive for and 35 Gyroids (sculptures that sing and dance when they hear music) to grow.


There is a lot to do in Animal Crossing: New Horizons. My wife Julie and I bought the game when it came out in March 2020 and played it daily until the update that added swimming was released in July, so we played the game for five months. Even at that point we hadn’t completed 100% of the game and there have been nine updates since then adding tons of new content.


Co-Op


Luckily, this is the first time in Animal Crossing history where you don’t have to do it alone! One, two or three friends can join you in your island development journey, couch co-op style. The way Animal Crossing: New Horizons handles it is a little weird though, whoever starts the game up and first moves to the island is appointed the Resident Representative and basically owns the island. They determine what to build and where it goes. If you invite a second player they become another guest on the island and can do everything else (shop, collect materials, interact with the local islanders) but not island development planning. There is no way to change the Resident Representative and you can not have two islands on a single Switch console. This never was a problem for us, I just had Julie start the game first and invite me as soon as the option was available, we never wanted to play separately anyway. If you truly want to play independently you need to buy another Switch (yeesh!).


Objective


The true main object of Animal Crossing: New Horizons is to upgrade your house to the max and this happens in seven steps. The first is changing from a tent to a real house and it doesn’t happen for free, Tom Nook charges you 98,000 Bells (the game’s currency) for the upgrade. At that point it is your mission to pay off the debt so you can continue with the next house renovation which puts you even further in debt. The cycles continues each time with an ever growing cost of remodeling, the final upgrade is adding a basement and puts you staggeringly 2,498,000 Bells in the red.


With the last addition paid off you technically “beat” the game but all Animal Crossings never really end. If you haven’t caught all the insects or fish you can keep doing that. There are close to 800 things to craft at the DIY crafting bench. You can make tools, furniture, flooring, wallpaper, outdoor decorations and the list goes on. You can wait for specific times to see special events like the Aurora Borealis and shooting stars, you may even be able to spot a ghost who needs help if you don’t mind staying up late. There are also tons of clothing to collect and wear, that was the funnest part for Julie and me.


What Makes This Game Unique


Nintendo got really lucky with Animal Crossing: New Horizons, it’s release directly coincided with the world shutting down due to COVID-19. People quarantined at home were looking for something to do and many turned to video games. In fact, Animal Crossing: New Horizons broke many records: most digital downloads for a console game in a month, best-selling game in the Animal Crossing series, the second best-selling game on the Nintendo Switch, the best-selling game of all time in Japan, and the 16th best-selling video game in history selling over 40 million units worldwide. When the world felt like it was chaotic and scary there was something calming about being in control of your own personal island.


As mentioned earlier, Animal Crossing: New Horizons doesn’t have a true ending. If you stop after the final house upgrade it will take you about 60 hours of gameplay on average. If you are a completionist and want to cross off every single thing there is to do, then you are looking at 400+ hours depending on how fast you are. Someone clocked in saying they finally beat 100% of the game after 739 hours and 8 minutes…


Note on Replayability, technically I wouldn’t play this game over again from the start. I am rating it as how eager I am to keep coming back and continue playing.


Rating Legend

Gameplay - How fun I find the game itself.

Co-Op - Does co-op exist in the game and if so how well integrated is it.

Replayability - Once I beat the game how likely am I to go back and play it again.

☆☆☆ - Terrible or functionality doesn’t exist, eg co-op in a single play only game

★☆☆ - Bad

★★☆ - Good

★★★ - Awesome



 

Sam Barris

Columnist | Gaming & Tech Whiz of Moody Melon Magazine

I am a game developer, technical engineer, an animator and entrepreneur with a forward-thinking mindset to bring cool ideas into existence. In my free time I read lots of news articles. I enjoy using my knowledge of the IT world to give my opinions on various tech-related topics.


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