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Animal Crossing: New Horizons makes for the perfect pastime

Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Photo courtesy of Nintendo

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic that started in late-February and early-March, many found themselves shut in with too much free time on their hands. Thankfully with the release Animal Crossing: New Horizons on Mar. 20, players found a way to keep themselves occupied.

I have always been asked what the game is about. Often I reply that it’s a game like The Sims: One can decorate their own characters, their home, outside environment and live life amongst the non-player characters (NPCs); the NPCs in this case being friendly neighborhood animals. It’s very hard to get the appeal at first but it’s only once you start to play that you can understand it all.

Outside a players home, decorated with flowers. Photo by Gustavo Ramirez

Animal Crossing has always been a “go at your own pace” game where there is no competition and one is left with just themselves and their creativity. The in-game time and date are synced with the console’s internal clock so oftentimes things can feel like they’re taking too long but it’s something you soon get used to.

At the start you find yourself on an uninhabited island as part of the Tom Nook’s deserted island getaway package. If you’re playing at the game’s intended pace, things will take a few days to catch steam but it’s worth the wait.

One of Animal Crossing’s best aspects has to be it’s freedom with customization in almost all aspects. In this latest entry players are left with many tools and features to make their own unique island.

In past games, a player was very limited with what they could do with regard to their town appearance. Water fountains, streets lamps, benches, signs, etc. were among the items one could use to make a better scenery. While it worked out, there were still problems to be had such as one would have to wait until the next day in order for the project to be completed and once placed it could not be moved, only demolished and built again at another location. 

In Animal Crossing: New Horizons a player instead craft’s their own decorations and can place/move them wherever they would like, all without having to wait for hours or days. In addition, items that could only be placed in one’s home can now be placed outside, unlike previous entries in the series. This has opened the door for virtually endless possibilities with what one can do with their island.

Speaking of homes, Animal Crossing added the ability for players to rotate the camera inside of houses allowing for more options on how things can look. Another new feature is the home editor tool. Before, players would have to painstakingly push, pull, and pocket furniture to put 

everything in place. With the new tools one can now drag and drop items where they please without all the annoying work that used to come with it.

Animal Crossing: New Horizon’s new furnishing tools. Photo by Gustavo Ramirez

On the topic or arrangement, probably the one of the most welcomed additions to the game is the ability to decide the location of villagers’ homes. Villagers come and go taking their homes with them and in previous games when a villager would move in, they would take up a random plot of land. That land that was often taken up would sometimes be inconvenient for players. With the new change, players can now dedicate specific parts of their island for where villagers can live furthering the freedom one has with their island.

Another very welcomed feature is terraforming. Unlike before, players can now add/edit cliffs, rivers, ponds, and waterfalls to their island which has allowed for some beautiful sceneries.

Terraforming’s ability to create land features photo by Gustavo Ramirez

However with all the good that’s to be said, the game does have its fair share of problems. For one are how the tools work in the game. New to this game is the crafting system where, along with furniture, players can now craft their own tools such as shovels and axes.

At first you get access to the flimsy tools but later gain the ability to make stronger and more durable versions. Tools break very frequently and it’s annoying to have to find a workbench to craft some more. Furthermore, previous titles had golden tools that would never break. In this game golden tools are craftable, but only have the added benefit of more durability. It’s not worth it considering the very rare golden nuggets are needed to craft the tools. 

Another problem with crafting is it’s painfully slow process. If you’re looking to make one or two items then it’s no problem. If you’re looking to use an inventory’s worth of manila clams to make fish bait, then expect to be spamming the A button for several minutes. The lack of an option to make multiple items can be irritating at times.

Crafting menu missing craft multiple feature. Photo by Gustavo Ramirez

Although Animal Crossing is supposed to be nice and slow, it’s still tiresome having to go through text I’ve seen hundreds of times such as donating items to the museum, using the airport, and buying things from Timmy and Tommy’s shop.

Additionally, one of my biggest gripes with the game is it’s poor multiplayer. Seeing as how players now have to pay for Nintendo’s online service, it’s hard justifying its $20 price tag when it doesn’t offer much.

When visiting a friend’s island there is hardly anything to do. In Animal Crossing: New Leaf, players can go on island tours together and play a handful of mini games. 

Seeing as how Animal Crossing: New Horizons is on the Nintendo Switch, a huge step up in hardware from the Nintendo 3DS, it’s a bit infuriating seeing that there is so little that is being taken advantage of. More often than not I only see myself visiting friends to buy/sell items and to explore their island. There’s not much more to it.

If you like collecting, have a knack for creativity, and don’t mind all the unfun busy work then this latest entry in the series shouldn’t be something to skip over.

A decorated interior of a house photo by Gustavo Ramirez

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