The Switch has brought me many joys as I have been introduced to series that I have totally missed over.
It brought me my first Mario in decades, my first Legend of Zelda, my first Smash Bros and now my first main Animal Crossing. As I have been experiencing with Nintendo exclusives to date, Animal Crossing: New Horizons has shown me what I have been missing out on.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons plops you onto an island you choose. From here you pitch a tent with a couple of island buddies and start exploring. Tom Nook introduces himself and explains that you are building an island getaway and you start working to pay off the cost of your tent.
Work involves anything from collecting and selling resources you find, such as peaches or sticks, crafting, to helping him plot out where things will be constructed. There are two main currencies, the first is bells which is the literal currency you get from selling things, and the other is Nook Miles. Nook Miles are earned by completing tasks which are regularly updated which ranges from talking to people, to completing milestones, to catching bugs. Nook Miles can be used to buy things, and pay off the debt you accrue every time you expand your house.
This weird nook mile system is a socialists dream. You can get your hands on some property, and pay it off by helping contribute to society. Be nice to your neighbours, take some of what you owe off. Help contribute bugs and fish to the museum, take some of what you owe off. Be a good member of society and you have your tent. Once this is done and you move to having a house, making it bigger over time by using bells to pay off your increasing mortgages, but even then you can still fill your house with cool stuff using nook miles, or buy tickets to go to other islands.
Once you start visiting other islands it switches to a less environmental message with it popping you on a small random island. Here you run around chopping down trees, catching animals and stripping off its resources to return to your own island richer and ready to prosper. I think I might be looking too far into the social messaging of this game.
The vast majority of your time in Animal Crossing you will collect resources, and craft things like your axes and fishing rods to collect items and resources. You can then craft things you need like bridges to link up your main island, or building furniture so newcomers to your island will have a nicely fitted out house to move into. This loop is as repetitive but is made more relaxing by the game’s real time focus. When you build the museum, you need to wait two real world days, or cheat using the clock on your Switch, for it to be built, and this gives you a feeling of an endpoint of your play time for the day. The best way to play is to jump in for a couple of hours, achieve a few tasks, and wait until the next day for fruit trees to have more fruit or building construction to be completed.
That is where Animal Crossing: New Horizons will be perfect or flawed for many people. It is a game that has no point but to jump in, chill, make and plant some stuff, then wait for the next day to roll around. The longer you play in a day the more your returns diminish for the time you put in. This will feel like a waste to some people, and a relaxing treat to so many more.
The game has some things I wish were streamlined though. Having to make a flimsy axe, and then upgrade it to an axe is a faff I found frustrating. Also you can only craft with what is on your persons at a time, which meant I spent a lot of time pulling stuff out of storage to use on my craft bench to have to put it all back again afterwards so I had space in my pockets to go resource gathering. The longer I played the more this annoyed me as you go to the crafting menu, confirm what you need, go to the box, to move across what you need, and go back to the crafting bench to actually make it.
The other thing is dialogue, there is so much dialogue which takes a while to go through. This is especially annoying when you catch critters and have to watch the same pun come up every time. I got over being told that the Black Bass was the most metal of fish quickly, but this might be my old ass getting cynical and grumpy so it won’t annoy everyone.
It has been a long time since I have lost hours in a game, achieved little, and been happy about it. Minecraft would be my best last example where I spent so much time doing faff all, and I love it. It’s the perfect game to play as you watch something on TV, and as the real world seasons roll around, I can’t wait to see what opens up throughout the year.
Released: March 2020
Platforms: Nintendo Switch