24th Mar2020

First Impressions – ‘Animal Crossing: New Horizons’ (Nintendo Switch)

by Chris Cummings

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I’m pretty new to the Animal Crossing universe, having only played a little itty bit of New Leaf on the Nintendo 3DS prior to the new release of Animal Crossing: New Horizons on the Switch. Still… I’ve been very excited for this release, and I picked up a copy the day it came out and have played it each day since (as necessary. Don’t wanna miss out on anything, right?).

Animal Crossing, for those who perhaps don’t know, is a cutesy life-sim kinda game, where you play as an avatar character on an island with, to begin, just a handful of neighbours. You have trees, lakes, oceans, rocks and some helpers and guides at your disposal, but not much else, as you begin your journey. The game plays in real-time. There’s no pausing, there’s no binge-playing twenty days in one sitting (unless you can stay awake for that long!) It’s a calm experience, involving building a tent, and eventually a home. Decorating that home. Planting flowers, catching fish and bugs, digging up fossils and donating things to the museum in town (which is, of course, run by an owl named Blathers).

I was hooked almost immediately with Animal Crossing: New Horizons, it must be said. The beautifully colourful and charming visuals, the bursts of humour, the delightfully whimsical island and all that it inhabits, and… the sound design, make for a fluid, easy to control, easy to play and easy to love game. You get money quite easily by selling items to the friendly little racoon in the shop. Oh, and then there’s Tom Nook, the head honcho (also racoon) in town (or island) who is both mortgage broker and vacation planner, life designer and island creator. You go to him when you want to build a house, or when you need some help on what to do next, or when you want to throw a little party when there’s a big addition to the island. You then pay off your debts to him over time. He’s like a walking, talking building society that just happens to take the form of a jovial woodland critter. Nice.

So far, in the few days since release, I’ve built a house and decorated the inside with some pointless clutter, like a lucha-libre wrestling figure, a toy tiger and a stool I can’t sit on. I’ve planted some flowers, I’ve built a work-station that allows me to make lots of DIY recipes, from tools like fishing rods, nets, axes and shovels, to furniture and other bits and bobs. This DIY element is new to the franchise and opens it up considerably, allowing you to collect raw materials and fashion some cool things out of them. You’ll also need a shovel, a vaulting stick, an axe, a catching net, a fishing rod and a watering can in order to do all the things you want to do. I’ve also helped to build the museum and am stocking it, day-to-day, with fish, bugs and fossils. The museum is pretty damn impressive, it’s large, and has some really cool looking displays inside. The way this updates as you add to it is very cool indeed. I’m currently collecting the materials needed to build a town-shop, which will increase the amount of options for things to buy, be it clothing, furniture, DIY recipes or even hairstyles.

There’s also the option, in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, to buy a ticket and fly to another random island where you can collect items and meet new villagers. If you have buddies who also have the game (and a lot of people jumped on this game) then you can visit their island and invite them to yours, too. It’s a lovely way to share what you’ve created and look at what other people have done with their time, too. Wonderful.

Having only played four days of Animal Crossing: New Horizons, there’s little more I’ve done, but this is a first impressions article, so expect a fuller review eventually. It’s just a really lovely game and the fact that you can pop in any time of the day, and the visuals echo the time of day that is unique to you, and chop trees, do some fishing, or chat to your neighbours, is about as charming as you can get. I’d highly recommend this title. At an uncertain and stressful time in the world, a game that offers a little distraction and a reason to smile is nothing to be ignored. Perhaps the best time I’ve had on the Switch so far in such a short amount of time.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is out now on physical copy and digital download for the Nintendo Switch.

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