There isn't a single video game series out there that does sequels better than Animal Crossing. The GameCube original is a relaxing, enjoyable, and very addicting experience and each subsequent entry comes out and just blows its predecessor out of the water. Each iteration builds upon the last by adding more and more content while remaining true to the fundamentals that make Animal Crossing games so good. With the release of Animal Crossing: New Horizons, it's not hard to suggest that the series has reached its peak and is the perfect sequel to the already fantastic New Leaf.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the eighth title in the series if you count spinoffs. You are a human villager that's starting a new life on a deserted island, thanks to a special getaway package offered by none other than the infamous Tom Nook. You're starting from scratch in Animal Crossing: New Horizons; the island is a blank canvas filled with bountiful fruit trees and just a few tents for you and your villagers. The world is your oyster, and it has never been better.
Animal Crossing's: New Horizon's Island Adventures
If you've played an Animal Crossing game before, you know to some degree what to expect here, but there's plenty of new content that will keep you occupied for months, or perhaps even years. To begin with, players arrive on their new island with Tom Nook, his two sons, and two villagers to accompany you on your journey. This island is completely uninhabited, which is both a good thing and a bad thing. On one hand, you'll eventually unlock the ability to sculpt your island completely to your liking. On the other hand, the first few days of Animal Crossing are very, very slow.
For those unaware, Animal Crossing's days are 24 hours in real-time. Tom Nook will start by tasking you with a few odd jobs here and there the first day, and the next day you'll have a few more things to do. New Horizons is designed to give you more ways to explore your island in the first several days or so, so for a while, you're restricted to about 30 percent of your island. There's really only so much you can do on a smaller portion of your island, so it felt a bit like a drag. A couple of days later, I was equipped with a vaulting pole to hop over rivers and a ladder to scale cliffs.
Players get new tasks almost every day, but you are limited to how much you can do in 24 hours. At one point, you will have to wait for three new villagers to move into your town, one coming each day, so progress stalls for a bit and all you can do is make money by fishing, catching insects and the like. With the ability to craft tools and eventually furniture and other items, however, your efforts don't feel like a total waste during this time. It's not a terrible issue by any means, either; in fact, Animal Crossing is a game that should be taken slow. Still, I found myself wanting to play more but couldn't push myself to do it since I had done all I could do for a given day.
Regardless, you'll soon see your town become a humble, yet bustling, paradise. You can eventually create bridges to cross rivers, ramps to easily access cliffs, and more. With Nook Miles, you can buy new attractions for your town like fountains, giant robot statues, and more. Nook Miles is a currency of sorts, a clever new addition to the series. For almost every activity you do in New Horizons, from picking weeds to planting fruit trees, you'll be rewarded with points that allow you to buy more recipes to craft, upgrades like additional inventory space, and even more ways to customize your town.
One valuable item you can buy with these miles is a ticket that'll get you a flight for a mystery tour. Mystery tours are flights to random islands full of resources such as foreign fruit, rocks ripe with iron, plenty of trees, and more. This gives players an opportunity to gather resources in order to craft more tools and furniture, as crafting is generally dependent on you having lots of materials. These are fun little getaways that allow you to just wreak havoc on an island without consequences and make a little money on the side. They're fun and refreshing, and somethings even exciting; the infamous tarantula island is something that will go down in the annals of gaming lore.
It should be noted that at the time of this writing, I have not reached the peak of what I can do in New Horizons. Eventually, players can sculpt their island by creating paths, adjusting the flow of rivers, tweaking cliffs, and more. Truly, there is an infinite amount of possibilities when it comes to customization. While it takes some work to get to that point, I don't doubt that crafting my own town to the way I see fit will take up an absurd amount of time.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons' Wild World
As the first Animal Crossing game on the Switch and a first-party Nintendo title, you can expect that this game pushes the hardware to the limit. I hold Astral Chain as the standard for how well a Switch game can look, but now it has some serious competition. The visuals are just astounding in New Horizons. The rippling water is shimmering with beauty, and the grassy terrain filled with trees and flora are vibrant and colorful. Playing New Horizons in handheld or docked mode will give you a glistening experience no matter what.
In particular, I enjoyed the meticulous detail put into the insects and fish. The iconic red snapper is intricately rendered, each scale clearly distinguishable from one another. Meanwhile, bugs such as the beautifully blue monarch butterfly have a great deal of attention put into the model. While farming for bells by fishing or catching bugs can feel tedious at times, I still can't help but gush over how nice each new catch is.
It's easy to talk about New Horizon's visuals all day long, but the best example to showcase the graphical fidelity is through the museum. Housing all of your fish, insects, and dinosaur bones, this rendition of the fan-favorite building is staggering, really almost a transforming experience. The aquarium is multi-leveled with seemingly sky-high fish tanks housing all of your sweet catches. The insect portion of the museum has an incredible nature-like interior filled with flowers, trees, and even a butterfly garden. Meanwhile, the museum's dinosaur bone exhibit is dimly lit and mysterious. The display lights cast on the bones create a mysterious ambiance.
While the visuals are extraordinary in every way, the music falls a bit short of expectations. Typically, Animal Crossing games kill it in the audio department, and while it isn't bad by any means here, there doesn't seem to be as many music tracks. Moreover, New Horizons feels quieter than previous titles, with a focus more on sound effects than music. Perhaps as the seasons change and bring new content, more tracks will also become available.
House design is another staple of Animal Crossing, and this time it's better than ever. In previous entries, placing items and rotating them to be in the right position can be a huge pain, especially if you want to maximize your feng shui. This time, a handy dandy mode allows you to design your home with easy by allowing you to select multiple items at once, place and adjust items on walls, and more. The quality of life changes put into home design turns one of the more tedious tasks of Animal Crossing into the easiest.
Another great improvement is in the villagers themselves. You could say that Animal Crossing's villagers are the beating heart of the series, and now even more so. Villagers each have distinctive personalities as they usually do, but now this is reflected much more clear in-game. The macho Jock villagers actually work out and lift weights around town. Some of the more friendly, playful villagers do a Naruto run around town. Some just like to sit around and eat donuts, and who am I to judge? In short, villagers feel more lifelike and are more lovable than ever before.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons Review | Final Thoughts
I am the only one that plays on my Nintendo Switch system, so I don't have to share my island with anyone. Some issues arise when you do have to share, however. This is purely anecdotal and I haven't experienced it myself, but around the Internet, you can see some complaints on Reddit and other platforms that talk about some players' dissatisfaction with the way co-op is handled. TechRaptor contributor Will Worral tells me that "anyone who joins the game after the first person is effectively a second class citizen." The first person to move to the island is the head honcho, so to speak. Other players can't contribute to creating houses for new villagers to place bridges, ramps, and other public works projects.
Co-op is also a feature in New Horizons. While visiting other players' islands is a blast, two people playing on the same system at the same time is a different story entirely. Worral says that couch co-op is "severely limited," meaning the co-op partner can't use their pockets and talk to other animals, for example.
There is no doubt that New Horizons suffers from some cooperative issues, but also there isn't a shadow of a doubt that it's the best entry in the series. True to Animal Crossing fashion, this entry builds upon its predecessors in every way. The ability to terraform your island is a total game-changer, and the graphics are oozing with beauty. Quality of life changes such as the new home design system and crafting numerous pieces of furniture, tools, and more make for an amazing adventure. I would say that Animal Crossing has reached its peak - I mean, where can Nintendo go from here when they've given us godlike power over our world? I guess I'll have to wait another few years from now and see just how far Nintendo is willing to go.
TechRaptor reviewed Animal Crossing: New Horizons on Nintendo Switch using a copy purchased by the reviewer.
- One of the Switch's Best Looking Games
- Quality of Life Changes Like Home Design
- Unlimited Customization
- Villagers Are Better Than Ever
- Slow to Start
- Music is a Tad Underwhelming