You really haven’t lived until you’ve gambled on turnip prices. What does that mean, you ask? Nintendo, in a moment of spectacularly fortunate timing, unleashed the newest version of its seminal life simulation game on the cusp of the global pandemic’s outbreak. Animal Crossing New Horizons boosted sales of its native console, the Nintendo Switch, so massively that the once ubiquitous device virtually disappeared from store shelves. J & K both picked up the game (months apart), and today we’re here to tell you how we feel about Nintendo’s instant best-seller.
J I have owned every Nintendo gaming console at some point or another, and the original Animal Crossing (released on GameCube) remains one of my all-time favorite games. It hooked me instantly with its charming aesthetic and simple gameplay mechanics. New Horizons channels the same quirky cuteness to great effect. You can’t help but be drawn in by the visuals of the game, which are as friendly to adults as kids. Adding to the ambiance is the soundtrack, which is a work of art–whoever Nintendo has doing the music for this game, they aren’t paying them enough. Alternately soothing, cheerful, and melancholic, it perfectly mirrors the game environment.
Now that I’ve waxed poetic about some of my favorite elements of the game, let’s get down to business. It was undeniably helpful to have some background knowledge from the original game going into New Horizons. I was actually surprised by how much longer it took for Tom Nook and his minions to reveal the gameplay mechanics this go around. Perhaps time is distorting my perception, but it seemed like the first game put all the cards on the table much faster, with the exception of seasonal events.
Speaking of time, Animal Crossing New Horizons (ACNH) demands a lot of it, just like its precursor. I play many games that require grinding and resource farming, so adding another to the list, cuteness notwithstanding, didn’t sit well with me. And, as time has gone by, it’s gotten harder and harder to sustain my interest in the game. Nintendo has fire-hosed seasonal events and items at players to stave off this sort of fatigue. This strategy might work for players with lots of time on their hands, but between work, writing, other video games, and maintaining some semblance of a social life, I just can’t keep up.
This is where ACNH, like other life-simulation games, breaks one of the oldest video game mechanics rules: You can’t pause it. The relentless march of time continues unabated in the world of the game, just like in real life, whether you’re paying attention to it or not. Some people enjoy this aspect of the game. I don’t mind it, until I want to take a break from it. Now, my desire to return to the game is greatly diminished because I know my island has fallen into disrepair, my villagers departed, and my five-star rating sunk into the depths of Twitch streamers’ scorn. If I pick up the game again at some point, I’ll probably just start over.
K I don’t really know why I picked this game to try. Maybe it was because all of my 30-something friends were playing it and I finally collapsed under peer pressure. Or maybe because a friend told me the musical instrument Kalimba somehow was in it. Or maybe because I was tired of pay-to-play micro transaction mobile games. Was it worth my $60? Let’s find out.
Let’s face it, I have no idea what I’m doing in this game. When I was finally able to get to the point to have visitors a friend of mine came over. If it weren’t for her I’d probably still be living in a tent. She brought me some tools and some fruit and flower seeds. Including some roses (she knows in real life I love roses). But I had gotten some oranges in the mail from my in-game mother and as I had no idea what to do with them and saw that you could eat them I promptly ate all three. It wasn’t until my friend came and visited that I found out you can actually plant those. Who would’ve thought? It was a whole orange and to plant an orange tree you just have to put a seed in the ground. That’s what I get for thinking in terms of real life.
This is kind of a theme I’m seeing. The game seems to be built under the assumption that you’ve played the previous games. I have not. Not a single animal crossing ever. And while I do like figuring things out on my own – sometimes what attracts me to a game is my mind conquering the puzzles the developers have set before me – It would’ve been nice if the letter from my in-game mother hinted at something like “I hope your planting goes well” to help me to not stupidly eat my oranges. There is some in-game tutorial items but I do feel like a lot is left for me to already know or to figure out on my own without so much as a hint. No, I don’t want to spend my day googling tutorials or whatever, I should be able to play the game to play the game if you know what I mean. On that note, I still don’t know if I should be hoarding my fruit because prices will get better for me to sell to the little raccoon guy, or if I should be eating them, or just planting a massive amount of trees. Also bag space. I need more bag space. Will my house storage also run out of space? I have no idea what I’m doing.
I like the cuteness and the visuals in the game, the colors are very bright in the animation is pleasing without being overly realistic. Which is a nice change from some of the games I’ve been playing recently. The music is satisfyingly relaxing. I can see how they’ve developed this game it to appeal to children as well as adults, and I definitely like the pun humor. But honestly the Charlie Brown sound of the talking gets really annoying. And I’m disappointed that I’m not able to look 360 at my island.
I really like the aspect of the time of day and seasons matching your location. I’m having a lot of fun running around in snow because where I live locally we’ve barely had any so far, and catching snowflakes with my net is harder than I would’ve thought it would’ve been. But on the flipside I seem to be playing the game at the same time every day (work done, baby in bed, so it’s night time. Always.) so seeing the same time of day all the time makes me think I’m missing out on some of the aspects and possibly creatures I would see. It’s laid-back aspect makes it so that I can play just a few minutes here and there and not lose out – so it is taking me forever to accomplish anything. I’m still trying to get 30 iron to build a store and that’s taking me over a week.
I’m excited to try out visiting other islands. I don’t know if I’m doing something wrong or if it’s just not a capability but I would’ve thought that anybody could come over and see your island but it seems like you have to be friends. Which means I need to get on it and find out who all now has a switch and this game and exchange some friend codes.
In conclusion I think it’s a fun way to pass the time and not have to be stressed about completing quests and such under a certain time constraint or forgetting where you are in the story/plot if you step away and don’t play for a long time. But in this way I’m not doing anything new right now because it is taking me a while to complete the tasks at hand. But if I need a break from writing or I need a break from an RPG I’m playing this is a nice alternative. But I do wish that they gave me some more in-game instructions.
If you’ve played, what do you think?