Animal Crossing: New Horizons Review
A life sim that may be better than your actual life
I first started playing Animal Crossing when I was just a kid. I remember the advertisement in Nintendo Power was something that was like, “The game that keeps playing even when you aren't!” I was hyped. This game is a like a little world that exists in my GameCube even when I'm not around? It has cute animals that I could possibly be friends with? It has CROSSINGS in it? Sign me up. This was one of the “beg until you get it” games and I begged until I got it. I promise I wasn't as spoiled as a kid as I might sound.
I was hooked from the very first boot up and I've been playing ever since.
So what about New Horizons? Is it worth picking up? Is it something you should sink your time into especially in these troubling times when we're all quarantined and can barely manage to have actual lives since we can't go anywhere? Yeah, dude. Of course.
New Horizons puts you in the shoes of your own character where you act as an island representative for Tom Nook's latest capitalist endeavor which, in this case, is placing people on a deserted island and just letting everything work itself out. You start off in just a tent and gradually work yourself up to a house and adding stores as you amass more resources and more events happen around you.
One of the core grabs of all the Animal Crossing games is just how open ended everything is. I can choose to just dick around and make as many hybrid flowers as I want or I can just watch my villager struggle in the hellish pitfall minefield that I've left in front of his house (GET OFF MY ISLAND, PONCHO). This entry, however, is more task oriented where Nook will give you structures to build and tasks to complete in order to make your island more welcoming to special characters such as the musician dog K.K. Slider. It's a promising addition as it gives players a more structured experience alongside their casual day to day activities like trying to pay off their home loan or complete the museum.
Animal Crossing is becoming less of a life simulation and more of a city sim.
There's a whole lot going on in this entry and, while I was skeptical of it in the beginning, I think the new crafting system has brought a new layer of fun gameplay to the Animal Crossing formula. Animal Crossing was already kind of a mindless run when I didn't have anything to do in it but the addition of resource gathering has allowed me to just zone out and relax even more. Animal Crossing exists as such a soothing and chill experience and the island atmosphere only helps to further set this entry apart from others.
There are a variety of tweaks and additions to the behavior of your villagers and it seems they just manage to become more endearing as the series go on (EXCEPT FOR YOU, PONCHO). One of the best new features is the absolute dominion you are given over your island as it concerns placement of stores and homes. The last game in the series (New Leaf) gave you a lot of control over your town but New Horizon has pushed that control even further where your island is basically your own tropical empire where everything is controlled by you. Animal Crossing is becoming less of a life simulation where I'm given permission to live among the animals and more of a city sim where I am in full control of how their lives play out (EXCEPT FOR PONCHO BECAUSE HE STILL LIVES).
That's not to say that this game is perfect. It suffers from the same problems as New Leaf where only one person per town is allowed to control how everything is played and basically means that only one person per household is given control since multiple islands aren't allowed per console. That means that if you get Animal Crossing for little Timmy and Tammy then whoever starts the game up first is going to be the boss and the second player is just going to have to deal with it. There's also the issue that this game isn't really for the type of people who play games for an objective based experience.
New Horizons will give you “quests” but you're given free reign to just enjoy your life and I can imagine that might be off putting to some. At some point, you are going to run out of things to do for the day. You could always just set the time forward to the next day but that's just not an optimal solution for some. I don't do it myself but I'm not going to cry foul if that's your solution. The multiplayer is also lacking certain features that make it really consistently fun to play with other people. I can only go to so many towns and revel in seeing them without facing a little bit of boredom. It's swell to see what my friends are doing but I would like it if we had more diverse activities like island mini-games in New Leaf.
Overall, New Horizons offers a bevy of new tools and things to play around in your Animal Crossing experience and is still fundamentally the same thing we had in New Leaf but made even better. I can't say if it's going to be as fulfilling experience for you as it is for me. I can say that it has been the kind of game that I can't wait to play whenever I have a moment and that I will be returning to it indefinitely as long as it manages to charm me with the upbeat atmosphere and joyous yet relaxing game play loop that I love the series for.
I also have to see to the end this vendetta I have with Poncho the bear.