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Game review: One month with Animal Crossing New Horizons

24 Apr 2020

Animal Crossing New Horizons is one of those games that makes Nintendo Stand out from the crowd. It is the type of console exclusive that will make Xbox and PlayStation owners rush to the store to buy a Nintendo Switch. The Franchise has been a fan favourite for 19 years and it is now finally on the Nintendo Switch. 

The story/gameplay

The concept is fairly simple. Animal Crossing New Horizons puts you on a deserted island run by the famous entrepreneur Tom Nook. The game starts with you at the airport where you talk to Timmy and Tommy, who will help you set up your passport. This is basically where you decide how your character will look like (you can change that later in the game) and where you choose your island map from four randomly generated islands. 

When you first arrive, the island is a complete mess with weeds everywhere. For at least the first night, all you have is your tent and your hard work. You need to pay your original debt to Tom Nook and to do that you need to pick weeds and collect fruits and sell them to Timmy and Tommy. 

The gameplay then opens up to include all sorts of activities - bug catching, fishing, fruit picking and planning, flower planting and watering and much more. Your life on the island will be what you make it to be. 

Your goal will be to grow the island, invite more villagers and make overall life better. You will unlock shops and characters along the way. While doing that, you will be improving your island’s overall rating. Your original goal is to reach a 3-star island and then eventually a 5-star one. Blathers, Isable, and the Able sisters all make a return to run the museum, Resident services and the tailor shop.

While Tom Nook is the one ‘in charge’, you are the sole decision-maker. You decide where every villager places their house. You decide where shops go, which trees get cut, and where flowers grow. This amount of power is what makes the game great. 

DIY

Animal Crossing New Horizons introduces the very welcomed concept of DIY. Unlike old Animal Crossing games, now “annoying” tasks like picking weeds is finally useful. Weeds, wood, rock, clay, iron, gold, bamboo and flowers are all materials that can be crafted into furniture and other items. 

The addition of this mechanic opens up the gameplay a lot. It gives the player extra things to do. These DIY recipes can be collected by talking to villagers, finding letter bottles along the seashore, or by popping balloons. Sometimes you get the same recipe twice which gives you trading leverages with your friends who can also share their extra recipes with you. 

The crafting doesn’t stop here. After some time, players will unlock customisation. This allows players to customise objects with different colours and even custom design patterns. This opens up a world of possibilities and allows players to customise their homes and their towns in a totally unique way. You can look at five different players all using the same items, but with a completely different result. And that there is the heart and soul of this game. 

Nook Miles

Nook Miles are Tom Nook’s reward system. Every time you do a certain task, you are rewarded with Nook Miles. Catch 5 fish, pick up 20 weeds, catch 5 butterflies, etc. All of these are activities that will earn you nook miles. These nook miles can then be exchanged for items, DIY recipes, tickets and clothes. This addition made regular everyday activities on the island much more exciting. 

Dodo Airlines

Life on the island would not have been possible without the hardworking Dodos at Dodo airlines. They are essentially the only way in or out of the island. While each island has a different layout, they all have an airport at the button side of the map. Inside the airport is a waiting area, Orville and his desk and the post stand. That post stand replaces the post office from the older games. Using it allows you to send letters and gifts to yourself, an island resident and your friends. 

Talking to Orville allows you to fly to other islands as well as invite people to yours. You can open up your island to best friends, friends and even strangers if you share your “Dodo gate code” with them. You can also fly to your friend’s islands for some trading, fishing, bug catching or even just to hang out. 

The third and arguably most important feature that the Dodos offer is flying you to mystery islands. A ticket to these mystery islands can be purchased using your nook miles. These islands are amazing as they provide different scenery than your own. They have different fruits, special fish, special flowers, rare bugs… They are even sometimes covered with money rocks.  This makes it really exciting every time you save up enough miles to purchase a ticket. 

Terraforming

Terraforming, officially known as the island design app in the game is one the most exciting additions to New Horizons. While it will take a long time to unlock, once that happens, it gives the players the ability to terraform their islands to their heart’s content. This means adding cliffs and rivers and waterfalls wherever you want. Laying down paths and building crazy designs. Your imagination is the limit. 

The verdict

The game has only been out for a month and Nintendo already released two major updates for Bunny day and Nature day, providing players with extra content. I have already sunk 185 hours into this game, and I do not see myself putting it down anytime soon. If you own a Switch and don’t own a copy of Animal Crossing, then you should probably go get one.