Review: Animal Crossing – New Horizons

Learning how to live the island life under the looming threat of a raccoon.

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“Animal Crossing: New Horizons” released on March 20, 2020.

Garret Roberts, Arts and Entertainment Editor

This morning I made a trip to the museum, taking in the peaceful atmosphere and bumping into friendly neighbors. Even though I’m in a massive amount of debt for my new house, I have all the time in the world to pay of my loans to the greedy raccoon who owns the entire island.

The “Animal Crossing” series has always been relaxing games, offering a break to go to a town where everyone knows your name. Unlike “Cheers,” these cutesy towns full of talking animals offer a laid back experience that contrasts the usual action-based games. With the newest game, “New Horizons,” Nintendo has found the perfect formula for killing stress: an island escape.

“Animal Crossing: New Horizons” starts with an island getaway courtesy of Tom Nook, the series iconic raccoon and symbol of capitalism. Once settled in, the next steps are expanding the island community and paying off your ever-increasing debt, to make the best island possible.

The first thing fans of the series will notice is the beautiful visuals, as the updated graphics ooze quality. From dynamic lighting to visually intriguing scenery, the game is gorgeous to look at and explore. Even if you leave the game on a TV to listen to the music and relax at a fishing spot, the atmosphere makes you destress instantly and chill as the waves lap the shore.

Designing homes has been streamlined as well, incorporating the elements of previous games and spin-offs to make an easy to use system. While the lack of Froggy Chair is a tragedy, the items in the game are all detailed and visually interesting. The game will have you trying to create the ultimate house, earning as many points as possible with the Happy Home Academy each week.

After relaxing on your new island home, the new mechanic of crafting furniture and outdoor structures will quickly consume your time. While making a succulent from a can found down by the river may seem simple, the games’ expansive catalog of DIY projects gives a better sense of progression than the series past. Fans will quickly find themselves hunting for resources, hoping to get their wooden boombox operational by Day 2 on their island.

Connecting with friends online is easy to do and adds a lot of fun to the game. By using the Switch’s built-in friends list, which is already easier than previous systems, friends can search for your island and join you for chatting and more. Creation and destruction are also limited to “Best Friends,” ensuring that only your island remains safe from griefing (depending on how nice your “Best Friends” are.)

With progression and aesthetics bringing so much to the Animal Crossing experience, there’s not a whole lot wrong with the game. The island does feel a bit small, especially in comparison to having an expansive city and towns of previous entries. While flying to random islands to collect resources is helpful, the lack of resource locations on your own islands can also severely limit progress. While these are nitpicking, a game that takes hundreds of hours to achieve the full experience can become grating with to many of these issues.

If “Animal Crossing” doesn’t sound like your kind of series, this isn’t the game that will change your mind. Serving as the best step forward for the series, “New Horizons” is a fun and complete package worth fans picking up. While some nitpicks may start to grind away on your fun in the late game, the island experience is a relaxing break from the hellscapes of “DOOM: Eternal.” If you have the chance to play, just kick back, sip your favorite warm drink and pay off your $100,000 loan to the Nook mafia.