Rating: 7/10

This weekend I found myself in a new place, having the experience of a lifetime. I went on a vacation to a deserted island in the middle of nowhere, where I found a stunning experience in a place teeming with life. The island was all my own! I could catch bugs, go fishing, and even have a house built there! Just for me! All in a neat little vacation package offered by an amazing team over at Nook Inc…

Or maybe that was just me spending my whole week playing “Animal Crossing: New Horizons…”

“Animal Crossing: New Horizons” came out on the Nintendo Switch on Mar. 20 of 2020. The game is a big departure from the rest of its series, bringing you from big city life to small living on an overgrown deserted island. This little trip was offered by none other than Tom Nook himself at Nook Inc., the raccoon whose motives are certainly questionable with all the money he likes to take. Wherever Nook’s heart lies isn’t the real problem here, however, as the main problem now is that the player is stuck on a deserted island with no personal belongings. Starting life from scratch on this getaway trip seemed like a good idea, but it ultimately resulted in being left with nothing on an island with the members of Nook Inc. and two random animal friends who have also taken the plunge into deserted island life. Luckily, enough resources are abundant on this island, allowing for anyone to craft the tools they may need from scratch. Here is where players travel through trial and tribulation, gathering resources to build the perfect home on your very own deserted island. 

There are many aspects to life in a deserted island, whether it stems from familiar “Animal Crossing” tropes or new mechanics entirely. From fishing and bug catching to crafting and terraforming, there’s tons of things to do to make life just right for you on the island. And though it lacks in some areas, overall the game is absolutely amazing. 

There’s nothing better than vacating to a wonderful place. Whether it’s something familiar or something new, creating the perfect spot is what matters. In “New Horizons,” that choice is given to the player. Choices are given to you left and right, and it gives the player more freedom than they’ve ever had in an “Animal Crossing” installment to date. From choosing the island, to painting items, just about anything is possible. Make custom designs for your furniture and clothing, change your avatar’s appearance at will, relocate homes and buildings on a whim, and even change the shape of the island itself. If the player wants a more natural and quiet island, they can make that. If the player wants a bustling city, they can make that too. The vacation is entirely up to the player.

Even better, when one is on vacation they’re going to want to see everything their island has to offer visually. Whether it’s in the heart of nature or smack in the middle of a big city, it’s typically a vacationer’s goal to take in the new atmosphere. The graphics in “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” are next level, always leaving the player wanting to see more. A dynamic skyscape passes by overhead, and detailed clouds bloom above. They fly with the wind that sways the trees and shifts the waters. Bugs buzz around and fish swim by, alongside fellow villagers who live out a variety of daily routines all around. The island’s wildlife comes to life on your screen with precise details and stylized textures, and fellow animal friends feel like real neighbors (aside from being walking and talking animals). They too have detailed textures, seeming more real than ever with detailed fur patterns and colors. The entire island is graced with a new light of beauty, sunrise and sunset illuminating the island in a variety of vibrant and detailed atmospheres. It’s a light we’ve never seen in an “Animal Crossing” game before, one that displays a new detailed atmosphere never seen before.

Naturally, while out on vacation, people like to busy themselves. The scenery is nice, but it’s not everything. Luckily, there’s plenty of things to do on the island during your vacation. Just like in previous “Animal Crossing” games, the player can catch bugs, go fishing, excavate for fossils, pull weeds, plant trees, and more. Not only can doing these activities provide entertainment out on your deserted island, they can even produce income and work towards the betterment of your island as a whole. Selling the fish and bugs you catch can make some quick money, but the player can also donate new species of bugs and fish to the island’s museum. Digging for fossils can yield similar results, a profit or a donation to the museum. Pulling weeds will improve the quality of the island, and planting trees will bring more life to the place. 

These activities are entertaining, and function generally like they do in previous “Animal Crossing” installments. However, after a while, the tasks can get rather tedious. Catch a bug or a fish and the player can either go to the museum or the shop. There’s not much else to do with them. Not to mention that the player will be swinging their bug nets and casting their fishing rod in the same manner every single time you want to catch something, there’s not much variety or challenge to it. However, for those who are looking for a relaxing and stress-free gameplay experience, this isn’t really detrimental. The only thing that may affect your peaceful adventures is a new crafting system. 

In “New Horizons,” players will find themselves crafting tools and furniture, rather than just purchasing everything (although purchasing tools is a feature you can unlock later in the game). To catch bugs, the player will need to shake trees to get them to drop enough sticks to craft a makeshift bug net. To go fishing, shake even more trees for the sticks needed to craft a homemade fishing rod. While it feels rewarding to make all of these tools, it comes at a hefty price. The tools, unlike in previous “Animal Crossing” games, can break if they’re overused. This poses an interesting challenge at first, though eventually grows tedious and tiresome. All of the tools will break at some point, which will cause the player to have to stop whatever they’re doing to go gather materials to remake tools. Even when upgrading tools, they will still eventually break into shards of wasted goods and disappointment. Unfortunately, this ruins the flow of gameplay that the game tries to set up.

However, crafting isn’t all bad. Making furniture such as beds and cabinets are easy tickets to free decoration for the player’s house, and these won’t break. Players can customize many of these items as well, painting them with various colors and patterns to personalize them to their liking. This is where players will find the more rewarding side of the new crafting system, being able to build a home from the ground up, which is fitting considering all the natural resources that can be found around you. 

“Animal Crossing: New Horizons” is a huge departure from the typical “Animal Crossing” formula. While this game is quite different, it’s also so familiar. Old “Animal Crossing” fans will be able to find their home once more in this new installment, and newer fans will still be introduced to the same-old beloved franchise fans know and love. The goal is the same: living in and running a deserted island however seems suitable to the player. There’s nothing standing in the player’s way. When players gaze off at the new horizon off in the distance, watching the sun set over their deserted island, they know that they are now home. They know they’re playing “Animal Crossing,” a game where an entirely new and unique adventure awaits.

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