Published on March 31st, 2020 | by Zorbz
REVIEW – Animal Crossing: New Horizons
REVIEWED BY: BAHI
The world is in shambles right now as people around the world are anxiously waiting for the Coronavirus to just pack it’s bags and leave. Nevertheless, Nintendo has taken the opportunity to release their hotly anticipated title, Animal Crossing: New Horizons. The AC series is a life-simulator known for it’s charm, quirky characters and fun gameplay, but was releasing a game about living life in the open world during a global pandemic that’s caused world leaders to encourage and enforce self-isolation the best timing? Yeah it freaking was.
Concept: You, yes you, have the opportunity of a lifetime – move to an unmanned island to live the rest of your life in a tropical paradise. Sounds simple? It really isn’t. In a welcoming departure, New Horizons has left you in a little pickle. Instead of inhabiting and building on an already-established town, you’re tasked with helping to develop the island almost from scratch, ensuring that it becomes a habitable and pleasant environment for you and your neighbour friends. There’s not much to the story here – this game focuses on the day-to-day experience as you perform various tasks (at your leisure) to complete your overall (and never-ending) goal.
This may sound disappointing to story-centric gamers such as myself, but Nintendo have handed the power to the player to get the most out of this series. You get whatever you put into it.
Graphics: You’re a human living among anthropomorphic animals, so the art style is naturally cartoon-esque. This works well for the environment you’re in as, visually, New Horizons offers a colourful feast for the eyes to compliment the wide arrange of bold and interesting characters you come across.
As New Horizons is set on an island, naturally the colours are rich and bright from the medium-green leaves on a fruit tree to the dark blue seas surrounding you, the colours truly pop and are incredibly engaging. Everything you see looks pretty, even old boots or tires that you catch with your fishing pole.
Graphics wise, it’s definitely the best-looking AC game in the franchise. Generally, there’s a lot of action going on throughout the island to see and you’ll find yourself appreciating the small details that add to the ever-charming landscape. Clams will spit water out from under the sand, small waves lap at the edge of the beach and water ripples as fish swim around waiting to be caught and displayed in the local museum. Everything looks polished and enticing which makes it easier to want to continue playing the game.
The game’s mechanics follows the season of your part of the hemisphere, so the in-game weather mirrors your side of the globe. This adds to the visual stimulation as one minute you’ll be running through the rain, leaf umbrella in tow, and the next you’ll be making snowmen to add some winter fun to your island.
I honestly can’t find a fault in the visuals of this game. Nintendo have put a lot of effort into this aspect to help create a video game world that feels alive and real despite its cartoon-like appearance.
Gameplay: The best way to grasp the gameplay is to outline at least the first 3 days of the game.
You move to an unmanned island after answering a few questions. One of the first tasks you do is set up your tent and also help your new neighbours set up theirs. You’re then asked to find fruit and sticks for the island’s bon-fire event. Go to sleep – you’ve got a big day ahead.
Harsh reality hits as Tom Nook reveals that nothing comes for free. You are requested to pay for the flights to the island as well as your tent and bed provided upon arrival. Yikes. While Bells are still the main type of currency used in New Horizons, you have the option to pay this fee using Nook Miles. Nook Miles are essentially a form of currency accrued by performing tasks. Think of them like achievements. The more you do on the island, such as pick fruit, sell items, catch fish etc. the more Nook Miles you unlock. After you’ve paid off your flight and tent you’re offered a small home. Upon accepting, you’re given a home loan (to be paid in Bells this time) and the cycle of debt begins.
All that fishing, digging for fossils and bug catching has led to the grand opening of the island’s first (and only) museum. You really start to find value in these experiences and weirdly feel compelled to continue these tasks to further grow the museum’s offerings. You’re provided with a tool to help you jump past the rivers that were blocking you from exploring other parts of the island so now you can find more types of fish, clams, bugs, and other random items to be donated or sold to help pay your mortgage. Tom Nook announces that he wishes to build a large store and needs you to find the materials to do this. Along the way, you come across interesting characters (depending on the day and time) who will send you on small quests in return for a gift.
This provides only a small snapshot of what you can achieve in just 3 days. As mentioned, the game focuses on your day-to-day life, with small, medium and big goals to tackle.
Also, for the creative types, New Horizons is primarily a life-sim with a focus on landscaping and design. Creative types will be happy with the large amount of versatility they have in developing the island and their own home into something they can be proud of (more on this later).
The idea of building tools, picking fruit, pulling weeds and catching local fauna and flora among other tasks sounds exhausting in real life, but in the Animal Crossing world, it’s surprisingly addictive and often a therapeutic escape from the seemingly less mundane tasks
you may do in reality. Whatever you put into this game is what you get out of it and Nintendo have made it easy for players to actually want to put effort into it.
Sound: The sounds of island life are just what you’d expect. Nintendo really put a lot of effort in ensuring the soundscape provides little distraction but enough impact.
The music accompanying your travels across the island is light, relaxing and doesn’t distract you from performing your daily activities. Despite very little variance, you’ll not go crazy listening to the same tune over and over again for hours at a time. It’s the perfect music style to compliment the laid-back appeal of the gameplay and environment.
In-game sounds are crisp and satisfying. Things you wouldn’t think to appreciate, such as the sound of a door bell chiming to the crunch of the sand under your feet really create a beautiful, peaceful and breathing soundscape that will cause you to pause and reflect on the effort and talent put into this game.
Awesomeness: As touched on previously, landscaping your environment and designing objects to aid in your endeavours is paramount to the Animal Crossing franchise and New Horizons is no different.
There truly is an almost unlimited array of ways you can change the entire look of a room, a house, or even the entire island. You want a garden in your front yard with a picket fence around it? Start planting and developing. You want less trees in your way or a wider variety of trees? Get the right tools and do it. Don’t like the pattern of your clothes? Make a new one. You think the island can do with some clay pavement? The power is in your hands.
This game will allow you to design to your hearts content, allowing your inner creative spark to really shine. Your capacity to do this can take some time though as you slowly learn your capabilities and acquire the tools to efficiently perform all these tasks. It is a little annoying for people like me who would like to get straight into it but if everything was handed over to us straight from the start, we wouldn’t have any motivation then, would we?
Final Thoughts: Not everyone will understand the Animal Crossing franchise. On the outside it looks like any other life-sim, but it’s a quirky, fun, and relaxing game that gives back what you put into it ten-fold. The game has no real ending – it ends when you choose to stop playing – and if you continue, you’ll create a living, breathing world filled with funny and incredibly cute characters on an environment you can really call your own. New Horizons is an incredibly rewarding experience and it’s release date couldn’t have come at a better time. In an interview with The Verge, the developers of New Horizons stated that they hope that the game is an escape for people in these troubling times. I can happily say that it really is.
Out of 5 Bugs!
Summary: **************** A perfect score! *****************