Review: Animal Crossing New Horizons
Animal Crossing is a game that I never would think I could get into. A game where you have to design and manage an island, tend to crops, and basically do chores for an entire game, which just sounds like a chore in itself. However, I decided to jump into my island getaway and give this one a try, and I am happy to report that I do not regret that decision. Animal Crossing New Horizons is available on Nintendo Switch for $59.99
To start, you arrive on your very own island, but nothing is free... ever.
You meet Tom Nook who will just continue to put you in debt for the foreseeable future. He asked you to name your island and gives you a tent to set up. After you set up your tent, he tells you how much money you owe him, and then it begins. After you pay it off, he will ask you if you want to upgrade from a tent to a house, and then when that’s paid off, he asked if you want a bigger house, and the vicious cycle continues. Outside of your house, there are many other aspects of the island that you will be unlocking and upgrading, making it more personal and feel like your own, but more on that later. For now, let me pay this man and then get back to my review.
There isn’t a traditional story in the game, it’s more of a relaxing trip. Nothing has to be done right away—you can take your time and do it all at your own pace. Once you get there, and start your cycle of paying back Tom Nook, he will give you other tasks to do, such as gathering materials to make a shop or furnish homes for new villagers. There comes a point where your island is rated on a five-star scale. The goal is to get to three stars to get a guitar playing dog named K.K. Slider to come and perform for your island. Once he is there, he will perform the Animal Crossing theme song as the credits roll. It took me roughly 55 hours to get to this point and roll the credits, but my time in my island getaway is far from over.
Things To Do
The island is filled with plenty of activities to keep you busy. It’s your island and you have to make it your own. You can do plenty of gardening work from planting flowers and trees to even moving full grown trees to get them exactly where you want. Once your flowers are grown you can pick the flowers to wear, give it as a gift to someone, or hold on to it for crafting materials. Trees themself are a vessel for resources. Shake the trees to get branches or take out your ax and hit them to get some wood. Wood is one of the vital resources for crafting.
Wood is not the only resource that comes from trees. Some trees will grow fruit. Everyone’s island will have a native fruit that grows from the start. There are five fruits total; oranges, apples, cherries, pears, and coconuts. Since you only start with one fruit, it can be tough to get them all on your island, and you will want them to make some money. Fruit is an easy way to make some money and the fruits that are not native to your island will sell for more. Getting new fruits requires you to visit some friends, or get lucky visiting mystery islands, which I'll touch on later. I spent hours, lining up all my fruit trees to make orchards, it was something I did to make my island more my own.
Hunting for bugs is another activity that will keep you busy. Early on you will be able to craft a net and get to hunting. Some bugs are only out at certain times of the day and even certain months of the year, so if you want to get them all, you will be playing year round.
The other animals to go after are fish. Fishing is not complicated but very enjoyable. You will see a shadow of a fish in the water and you simply cast your line in front of the fish. The fish will go after your bait and either nibble on it or fully bite. If they start with a nibble you have to wait for the full bit before catching them. Every fish will give you a full bite so if one gets away its no one’s fault but your own. Just like bugs, some fish are only out certain times of the day and year, so I will be fishing for months to come.
This is the first time crafting is in an Animal Crossing game and it's a huge part of it. All your tools need to be crafted, and they can break—there is no indicator of when they will break, which means I usually was wasting inventory space with extra tools. Hit trees for wood, pick flowers, pick fruit, smash your shovel on rocks to get many different resources, even use your fishing pole to fish and you may catch some resources instead of a fish.
You want to design your home and your island to be your own and crafting is the way to do it. There are many ways to get new recipes: you can simply buy some of them from the store, or find them in various ways. Each day on your beach you will find a message in a bottle that has a recipe in it. Talking with your villagers is also a way to get some. If you go in their house and you see them at their workbench crafting, simply talk to them and they will give you the recipe of what they are crafting. Also just doing some different things will trigger a recipe. For example, if you dig up a clam you will get the recipe for fish food.
Nook Miles Island
There are two currencies in the game: bells make their return to the series and then a new currency called Nook Miles. You earn Nook Miles by completing tasks in the game and the miles can be spent on a variety of items, from recipes to giant statues. My favorite item to by is a Nook Miles ticket. Purchasing one of these tickets allows you to go to the airport and fly to a randomly generated island. You go there and just take everything your pockets can hold. This was a great way to get resources without messing up anything on your island.
Most of the islands you get will have the same resources you can find at your home island. It will have your native fruit and flowers. There is a chance you can get an island that will different fruits or flowers but my personal favorite I found was tarantula island. Tarantulas can be tough to catch, they only come out at night, and they sell for a lot of bells. Finding this island, and bringing home literally hundreds of thousands in bells, is a great feeling.
Villagers and Visitors
Your villagers can become your friends and it feels like they are truly a friend. Once you get to know them you can give them gifts and they will even give you nicknames. Sometimes I will be just walking by and I will see one of my villagers yell my nickname and run after me, just to talk to me and give me a gift.
I love when I’m walking around and I see my villagers sitting on items I have made or under a tree I planted, it makes me feel like I made their virtual life better.
You will get random visitors to your island; some are just visiting while others want to stay and live on your island. There is a random saleswoman, Mable, that sells different clothes and accessories. If you spend enough she will open up shop and stay for good. Other vendors, like Flick and CJ, will pay extra money for bugs or fish, making you really want to gold out selling until they come into town. There are other random people that will visit and have some goods for you.
My favorite is Daisy Mae. She comes every Sunday and spends only half the day on your island. She sells turnips. Every Sunday you can buy turnips, and then during the week you check your turnip prices—and even prices on your friend’s islands—and try to sell when you think it’s at its highest, making you the most profit.
I mentioned earlier that I lined up all my trees to make different fruit orchards, but that's not all you design. Your house keeps growing and gaining rooms as you pay off your loans. Each new room is a blank canvas to design. You have full control of where to place items while designing, making it a breeze to make your house how you want. Different events bring different items to decorate making this a great way to spend many hours.
After you commit some time to the game, you will unlock for first shop, Nook’s Cranny. Here you can buy different random items each day, along with flowers, tools, and other resources. After you have put even more time into the game you will be able to open the Able Sisters tailor shop. Choose from a wide variety of clothing and accessories to change up your wardrobe. This was one of my favorite activities to do.
The Spinchoon Shop Is Open!
The game gives you the ability to design your own clothing and share it with the community. We have our logo on hats, shirts, and dresses. Enter the creator code MA-8844-6673-7275 to get your merch and rep your favorite site!
So Many Details
As you play the game, you will see the attention to detail and little surprises hidden in the game are just incredible. I don’t want to talk about many, because experiencing them your self is what makes it great. One thing I will mention—because it can be very helpful—is the money tree. Every day there is a gold speck in the ground, if you dig that up you can plant money into that hole causing a money tree to grow. If you do this every day, you will have a nice boost of money coming every day. Also, eat fruit and go to a toilet... your welcome.
You are able to open up your gates and invite some friends over to your island. Up to eight friends can be at your island at once. Besides someone coming to check your designs, use your stores, or just come by for a photoshoot, I don’t know what positives multiplayer brings.
Initiating multiplayer will start to hinder what you can do on your own island. You won’t be able to basic functions like donate to your museum or enter the designer app to fix up your house. There is some fun to be had for a short amount of time, but now, I don’t see any reason to spend a long amount of time with the multiplayer.
It Can’t All Be Good
Multiplayer was the start of some of my issues. There are a lot of things you do every day, that after doing to for weeks in a row, it starts to get frustrating. Changing up your tools for different situations can get annoying. Shaking your trees, or hitting it with an ax, could cause a wasp nest to fall and then get you stung. So you need to have your net out to shake a tree. Your net can not be out with your ax, so you have to switch tools for each action. You do eventually buy a tool ring to make switching tools easier, but after days and weeks of doing this, it got very annoying.
Anything that involves talking to anyone one, or even interacting with the ATM in resident services, takes forever. Most interactions will have choices; if you select the wrong choice, bad news, you have to listen to everything again before getting to make the choice you wanted.
When you collect new bugs, fish, or fossils you have to bring them to Blathers to donate them—get ready for a lot of text to read. You don’t want to make the wrong choice when talking to him.
Do you like crafting? Want to craft a bunch of one item to make some money? Well, get ready to sit there for a long time and make them one by one since there is no option to make more than one of something, even when you have the materials.
Animal Crossing New Horizons took me by complete surprise. I never thought I would enjoy a game that is just busy work and chores but I really did. It's not without its flaws but something keeps bringing me back. At the time of writing this, I have over 130 hours played, and I don’t see myself slowing down anytime soon. The problems I have are easily forgotten once I start designing and running around having a good time. If you're on the fence about this game, just like I was, I highly suggest you give it a try.
Final Score: — 8/10 —
For more reviews take a look at my review of Darwin Project and also check out my retro review of The Last of Us. We also have a new podcast for you to listen too! Check out Game Bites on all major podcast services. For everything else head on over to Twitter I'm @Big_Broons