To say that Animal Crossing: New Horizons is “highly anticipated” might just be the understatement of the decade—and we just got here. Look, I know some of y’all don’t want to hear this, but climate change is real, we’re on the cusp of a hellish election year, and a virus is currently spreading around the world.
I’ve had the game for a couple of weeks and have been playing a ton of it. Watch the video above to see my gameplay and why New Horizons is the game we need right now, or read the video’s transcript below.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons gives us all the best reason to quarantine ourselves and start a new life on a faraway island where all of our troubles disappear on the horizon, even just for a few serene moments of digital relaxation. And yeah, in case you’re wondering—it’s excellent, and absolutely worth the hype.
Here are three things about Animal Crossing: New Horizons that make its arrival during our current dystopian cyberpunk nightmare the perfect digital getaway.
Available on March 20, Animal Crossing: New Horizons will be the first main game in the series in nearly eight years, following 2012’s New Leaf on the Nintendo 3DS in Japan. New Horizons starts out by assuming you’ve never played an Animal Crossing before. It introduces the series’ standard features at a glacial pace.
New Horizons gives you a great deal of control over your environment. Not only does it let you decide where to place your new home (which at first is a pretty basic tent), but it also lets you choose where your new neighbors will reside. You’re once again working for the rich tycoon Tom Nook as he suckers you into helping to build not only your own living quarters, but also to gather the materials for a museum, shops, and homes for other island residents.
Look, you gotta pull your weight around here, alright? The good news is that you get to decide where they live, and even choose where certain buildings go, to fully customize your town’s layout. That level of customizability is also extended to your own humble living space as you begin to take up more room and add extensions to your home.
Eventually, you’ll even be able to shape the land and water in whatever way you please, using the Island Designer skill. And while you can still only select from two genders, there is now an expanded selection of skin tones, hair types, and clothing options. You can even zoom all the way into the game’s Custom Design app which lets you create your own designs for clothing and wallpapers for your home.
With the Switch’s share button at everybody’s fingertips, I am equally as excited as I am afraid to see all the things talented artists will cook up in the months and years to come. Animal Crossing: New Horizons lets you design the perfect Lo-Fi YouTube channel background and character for you to quarantine from the world right now.
I’m no stranger to calm, meditative games. I call these meditative experiences my “crochet games,” as in games I can play while listening to a podcast on a commute, or while watching trashy reality television on the couch. (Don’t judge me.)
These tend to be my favorite type of games to play nowadays, and New Horizons provides the perfect amount of interwoven systems that create a satisfying loop that lets you choose which tasks to take care of in whatever order you please.
New Horizons gives you two main sources of currency: bells and miles. Bells function as your main source of money to spend on things like new recipes for crafting, clothing, furniture, and other miscellaneous things like songs to pop into your tape decks or vinyl record players.
Nook Miles are a separate currency awarded to you by completing specific tasks marked in your Nook Miles+ app on your Nook Phone. So not only are you trapped on this island, you’re also trapped in the Nook tech ecosystem. Well-played, Nook.
You’ll also collect natural resources from your island and other islands as well, which you can visit using Nook Miles tickets that you obtain by, you guessed it, redeeming Nook Miles. The good news is that doing basically anything in this game will earn you Nook Miles.
Capture some bugs? Boom, here’s some Nook Miles. Fish a whole lot? More Nook Miles. Earning Nook Miles? Get even more Nook Miles as a reward.
So whatever you decide to focus on, you’ll almost always find yourself progressing just by virtue of checking things off of your personal to-do list. But you don’t have to rush headfirst into it all.
Progression in Animal Crossing: New Horizons is really tied to how much time you have or want to dedicate to each day without it becoming a lifetime of debt—which, if you’ve also gone to college and aren’t rich, is an absolutely wild concept that I need in my life right now, ok? Just let me have this.
A daily login bonus of Nook Miles provides an incentive to check in daily if you can, even if it’s for 10 minutes—or if you’re like me, several hours. As in previous games in the series, playing at different times can also give you different rewards like access to specific fish, bugs, and even visitors on your island.
But it doesn’t keep too much stuff at bay for those who might not have the time or interest in spending dozens of hours within the first few days either. Your handy Nook Phone has an app called Critterpedia that lets you see which animals you’ve caught, and more importantly, when they’re usually available.
So if a specific fish goes for a nice amount of money, you might want to consider checking in before bed or during your lunch break. Go ahead and spend an entire evening customizing clothes or using your phone’s camera app to flex on social media. The fate of the world does not depend on you. We’ll be fine… in Animal Crossing at least.
Animal Crossing games all play out in real time. And the first time that you check in each day, you’ll be greeted by a quick announcement from Tom Nook. He’ll let you know if anything new has happened or if there isn’t anything at all to report.
Once you’ve finally accumulated enough resources to build a shop for your island, it’ll usually take a day for it to show up. Newly planted trees and flowers will take several days to grow. Order some things from a Nook Stop machine and it will take a day to show up at your house.
The game is constantly asking you to be patient and give things time, which for me is a refreshing change of pace. You’ll get chances to make those times shorter later on, but the game does a good job of rewarding you for that patience too. Grind for long enough and collect some bells or Nook Miles and spend it all on enough stuff, and you’ll wake up to a mailbox stuffed with goodies like it’s Christmas.
And honestly, the main reason New Horizons has hit at the perfect time amidst all the chaos in the real world is that it’s a perfect showcase for why the Switch makes games like these shine. The ability to tune out my commute or play in bed on a Saturday morning is ideal.
What makes things even more promising is the addition of co-operative multiplayer for people playing on the same Switch and a way to link up with folks on other Switch consoles to play locally or online. Visit friends, help them out, and ask them to return the favor.
Or if you’re practicing safe social distancing, link up online instead. Animal Crossing: New Horizons couldn’t have landed at a better time.
Go read Ian Walker’s review, and let me know what you’re calling your islands in the comments. Safe travels and best of luck on your new lives abroad.