If you’re a gamer of some form or another, you’ve likely heard of or have played Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Even if you’re not a gamer, you may have heard of it, as the game itself has even been mentioned on t.v. shows such as Late Night with Seth Meyers. For a bit of background, The Animal Crossing series began in 2001 with the GameCube, and is also the last game in the series I played prior to New Horizons. So I wanted to make a review of New Horizons from an OG perspective that may trigger the PTSD given to anyone who got chased around by a swarm of bees in the first game. My feelings towards New Horizon is absolutely affected by my feelings of nostalgia and fading memory. However New Horizon has some interesting features that the original game would never been able to have. So let’s break it down.
Some Cool New Features:
I should start with a disclaimer that I haven’t played any other animal crossing since the original, and my memory from being 8 or 9 years old isn’t super reliable. So, I apologize in advance if I mistake something as a new feature, or if it featured in another game prior.
- The Photo/Cell Phone
- New Vendors
- Travelling to Recruit Villagers
- Redesigning your island
Is it really that different?
The short and sweet answer is that, no, Animal Crossing New Horizons is not all that different from the original. The basic concepts in the game that feels linear are pretty much the same. Upgrade your house, get more money to upgrade your house, be a shopaholic, collect bugs and fish, and meet new villagers. All of these similarities with minute differences, so why does it feel so different? First let’s start with similarities.
The same cute style remains of characters and design continue to pervade through the wraiths of time, and the focus on customizing your clothes and house remains still leads you to a pattern of hoarding. There still is an emphasis of a casual game with patience being required if played as intended. Smacking stones with a shovel like some kind of demented miner has changed a little, but the magical rock that has hidden bells within is still a blessing. Villagers still give you gifts and keep their slow paced conversations about the or current lives and friends. Villagers also give you items just as they do in the good ol days, and the butterfly net is still a fun method or torture if you don’t care for the villagers. Some of these aspects have been suped up or stripped of some parts.
Another similarity in the game are the familiar faces, you still have the Able Sisters, Tom Nook, Sahara, Gulliver, K.K Slider, and many more. Buying and selling are still main features in the game, it wouldn’t really be Animal Crossing without that, and I guess the animals too *ba-dum-ching*. Isabelle and Nook’s little two boys make a reappearance, which from my understanding made their debut in the second game of the series.
One aspect in the game that feels untouched or has unnoticeable differences is my best friend the hooty hootster, Blathers and his Majestic Museum. I absolutely loved the first game and collecting bugs, fish, and fossils for my dear friend. I remember having to be consistently patient before exploring my museum so each time I check it out it felt like it got a significantly more installments. In New Horizons, I find myself doing the exact same thing. When exploring my screen captures library and photos, for whatever reason I just love to photograph with that professional ‘regurgitator’ in a sweater vest.
Fruit fruit fruit fruit fruit! You just gotta love dem apples. There is still a variety of fruit, albeit this time around if you’ve got some friends you can have all of the types on your island. Based on memory I don’t think the look of the fruits look any different. I can’t help but feel it successfully makes my mouth water just as the Japanese Anime foods continue to do today. Want more? Plop that sucker in the ground and watch it grow!
I think that the main reason this game does not feel similar to its oringinal may have to do with the shopping systems. You no longer have to solely focus on purchasing an item on display, instead you get more shopping inventories to look through and shop faster. The only shopping I could exclude from this option, are some items in Nook’s Cranny, and the Sketchy Art Dealer Fox. The game has sped up some of the shopping experiences, while still trying to keep it slow. Rather than getting excited by seeing what new inventory is in stock, I get impatient by having to wait for these two little raccoons finish talking so I can look in the goddamn wardrobe!
There was something special in the original game by having all of the items on display. It was more exciting for some reason, and I had more patience when dealing with the Raccoon that felt like he was constantly nipping at your heels like a racist business owner scared of thievery. There was more consistency in it’s slow and calm pace, while in New Horizons I have significantly less patience than in the first game. Maybe this has to do with age, maybe it has to do with all of the fast paced “pew pew explodey” type of games I have played since 2001. Either way, something feels off when it comes to the ratio between speed and immediate gratification in this game.
One change I feel should be mentioned is that the focus on relationships with the villagers don’t feel like such a key part to the game as it used to. You’re more like a park ranger/maintenance worker rather than a new neighbor itching to make new friends. I remember how in the original game, I would constantly run around and talk to every villagers and actually care about what they say, and hope that they have some task for me to complete. In New Horizons I couldn’t care less, the only time I want to talk to the villagers is if they are crafting something in their home, or if they run at you gun ho with an exclamation point over their head. The drama on the island between villagers is not as much as the first game, the socializing aspect has been replaced with playing with others online, which in itself is not a bad thing.
Now I cannot recall for certain, but in the original game I believe that tools did not have a durability. Meaning that you would get that occasional *poof* of your tool breaking after smacking some seemingly renewable resource. In the first game if you obtained a golden version of a tool, you had better chances of acquiring bells, furniture, or clothing while chopping or shoveling away.
Another big change in the game is the time system, which I admit that I do not know if this was a feature in other Animal Crossing games. In New Horizons, time is based on your game system’s time, so unless you have a changing schedule or change the time on your Nintendo Switch, you may completely miss certain times of day or night within the game. One nice part is that you likely aren’t wandering around at night waiting for the shops to open like you did on the GameCube, but it is frustrating thinking that you have to play your game at different intervals of time in real life if you want to expand your collections.
Overall, New Horizons does not fill my desired feelings of nostalgia but it is still a solid and entertaining game. To be fair, nothing is quite the same as the first, so judging a game solely based on nostalgia would be a mistake. So I have decided to use a different kind of scale to try and minimize the influence from my childhood days.
Game Style Consistency (Causal/Collector): 8/10
Slow paced style is relaxing and peaceful, it’s a happy go lucky game!
Game Mechanics/Button Layouts: 9/10
The Nintendo Switch utilizes every button in a way that is pretty intuitive and simple to learn for new comers.
Villagers are entertaining and pretty funny but vendors lack in variety and the ability to skip repeated speech lines. There isn’t really much of a story, and has more of a sandbox type of feel. In this metaphor, the sandbox you’re playing in has limitations based on time in the real world. The game does a decent job in adding new characters and features to the game as each day passes. I would say that the real end point of finding new features are having K.K. slider start coming to your island, and when you have the ability to reshape the land on the island. Granted, I have not seen any holiday events yet, they always felt special in the original game and I hope they keep that with New Horizons.
Design and Feel: 8/10
Keeps the same theme as the previous games, cute and family friendly, ignoring some of the questionable lore about what type of animals can be humanoid, Link to game theorist video talking about this)
This category may be a moot point as there really isn’t much of a reason to start the game over. There isn’t much of a linear story and just about everything in the game can be redesigned and changed at some point in the game even the shape of the land and waterways. Most notable things that can’t change are villager houses color and interior and airport color. A major point of the game is to collect just about everything, or at least have it in your catalogue so you can repurchase an item later on.
Playing with friends: 9/10
Would be a 10 if the travelling to other island process was a little quicker or wouldn’t require the island owner to exit any menu or speech interactions. The game has a strong online community, so much that there is a surprising amount of toxicity and controversial topics being discussed online. From my fiance’s experience, the vast majority of people are friendly and are honest. I have not really gone to anyone’s islands but my Fiance’s island because, well… I don’t like talking to people on social media unless it’s for the purpose of being funny. My Fiance and I have a blast connecting with each other in the game, and I very much enjoy being weird by waiting her to come outside of a building to find me creeping alongside the property with some strange look on my face.
Entertainment/Obsessive Value: 7/10
I had a hard time picking a number for this category. If you play the game as intended there is a limited amount of things you can get done in a day. This could be viewed as a good or bad thing, depending on if you want to play other games or live in the real world. There is a method of “Time Traveling” which allows you to break the game’s real time game play, which allows you to change the date and time in your game. I would recommend watching a tutorial on how to do this, as it is easy to mess some things up in your game. So depending on how you choose to play, you could get your daily tasks done and be done, or keep playing multiple in game days by time traveling. Keep in mind that this is a casual game, so if you are a fan of fast paced games and easily get bored by anything with dialogue or slow moving aspects, this is probably not the game for you.
7/10 Quite Dandy
*Animal Crossing New Horizons has some major updates coming in July and August, I’ll see you then!*