Animal Crossing: New Horizons – A Lovely Safe Haven – Switch Review
The Animal Crossing series has been a popular Nintendo series since its initial release on April 14th, 2001. Since then, four main games have been released, including the most recent Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
When New Horizons did a graceful water landing (it’s okay because it’s a seaplane) onto the scene of this challenging year, it was immediately greeted with open arms. Within a month, this game had reached five million digital sales, which could be attributed to the World Health Organisation, advising people to practice social distancing due to the current pandemic. The desire for this cute game also meant that many stores such as EB Games, and MightyApe ran out of stock for the game and the Nintendo Switch consoles. But don’t worry about not getting your hands on the game or console, the stores have since been able to get their hands on stock as well.
Booting the game up for the first time, I was more than excited to see all my favourite villagers revamped to look better than the chunky look New Leaf (Nintendo 3DS & 2DS) gave them. Initially, you are greeted by two starting villagers and the ever so cute Timmy and Tommy.
“Tom Nook slaps you with a 49,800 Bell bill!”
The first week of the game is prolonged, unless, of course, you are inclined to use the controversial time travel hack. It is slow because of all the materials needed for the Museum, Public Services building, and Nook Cranny. On top of gathering material, Tom Nook slaps you with a 49,800 Bell bill!
But out of the kindness of his little Raccoon heart, he gives you the option to pay for it with 5,000 Nook Miles. Since the first week of the game limits valuable resalable items, the ability to do tasks to get Nook Miles is a huge relief.
Each task/quest in New Horizons gives a varying amount of Nook Miles, some increasing the more you do set things or depending on how difficult or rare the task is. For example, with the “Cast Master” tasks, catching ten fish in a row nets (no pun intended) 300 Nook Miles, and if you’re truly dedicated and patient you will receive more nook miles when you catch one hundred fish in a row.
I have yet to catch that many in a row as I fall victim to the teasing nibble on the line. In saying this, there is an easier way to get Nook Miles if you head into the Public Service Tent (at the start of the game) and later the Public Service Building (after the first week) and use the Nook Stop machine. If you do this daily from the 7th day onward, you will receive 300 Nook Miles (it will reset to 50 if you miss a day.) But don’t worry too much about it if you miss a day, you’ll still be able to gain Miles through tasks.
“It’s a Sea Bass. No, wait – It’s at least a C+.”
New Horizons has many ways to pass the time and earn Bells, but my favourite is fishing. You can spend hours combing through the river-sides, ponds, and the ocean for shadows in the water. Each shadow size has different types of fish that are roughly the same size as the shadow itself.
After a while, you’ll start developing a sarcastic relationship with the fish-related puns. My most hated pun currently is the one for Sea Bass: “It’s a Sea Bass. No, wait – It’s at least a C+” This fish haunts me and instils me with a sense of dread each time I cast out in front of Large Shadow. Nonetheless, fishing is still an enjoyable experience, especially when you manage to land rare fish like the Oar-fish. Just don’t make the same mistake I did. Instead of placing it, I accidentally released it…
The ability to release fish/insects like this is frustrating. Particularly when rare fish, such as the Oar Fish, are accidentally released. It would be great to implement a pop-up prompt as a safety net for people just as clumsy as myself. However, in saying this, the mechanic overall is not difficult to get to grips with, and the number of accidental releases is thankfully few and far between.
Another neat feature that is also present when catching fish is that they get added to your Critterpedia, keeping an up to date catalogue of what you have caught and even lets you know if you have donated them to Blathers.
“If you’re kind, you’ll say no to the explanation about the insect.”
For those who are disgusted or terrified of insects, this is the perfect and safest way to interact with them. There are many insects to capture when playing New Horizons, which, like the fish, come with really cheesy puns. To balance this out, Nintendo has made the insects extremely detailed, which is stunning. Look at that Orchid Mantis! I don’t usually like pink, but the softness of the tone the mantis has is just beautiful. Even the wings on the Damselfly are opaque like they are in real life.
Just like fishing, the spawn rates of insects vary depending on their rarity, time of day, and what month it is. This means it’s harder to rush around and gather all the insects and complete the collection, but this also adds to the relaxing nature of the overall game. Thankfully I haven’t done any accidental releases of insects like I have fish.
The ability to catch different insects and see how realistic they definitely do not go unnoticed. This is just one of the many features that I love about this game.
When fish/insects are caught, and fossils are dug up or manage to get your hands on real art from Redd, you can take them to the beloved Blathers the Owl. They can also be donated to Blathers, but he is squeamish when it comes to insects. If you’re kind, you’ll say no to the explanation about the insect you’re donating.
“There are hundreds of different recipes your character can learn in New Horizons.”
Blathers is a dapper looking owl who is in charge of the museum and handles all donations and fossil assessments. His interactions are often my favourite part of the day, especially when he tells you about the fossils you’ve donated or the disgusting insects (his words not mine!).
Each donation has a specific area in the museum where they are proudly displayed, filling you with a sense of accomplishment. This feature in the game adds further enjoyment to insect catching, fishing, and the past-time of digging holes for fossils. Visiting Blathers to get fossils assessed or to donate items to him is, for me, the most crucial part of the day because he is so darn cute.
New Horizons goes off in a new direction from previous games in the series as it now allows the player to craft their tools, furniture, and select clothing items! The desire to craft tools has been something that many people had been looking forward to, seeing as in earlier games such as New Leaf the player had to purchase their tools from the store. This made it difficult for players that played late at night or early in the morning as the stores would often be closed. But now we can create tools 24/7!
There are hundreds of different recipes your character can learn in New Horizons. This allows you to decorate your island and home however you want. There are the standard all-year recipes where you are bound to receive duplicates, and there are also seasonal and event recipes that only happen at certain times of the year for a certain length of time.
“Crafting leads to better island expression.”
You can collect non-seasonal recipes through specific task markers in the game. Items like the Golden Watering Can are obtained from a 5-star island rating. Each recipe requires different materials and different amounts as well; these can be harvested from your island or mystery islands.
However, some recipes require things that can only be purchased which means you have to keep an eye out for them in Nook’s Cranny. Cue disgruntled players who are trying to make Stack of Paper which requires Scattered Paper. Nevertheless, the crafting mechanic in New Horizons is deeply loved and valued as it lessens the dependency on Nook Cranny being open when your shovel or axe breaks. It also allows for better expression as some items will enable the player to customise them, adding a more personal touch/flair to their island and home.
Furniture: Good Indoors, Good Outdoors
Unlike previous games, New Horizons allows players to place furniture items outside wherever they want to without paying for Public Works Projects. Don’t get me wrong, the Public Works Projects were a concrete goal to aim for in previous games, but they did make the game more about your ability to earn Bells than trying to make your town the best it can be.
In New Horizons, you’re able to craft many furniture items, which eases the pressure to earn Bells. You can even customise the colours or fabric patterns on some of them. The different fabric patterns can be your design, or if you talk to Sable every day, she will start giving you fabric designs she made herself (bless her sweet heart).
The only drawback is the restriction of not putting items on walls or fences outside. This means that you can only hang them in your house, sell them, or give them to friends/villagers. This is the only criticism I have regarding furniture as I love the variety of options.
Fashion is an essential part of New Horizons. The ability to work your fashion design skills and live your best life (or act out your true goblin fantasy) is fantastic. The Able Sisters have a store on your island where you can go every day after 9 am (until 9 pm) to buy as many items of clothing you want. Stock rotates each day, so you must make sure you buy it while it’s hot. This by no means diminishes the overall positive experience of being able to purchase all those items of clothing you’re too afraid to wear or unable to afford in real life (looking at you people that don’t wear froggy hats.)
A popular aspect that has been carried through from previous games in this series is the ability to gift clothing to your villagers. So if you want Hamlet to wear a very fashionable pineapple shirt, you can do that. There are certain items that villagers can’t wear such as pants, shoes, and certain accessories, but this does not detract from the wholesomeness you feel when you see them wearing what you’ve gifted them. I love having this ability to give them clothing and seeing them wear the items as it just feels more personal than if this were not an option.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is by far one of the more relaxing and enjoyable games to be released on the Nintendo Switch. With a few bumps along the road, mainly glitches that often lead to very amusing moments, there are very few things that bring down the game's quality and enjoyment. New Horizons offers an enormous amount of customisation, leaving you with very few chances to get bored. It is a truly remarkable experience released at the perfect time.