Review: Animal Crossing: New Horizons creates individualized experiences

Highly-anticipated game is met with high praise

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Valerie Benzinger

Nintendo's Animal Crossing: New Horizons was released on Friday, March 20, 2020.

With nearly eight years since the most recent installment in the beloved franchise, Animal Crossing: New Horizons hit the Nintendo eShop, as well as store shelves, on March 20, 2020. After first being announced at a Nintendo Direct conference on Sept. 13, 2018, fans have had to wait a painfully long 18 months for this game. Nintendo, however, made it well worth the wait, bringing new elements to freshen up gameplay while staying true to the series’ charmingly domestic tones.

New Horizons brought additions and tools to the Animal Crossing series, such as the Nook Phone, which serves as a central way to view in-game progress and see achievements. The new currency, Nook Miles, runs alongside the series’ classic currency, Bells, adding a new level to shopping in the game. The QR code feature allows players to scan QR codes to add pre-made outfits and designs into their games, allowing for truly customized experiences. The biggest development brought to Animal Crossing, however, is the expansion of material harvesting and the ability to craft DIY furniture and clothing from items found in the game. All of these new features bring unprecedented depth to the game.

As always, the fan-favorite capitalist raccoon, Tom Nook, makes an appearance in New Horizons. He near-instantly charges the player with moving fees for settling into the village, as is typical for Animal Crossing games. As players progress, new loans can be taken out through Nook to expand the player’s house or build bridges or inclines throughout the island. While taking out loans and paying them off is suggested for progression, it is by no means required. The freedom to pursue individual journeys is what makes the game unique to every player.

Valerie Benzinger
Players receive welcome messages from Isabelle or Tom Nook every day as part of the game’s welcoming atmosphere.

The beauty of Animal Crossing lies in the ability to live life how one wants; if that entails getting all the house upgrades and paying off all debts in full, that is achievable. If a player is inclined to focus on fishing and bug catching and wants the game to be about filling out the Nook Phone’s bestiary equivalent, that is possible, too. If one wants to craft every DIY object in the game, it can become the focus of the experience. To put it simply, life is what the player makes of it in Animal Crossing: New Horizons. The unguided structure of the games is frequent in the series, but New Horizons takes this theme to its highest limits.

Another of New Horizons’ strong suits is its accessibility. Games are often criticized for either babying players or being too difficult for beginners to enjoy, but that is not the case here. Animal Crossing provides an experience individualized to whatever the player wants to spend time doing, making it the perfect game to play casually or grind in for hours on end. Gamers of all skill levels can find something to enjoy.

The Animal Crossing series has a history of relaxing soundtracks, with New Horizons being no exception to the rule. The game’s night music is especially calming and perfect to wind down to after a long day. This adds to the mellow atmosphere of the game, encouraging players to take it slow and enjoy the beauty of life in front of them.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons came to the world at a perfect time. With increasing levels of anxiety and stress surrounding the world as harrowing news is received every day, now is the perfect time to sit down, listen to K.K. Slider and catch bugs. The game is well-rounded and easily loved, earning it 5 out of 5 stars. Though production was delayed and fans were left hanging, the game received was well worth the wait.