Good news! Tom Nook is back again trading seashells and cherries for home upgrades and all manner of funky wearable threads.
If you haven't played Animal Crossing before, get ready for one slow-paced yet undeniably fun-filled adventure with animal friends on a deserted island. At the beginning, you wave goodbye to the dodo pilot who dropped you off with nothing but a few chums and some tents. Tom Nook has talked you into helping him expand his business of settling villages in remote places so you find a place to pitch your tent and over the coming real-time days, weeks, and months, you'll work to upgrade your home and improve the village piece by piece.
Of course, this isn't the first Animal Crossing title but it's been a long time since the previous one released on 3DS. The graphics have improved considerably, making every new character, item, fish, bug, and island a joy to look at while the standard Animal Crossing aesthetic comes across beautifully with familiar sound effects. Of particular note is the museum where your owl buddy Blathers takes donated fish, fossils, and insects and displays them in what has to be the most intricate and stunning museum in video game history.
Animal Crossing is a game where your primary goal is basically gathering resources in order to improve your island. You'll be hitting rocks for ores, digging for fossils, fishing, catching bugs, chopping down trees, and gathering weeds a lot. Fossils, fish, and bugs go to the museum unless you get a duplicate and want to make some good money, especially from a big T-Rex skull. Other materials are used in crafting which you'll spend a lot of time doing in order to build homes and businesses or simply decorate your own home with lavish furniture.
When you want some different scenery, you can buy a Nook Miles ticket, hop on a plane, and be taken to an island that's different every time you visit. I used this feature quite a lot but it seemed like more often than not, I'd be taken to a random island that had the same resources that I already had an abundance of back home. This is indeed frustrating but it does make the more interesting islands exceptionally enjoyable whenever you're lucky enough to randomly get the chance to visit one.
The same dodo crew that flies you to islands also helps you visit local or online friends as well as have them visit you. I think the best way to describe the online in Animal Crossing: New Horizons is that it's only as fun as you make it. Specifically, the online component basically allows you to walk around your friend's island and gather resources or check out their museum. There's nothing much special about doing this as you'll likely find the same fish, bugs, fossils, and other resources that you get back home. It's more of a good place to trade fruit that you don't have yet or check out a shop that might sell some things you want than it is a full-fledged online experience.
On a positive note, New Horizons introduces the Nook Miles system which will likely have you coming back for more and keep you entertained on days when nothing much seems to be going on. You're rewarded miles for all manner of things from talking to villagers every day and spending money to digging up weeds and catching fish in the great outdoors. Miles can be spent on things like upgrading your inventory or unlocking new hairstyles but also to purchase a ticket to go on a plane to visit one of those random islands. There are also long-term and short-term goals that refresh every time you complete one so there's always something to work towards.
Your village can expand in popularity through a couple of ways: one is finding villagers stranded on islands then asking them to visit and the other involves the campground system. Once you unlock this, you'll have the chance to convince villagers to stay on your island by completing tasks for them. The more residents you unlock, the more fun there is to be had by chatting with them, receiving gifts, and listening to their silly nonsense. That reminds me; the humour in Animal Crossing is very charming and sometimes made me laugh out loud, especially while watching the little dodo fellows taking their pilot jobs so seriously that they make up hilarious code words.
Animal Crossing is a game where every little thing that happens is a big deal due to the fact that time progresses in real-time (unless you mess with the Switch's clock). Buying turnips can only be done on Sunday so make sure that you're up early in the morning to collect some then sell them later for profit! See the shadow of a balloon in the sky? Chase after it and hope the gift that it's holding lands somewhere safe and contains something cool! Needless to say, everything is quite slow-placed and best played in short bursts each day as you'll struggle to have enough to do to keep a long gaming session going. As long as you expect this going in, you won't be disappointed but those looking to be constantly challenged and sink hours into a game at once will find that tough to accomplish here.
This latest Animal Crossing delivers the same charm and laidback fun that fans love. Plus, it provides more structure with its nifty Nook Miles system. In the end, this is a game that you'll be glad to pick up and play in short bursts for weeks, months, or even years.
- + Nook Miles system keeps progression interesting for a while
- + Wonderfully adorable graphics
- + Slow pace will keep you hooked
- - Not enough things to do per day
- - Online component is very limited