‘Animal Crossing: New Horizons’ brings whim, brightness to island life

Wills Layton

Nineteen years ago, the world was introduced to a wonderful universe seemingly owned completely by Tom Nook.

The first installment of the Animal Crossing franchise was released for the GameCube in 2001. Since then, three new games have been released, each one forcing fans to endure waits of around three years. However, “Animal Crossing: New Horizons,” which was released on March 20 to much fanfare, took around eight years to develop.

The early returns on that investment have been nothing short of incredible. The fifth installment contains updated visuals that build on the bright colors and cute designs of previous entries. Added elements, such as more detailed knees on the playing character, highlight the care and time that went into the production of the game. Additionally, the light, bubbly music returns as the personal soundtrack of the adorable experience.

Graphics from the previous installment, “Animal Crossing: New Leaf,” are improved on, with more fluid and natural colors, animations and movements. Additionally, the game adds DIY capabilities that expand the player’s ability to decorate their home and environment. Players can also change elements using the customization feature to do things like change the color of furniture.

One of the most important new elements is that players have to put time and work in to take advantage of every area of the game. Previous entries lacked the task structure of “New Horizons,” giving little incentive to put time in to improve the player’s environment. The only goals in the previous games were to pay off loans to the infamous Tom Nook, and to catch as many fish and bugs as possible.

In New Horizons, players move onto a deserted island along with two other animal neighbors. Tom Nook takes the role of president and guides the player as they complete various tasks to help make the island more inviting. The player has to live in a tent until they complete enough tasks to earn “Nook Miles,” a new form of currency players can exchange for various items and bonuses.

The game then allows for rapid expansion depending on how the player chooses to play the game. In 1 ½ weeks of gameplay, the island can gain a museum, a store that pays homage to the original games, three more residents and the return of fan-favorite Isabelle with the construction of a town hall. For players who are self-isolating, this is the perfect way to put hours into a game with more meaningful and fulfilling goals.

The game also allows players to explore randomly generated islands by purchasing a Nook Miles Ticket. These islands have different fruits, plentiful flowers and more resources that players can bring back to their island. Another goal is to collect all five types of fruit in the game; this addition makes accomplishing that easier.

If there is anything to complain about, it would be the multiplayer section of the game. While it is fun that you can fly — yes, fly — from your island to a friends’, either online or through local multiplayer, the options you have then are limited. The chat feature is cumbersome and writing messages can be time-consuming and difficult. There is not much to do either in terms of minigames or other activities you can use to play with friends. However, this is hardly a deal breaker.

This game takes elements from all previous entries and expands upon them in a way that may not have been possible before the Nintendo Switch. This leads to a truly incredible game experience for both hardcore Animal Crossing fans and new players alike.

5 fruits out of 5