In the weeks leading up to the release of the fifth mainline series “Animal Crossing” game, nothing but sheer and utter chaos had ensued. COVID-19 quickly spread across the world and put a temporary halt to life as we know it by reaping devastating effects on the economy, skyrocketing unemployment rates, shifting schools and universities online and much more. “Animal Crossing: New Horizons,” the ironic polar opposite of pandemonium and disorder, could not have arrived at a better time.
Following in the footsteps of its predecessors, “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” poses as the ultimate form of euphoric escapism. Arriving on the Nintendo Switch nearly eight years after the life simulator series’ last entry on the Nintendo 3DS (“Animal Crossing: New Leaf”), “New Horizons” embraces the strongest elements of the past while simultaneously introducing clever new elements that breathe a new life into the long-running franchise.
Unlike other “Animal Crossing” games, “New Horizons” drops players in the middle of a deserted tropical island with nothing more than a tent and a few basic supplies. With the help of some of the series’ most beloved characters such as the pushy money mogul Tom Nook and others, players slowly begin to meet new villagers and build up their island as they upgrade materials and craft new ones.
While “New Horizons” continues to maintain all of the usual wit and charm of the franchise, its newer features are where the game truly shines. Early in the game, players are given an item called a Nook Phone, where they can access a wide array of applications. Essentially acting as a new organizational hub, the Nook Phone introduces players to features new and old such as Nook Miles, DIY Recipes and even Rescue Services.
Nook Miles, one of the largest new features in the game, are a series of in-game achievements that reward players with a new currency that can be used to purchase items such as clothes, furniture, inventory upgrades and even a plane ticket to another island. Another new feature is a crafting system where players make tools and furniture for their homes through DIY Recipes. Since tools are prone to breaking early-on in the game, crafting encourages players to explore their own islands and tour others to obtain new resources.
“New Horizons” also features a handful of other alluring additions that heighten its gameplay experience. Beyond all of the unique new outfits and home-decor players can grab, players have the ability to restructure the landscape of their island later in the game with a new terraforming feature.
Players also have the chance to delve into different seasonal events in between planning out their dream island. “Bunny Day,” the game’s first holiday-inspired event featuring new items and challenges, is now live for players from April 1 to April 12 to celebrate the Easter holiday. With a wide range of events and seasonal changes making for high replayability value as per usual series fashion, owners of the game are set to design their island to their heart’s content with no foreseeable end in sight.
The meticulous time and care put into the dialogue of the villagers, the game’s sound design and the striking visual appearance of the world itself is another asset that should not go unnoticed. Whether it be interacting with the lively animated model of a new or returning villager, hearing the waves of the ocean crash over a silky-sand beach at sunset or watching your villager run through a beautiful multi-story museum brimming with all different forms of wildlife, “New Horizons” evokes a unique sense of warmth and satisfaction that many other video game series fail to deliver.
“Animal Crossing: New Horizons” is undoubtedly the peak of the franchise thus far. Offering a wide range of accessibility for newcomers and a mix of enticing new features for longtime veterans of the series, “New Horizons” is an essential island-getaway that Nintendo Switch owners of all ages should invest in while they are cooped in their homes during this quarantine.