Grab your tools and crank out your creativity on a deserted island getaway package courtesy of Tom Nook. With many new features including crafting and island customisation, alongside the return of Happy Home Academy, now with a new storage and furniture design tool, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is what every fan had hoped for and more.
It’s been a good four years since I’ve played Animal Crossing: New Leaf on my 3DS, the last in the mainline series. For the past couple of years, I’ve been playing Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp – the free-to-play smartphone game. Like many Pocket Camp fans, we’ve come to expect the worst of Gulliver (who is forever etched into my mind as trashbird), been burnt by Fortune Cookies by playing the gacha system and have lost hours of sleep over the seemingly endless events. If you log in to the smartphone game now, there’s a New Horizons crossover event taking place. Trying to split my time between Pocket Camp – which I’ve easily invested 300+ hours into and some of my hard-earned money – and New Horizons has been difficult. For many fans, like me, who have invested countless hours into Pocket Camp, you’re going to have to let one go if you value your sanity. And honestly, New Horizons for the Nintendo Switch is completely worth it.
As we mentioned in our preview, Animal Crossing: New Horizons starts you off with a simple tent and a few items at your disposal. Tom Nook will quickly endow you with your NookPhone, which allows you access to several apps to make island life much easier to follow. In the first couple of days, you’ll be asked to run simple errands for the raccoon, including collecting tree branches to craft your first set of tools (fishing rod, bug net, axe etc.), delivering materials such as stones, iron nuggets and wood to Timmy and Tommy so they can build Nook’s Cranny, alongside crafting furniture for three new island residents before they move in. As per usual, as Resident Representative (akin to New Leaf’s mayoral duties) it’s your job to keep the island in tip-top condition, as well as fund new activities, bridge constructions and so on.
As of now, we’ve spent two weeks on our island. Of course, this is a drop in the ocean for any regular Animal Crossing game. However, we’ve upgraded our home to include another room, crafted all tools in the ‘pretty good DIY tool set’ and had every single one of them break several times, much to our frustration. Trust us on this one, if you hated it in Zelda: Breath of the Wild, you’ll hate it in this too. However, to craft a regular tool (as you would have bought in New Leaf), you’ll now have to craft a flimsy tool first before using that tool and a surplus of materials to upgrade it. The linear upgrade is understandable, but it’s honestly baffling how often it’s required for every tool in your arsenal.
Speaking of crafting, that’s all you’ll do for the first couple of weeks. Between crafting items for your new home, your residents’ homes, finding excess materials for the Nooklings and Tom Nook’s requests and discovering new DIY recipes through message bottles, slingshot gifts, residents or purchasing from Nook’s Cranny, New Horizons has thought of it all. We’re half expecting DLC sets of DIY recipes to come knocking. But all joking aside, crafting is a fun new feature for the series, particularly as you can customise certain furniture sets with standard colours or your saved pro designs.
Just like any other Animal Crossing, New Horizons is all about collecting things. Between catching fish and bugs to collecting shells and fossils, there’s always a quick way to make some cash. But before you do, it’s always worth stopping off at the museum to say hello to Blathers. Using your NookPhone, you can access the Critterpedia to keep track of which creatures you’ve caught and which ones you’ve donated. It’s a shame there’s still no way of seeing which fossils you’ve collected (so far). However, you can always visit the museum to view them in full. Since the days of New Leaf, it’s had a complete makeover and looks awe-inspiring. Highlights include the butterfly garden and the pipes and portholes in the sea creature exhibit. Perhaps we’ll see Celeste when it’s ready to be upgraded, no?
Elsewhere on the island, you’ll notice NPC characters visit from time to time, including Mabel until she sets up the Able Sisters store, Sahara who has new wares such as rugs, mystery floors and wallpapers, and Daisy-Mae, the granddaughter of Joan the resident Turnip seller. Isabelle also has a starring role at the Resident Services building, residing there with Tom Nook. Depending on when you visit, it’s adorable watching them both go about their business. Around 7am, they’ll be doing some fun workout routines, by noon Isabelle starts making tea, and during the evening they’ll be working on their own projects. Even island residents will go about their days in different ways, often sporting new clothing or headwear. Just yesterday, Agent S and Iggly were building up a sweat using their kettlebells in the town plaza. With New Horizons, it’s the little things that count.
Perhaps one of the most interesting features in New Horizons is the Nook Miles Program. Working like the daily goals in Pocket Camp, you can easily obtain Nook Miles by catching fish and bugs, hitting rocks, chopping down trees or using your stone axe to fetch softwood, hardwood or regular wood. Plus, you’ll also get Nook Miles for taking pictures with your NookPhone, by calling a resident for co-op play, or by visiting a friend’s island locally or online. And don’t worry, you can still hit rocks for bells, plant money trees and return lost items to residents. Sadly, though, you can’t bury your shovel to obtain a gold one. Though we’re keeping our fingers crossed for gold tools in general.
At first, your Nook Miles won’t buy you much outside of inventory expansion and some standard wear. But once Resident Services has upgraded, you’ll be able to redeem Nook Miles for exterior items that can be placed on the island. Just like Public Works Projects in New Leaf, you can craft a lighthouse, an outdoor pond, a pool or a massive brick dragon to name a few. However, these items are heavy on resources, often requiring you to pick up additional DIY recipes to build the bigger items. And while resources are ‘restocked’ daily on your island, there’s no hard and fast way to stockpile them. Visiting a smaller island via a Mystery Tour using your Nook Miles Ticket (which alone costs 2,000 Nook Miles) is perhaps one way of getting more, but then there are your tools to think about too. New Horizons is first and foremost a resource management game.
Once you’ve upgraded your tent to a house, Happy Home Academy returns. As we mentioned in our preview, furniture and storage has been completely overhauled for New Horizons. While you can still push and pull furniture into their rightful place, there’s now an easier method. Simply tap down on the D-pad and you’ll be presented with a top-down view of your house. Those who have played Happy Home Designer will notice the similarities, as you can tap ‘A’ on any item to drag, drop and rotate it anywhere in your home. There’s also the option to select multiple items at once. Unfortunately, there’s no option to easily switch between rooms, so you will have to physically move your characters to those areas, but either way it’s heads and tails above New Leaf.
When it comes to customising your island, New Horizons breathes fresh life into the series. Now, you can allocate spaces for shops, residents and the campsite, so you can retain complete control over your island. And while you won’t unlock it during the first fortnight, you can also completely transform your island with the land and water forming construction licenses, enabling you to create waterfalls, curves in the rock or small ponds. You can add inclines and place a selection of bridges across rivers too. There are limits, of course, but it’s fantastic to see the creativity available in the base game.
Although online multiplayer is a feature we haven’t been able to test on the Switch, local multiplayer and co-operative play is great fun. The latter allows you the ability to ‘call a resident’ to play with you, with up to four able to join you at any one time. Players will follow one leader (while retaining control of their own character) who can use their inventory and pick up items. Followers, however, will only be able to cycle through their toolset and catch creatures, which then get automatically added into the recycling box at Resident Services. On the other hand, local multiplayer enables you to visit your friends’ islands to enjoy the fruits of their labour, while you freely roam their island hunting for new fruit.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a beautifully relaxing title – exactly as it should be. With so much to offer in the coming months, such as seasonal events and new NPC characters we have yet to encounter, it’s a rewarding game that takes pride in its little moments of heart-warming joy. If you’re an Animal Crossing fan, you don’t want to miss this.
A review copy of Animal Crossing: New Horizons was provided to My Nintendo News by Nintendo UK.