“Animal Crossing” Broadens to New Horizons


Nintendo released their latest installment of “Animal Crossing” on March 20. (Courtesy of Facebook)

After eight long years, Nintendo finally released the fifth installment of the “Animal Crossing” franchise. The precious Isabelle, mellow K.K. Slider and dozens more loveable critters are back in “Animal Crossing: New Horizons,” and they could not have returned at a more perfect time. 

For years, “Animal Crossing” has won over the hearts of players across the world. Young adults, in particular, have flocked to the games due to its lighthearted, relaxed nature. The beginning of adulthood can prove to be very stressful, but “Animal Crossing” serves as an escape for overwhelmed college students. It’s a relaxing refuge with no deadlines, little worries and friendly acquaintances. Considering the state of the world right now, the fairly positive game has had a resurgence in popularity. Perhaps everyone just wants to consume something much more lighthearted at the moment, and “New Horizons” is just that.

The game, designed for a Nintendo Switch, starts with your character preparing for an adventure at a newly-discovered deserted island. Kind-hearted travel agent Tom Nook, his two employees, Timmy and Tommy, and two randomized villagers accompany you on this new journey. As soon as you arrive on the island, Tom Nook immediately puts you to work — you spend the first day collecting branches and other resources for a campfire. Tom Nook graciously gives you a tent so you can settle down after an inaugural party, but it comes with a modest price of 49,800 bells. And so, your never-ending debt to the raccoon begins.

The gameplay is simple — after settlement, you spend the first few in-game days shaking trees, catching bugs and fishing for a profit. As time goes on, these resources prove to be crucial in crafting furniture and other decorations. Players never run out of things to do in “New Horizons,” whether it’s collecting new specimens for Blathers, the museum-curating owl, or discovering new crafting recipes in bottles along the shoreline. Tom Nook also gives you an array of quests to fulfill to gain a new currency called “Miles,” so you can visit other “mystery” islands. Some of these are havens with magical bell trees, and others are living hells, filled with tarantulas and scorpions. More opportunities arise as you continue gameplay, and new villagers will begin to visit your island. You can take a tour of your friends’ islands, too. There’s a friendly dodo named Orville who owns an airport right off the beach. There you can connect to the internet and punch in your friends’ island codes to see their new homes! 

Like its predecessors, “New Horizons” models its day/night systems after real-life time zones. This allows you to score some rare fish when you’re tapping away at 4 a.m. EST. However, “New Horizons” is the first of the series to incorporate specialized high definition graphics, and the results are stunning. The detail, ranging from the largest landscapes to the teeniest bugs, gives the island a realistic, lively feel. Blathers’ museum, in particular, contains some of the best video game graphics I have ever seen — you can spend hours running through its various aquariums and displays. Additionally, “New Horizons” gives you a large degree of control over the format of your island. You can move the houses, place furniture either inside or outside and shape the land to your pleasure! Previous games did not include these cool features — “New Horizons” allows players to develop their towns on their terms. 

 However, no game is perfect. There are a few notable flaws players have noticed. The tools seem to be the biggest complaint — for the first few weeks, the player can only craft “flimsy” tools that break after about thirty uses. That may sound like a lot, but in a world where collecting resources determines your income, these tools are used up fast. This is tedious for many players, yet it’s just an aspect of the day-to-day nature of the game. Another problem manifests itself in a rabbit named Zipper. The critter coincides with the “Bunny Day” Easter event, and he hides eggs all across the island. The player is faced with a challenge to craft every “Bunny Recipe” he gives you for a surprise. The eggs are in extreme abundance, which depletes resources. Many players complained about catching hundreds of eggs instead of fish and bugs, and Nintendo did lower the egg count. However, these seem to be the only two big problems with “New Horizons.”

Everyone deserves a nice, long vacation from reality considering the state of the world right now. As the coronavirus continues to infect the planet, a lot of negativity and sadness have spread along with it. Death rates continue to skyrocket, and there is a sense of hopelessness as quarantine dates keep extending. However, “New Horizons” gives us a temporary yet necessary distraction. It creates an innocent world intended for everyone, where your only worries involve evading pesky wasp nests and avoiding the angry mole Mr. Resetti. The online aspect, too, allows us all to spend time with each other during these trying times. As stated before, friends can visit each others’ islands through Orville’s airport, which is a nice alternative to hanging out in the age of social distancing. Twitter, too, has been set ablaze with comments and memes about “New Horizons.” “Animal Crossing” is known for some villagers’ sassy remarks and subsequent random events, and “New Horizons” is no different. For example, a seagull named Gulliver repeatedly washes up on your island after wild nights on his boat and often makes comments about the size of your character’s head. Twitter users have united in a movement to chase him down with an ax once and for all.

Overall, the world’s a dark place right now. However, “New Horizons” and its positive atmosphere truly bring some light back into everyone’s lives.