Review: Animal Crossing: New Horizons was worth the eight-year wait

Prepare to get lost in a new life.

Animal Crossing New Horizons

Image via Nintendo

I don’t think I have seen a trace of sunlight the past two weeks, let alone my family, my friends—nothing. And it’s all because of Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

As I start to question why I am focusing more on paying off my in-game bills than the ones I actually need to pay in real life, the slow reality of the situation sinks in. This game, for all its strengths and flaws, is incredibly addictive. Every day I wake up and load up the game, go around my town completing the bare essentials like fishing and finding fossils and try to make some progress of some kind. When night comes, I fall asleep only to wake and repeat the process once again.

So yes, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is an amazing game. The Animal Crossing community has been pining for this game for the past eight years since New Leaf launched on Nintendo 3DS, and those fans will be happy to know that the wait has definitely been worth it.

The Simple Life

When I try to explain what the game is to friends, I call it a life simulator game, but it’s more than that. There is something about Animal Crossing that differentiates itself from other games. It’s a life sim, sure, but played in real-time, each in-game day is a day in the real world too, and each day you sign on, there could be different events or vendors awaiting you, asking you (or forcing you?) to play it daily to not miss out on anything.

In this iteration, you take on the role of a Resident beginning your new life in a deserted town, and over time, you can shape it into your dream paradise. You’ll start with nothing, but slowly over time unlock everything from a store to a museum, to even more residents. There is a lot to look forward to and do in your new home.

Without dwelling on the old, let’s focus more on the new, as, let’s face it, the music, visuals, and gameplay we are used to from the Animal Crossing series for some time now is still there—and as gorgeous as ever.

The NookPhone, your source of everything you need in-game, is a handy tool that rewards you points known as Nook Miles that you can trade in for helpful items and upgrades such as backpack space.

You can also craft in this game for the first time in any core Animal Crossing game, allowing you to collect DIY recipes to create anything from tools to furniture. You’ll be surprised how many things you can actually craft and, more importantly, what items you will need to craft them, so be sure to save all the items you have, just in case.

With crafting being a thing now, though, you might find yourself holding onto items that were once sellable trash, such as shells and garbage, as they can be used in specific crafting recipes you might need down the line. Honestly, I ended up hoarding every item I came across in our house in the hopes it would one day be usable, as some items are super rare to come across again.

Getting to work

Before I continue, I want everyone to be aware that this review only encompasses experiences from the first few weeks of play so my experiences are only during Spring. As such, I have yet to experience the joys of Summer, Autumn, and Winter in-game to see what kind of events and creatures are around during then. But I don’t really mind either’ much of the fun with Animal Crossing is watching the world change and grow alongside your own.

The first big piece of advice I can give is to start planning your island early. The placing of structures and everything else can be moved, but at a massive cost, so if you know what you want at the start, start setting things up ahead of time.

Also, if you don’t have any idea what to do, set yourself a project. Some days I’ve booted up the game and told myself, “Today I’m going to make a nice garden area to relax in,” and then spent hours doing just that.

Projects and planning are some of the biggest things you can do to keep yourself invested in the game in the long run. Some days you just might not have much to do, so use your time wisely, may it be grinding for bells or working towards something. There are plenty of options available.

It’s not all apples and peaches

It would be unfair to talk about Animal Crossing: New Horizons without highlighting some of its flaws and believe me, it is far from the perfect game we could wish for.

One of the huge gripes I can see people complaining about this game is the amount of time it takes to unlock all the features if you don’t use time travel or look up how-to guides online. Features that players would want at the start, such as the ability to place paths and build your own rivers and mountains, could take weeks or even months to unlock over time.

Then there’s a huge emphasis on bells and Nook Miles this time around, to the point that grinding bells is a must. That obviously leads to a lot of fishing and other money-making schemes to get the things you need.

Crafting also comes with its own sets of issues. Basic items like fishing rods and shovels break with ease, forcing you to constantly craft more and more as they break. Gone are the days of one fishing rod lasting through your whole experience. You need to constantly be managing your inventory, and it does get annoying. 

The game also has a habit of not telling you what you actually need to do in the later stages, and some materials you need for crafting recipes are nowhere in sight. For instance, I am still two weeks in trying to find out where to get bamboo to complete this lovely zen garden idea I had for a part of my island. It’s just an empty space now, but someday, maybe I’ll complete it.

The Curtain Call 

The game is a journey, one that you will start and likely play a long amount of time in the beginning only to pick up occasionally during big events and seasons later on in your console’s lifecycle.

Let’s be realistic though, this game isn’t for everyone, and a lot of people might feel tempted to get into the game from all the months of hype that has been circulating since this game was revealed last year, so if you’re on the fence, give yourself time to watch someone else play it before you invest the money into it.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to tending to my island and making sure I am ready for the next big in-game event. I likely won’t be seeing any friends or family anytime soon with that museum of mine still left to fill up.

Our copy of Animal Crossing: New Horizons was provided by Nintendo UK. (Thanks guys!)

You can Pre-Order Animal Crossing: New Horizons and enjoy it when it comes out Friday March, 20.

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