Animal Crossing: New Horizons Review

Naomi Boodhoo, Editor-In-Chief

Even as a senior in her last quarter of high school, mere months away from moving out and suddenly taking on adult responsibilities, I can shamelessly say nothing quite gives me the thrill of autonomy like the Animal Crossing franchise does. The brightly-colored creatures are endearing, and there is no such contentment like living vicariously in a quaint town where it is literally impossible for something to go wrong.

Fans of the series have been waiting eight years for this installment of the main series compatible with the Nintendo Switch, since the release of New Leaf back in 2012. The first three parts of the series (Animal Crossing [2001], Wild World [2005], and City Folk [2008]) all followed a very similar premise: your humanoid “villager” moves into a town governed and upkept by an ark of various creature species, and you are tasked with making a living to enjoy all that city life has to offer. However, New Leaf (2012) took a slightly different approach, where the player was handed the mayoral reins of an established settlement after its prior mayor skipped town.

After having been granted power once previously, the soft-spoken but ambitious villager will surely not accept relegation to becoming a mere resident like in the first three games. In fact, after being given the taste of power, it’s safe to say players are hungry for more, so even a parallel mayoral position for this latest installment just simply would not do. So, in New Horizons, released on March 20, 2020, Nintendo placed the player on a deserted island to build from the ground-up with the help of the tycoon raccoon Tom Nook and his assistants, as well as two animal companions. As the player progresses through the storyline–though annoyingly under the watchful eye and constant requesting of Tom Nook–they gain access to the hard-to-reach areas of their island; the ability to “D.I.Y.” tools, bridges, and furniture; and even tickets to visit other even more desolate islands. While “Resident Representative” doesn’t quite sound as prestigious as mayor, the player gets much more freedom in placing furniture outside, customizing items, and designing the layout of shops and homes.

The graphics of Animal Crossing have always been vivid and whimsical, but New Horizons adds a realistic touch to the artwork that makes the visuals stunning. The sky constantly seems to be awash with a beautiful gradient, no matter what time of day it is. In addition, the texture of objects and the landscape has gotten much more fine, giving the island a very realistic look, especially as opposed to the cutesy cartoon feel of earlier games.

In my opinion, Nintendo handled this long-awaited arrival just right. The premise of the game on a deserted island was a step in the right direction, and resonates much more during its release while much of the world is under quarantine. The more “crafty” feel that this installment has was exactly the right step for the franchise as a whole, especially as the appeal of crafting and building in games remains in high demand (for example, take Minecraft or Fortnite). The graphics are beautiful and the new tasks available to the player make them always pleasantly busy on the island. My only complaint would be the minor detail of how sudden and abrasive some of the audio is, such as opening doors, crafting, and fishing, but perhaps it is to characterize the aloof villager. I definitely recommend New Horizons to vicariously feel involved in a bustling life during social distancing.