Renewed Horizons In Animal Crossing

For most of this year, I’ve played RPGs exclusively, one after another. I only dabbled in the arcade racer Asphalt 9: Legends last month. Now there’s another non-RPG in my controller grip. Thanks to last week’s Nintendo Direct for Animal Crossing: New Horizons, my love of the game has been renewed. Like when it was newly released in March 2020, I‘m enjoying island life every single day.

When Nintendo showcased all the upcoming features to ACNH, I was floored. For 25 minutes, it was one thing after another, whether altogether new or returning from previous AC games. For example, Kapp’n will be back!

There are two parts coming to ACNH: a version 2.0 update (free) and Happy Home Paradise (paid). Both add a lot to the gameplay and are well worth investing in. I definitely plan to buy the HHP DLC; my only question is when? Should I first enjoy the free 2.0 content for a while and, once exhausted, then buy the DLC to refresh the game? I don’t think I’ll wait that long.

I’m not waiting for either update really. Since it’s been so long since I played at all, and since I plunged so much into RPGs, the base experience of ACNH’s casual gameplay is fun and refreshing as is. I’m back to terraforming my island, collecting new bugs and fish(es), expanding my house in preparation to fully decorate, breeding new flower colors, and more.

The colorful hi-res graphics, chirpy sound effects, and melodic tunes create a chill atmosphere along with the casual gameplay. And there is no fighting; maybe that’s what’s so relaxing about the game. A recent RPG I’ve been playing has become a big challenge, forcing me to strategize and grind — a lot more than what I think is typical. It wore on me, so Animal Crossing has been laid back relief (this leads to an editorial I have in draft for, so look for that to publish in the near future). You know how much grinding is in ACNH? None! I think the only tedious thing is paying off debt to Tom Nook.

Anywho, that’s some of what I’ve been up to lately. What games have you been playing lately?

Animal Crossing Impression

You might have heard that a Switch game came out recently – Animal Crossing: New Horizons. I’ve played it every day since it was released two solid weeks ago, and I’d like to share some impressions about it.

Let me first offer up some background. I played the original Animal Crossing on the Gamecube about 18 years ago. Then I played Animal Crossing: New Leaf on 2DS XL as recently as one year ago, which improved upon the original. So I’ll compare New Horizons to those a little bit.

ACNH is awesome! It is a super-chill and beautifully made game. You start on a deserted island with practically nothing. Then you slowly build up a community there with new town buildings and houses and infrastructure. You can decorate the inside of your house and also anywhere outside. Want a flower garden or a playground? Go for it!

The graphics on the Switch look splendid, better than ever. The level of detail in all the 3D objects is superb. There’s a museum on the island to display all the fossils, bugs, and fish you find. By itself, you can literally spend a long time slowly walking through the exhibits gazing at the gorgeous detail throughout.

As in previous games, ACNH has collecting galore. But new to the game is crafting, and it’s excellent, albeit somewhat simple. But simple is perfect for a relaxing casual game such as this. It also has designing, whether its fabric patterns or total town layout. And another new aspect is terraforming! But I’ve not yet arrived at that level of the game.

So there’s a lot to do in ACNH. But what do you really do? What is the goal? There are, of course, goals within the game, things to accomplish, status to achieve. But at its heart, the game is very interactive, so you just do things. It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey! I don’t care how cliche that sounds, it’s accurate about the game. The fun in ACNH is in doing all the things more than having done them.

A key element of the game since its inception in the late 90’s is, of course, as solid as ever in ACNH. I speak of the real-time clock. Things in the game happen in real time and according to the calendar and seasons of the year. It takes time for flowers to bloom, trees to grow and bear fruit, buildings to be constructed. Most of all, it takes time to develop good relationships with your neighbors.

All that said, there is one particular aspect of the game that had me scratching my head in the first week. The number one thing that the game has always been about from the beginning was the social interaction between you and the other residents of the town. It’s about…Animal Crossing. That is, the heart of the game is about socializing with the anthropomorphic animals that live in the game. The life of the game is crossing other animals’ paths and interacting, communicating, trading, and even emoting with them. ACNH is a life-simulation game.

This soul of the game seemed to be missing in the first week I played. It made me wonder if somehow it was lost, replaced by the new game mechanics such as crafting. But there’s nothing to worry about here. At first, you simply arrive on a deserted get-away island, and only 2 other animals arrive with you. So in the slow-paced beginnings, there is almost nobody around to socialize with. Instead, you’re focused on some basic quality-of-life improvements to get the community started. In past games, there was already a town filled with animals to get to know. But in ACNH, there is more of a slow build-up to all that. In my opinion, this has turned out to be wonderful.

I don’t know how intentional the blank-slate town start was, but the psychology behind it is cool. We are all social creatures by nature (even us introverts need a friend or two). We are made to enjoy relationships with others. This human-nature is reflected in Animal Crossing, only it’s more anthropomorphic animal-nature.

Starting life on a deserted island presents an emptiness, a lack of relationship as well as town structures. As you grow the town, so too does the apparent lack of animal interaction other than the relatively few starter inhabitants that joined you on the island. Slowly, more new animal-people move to the island and bring new life with their unique artificially intelligent personalities, some of which have many quirks. Like real people.

Being a Nintendo game, the level of polish and wonder and fun in ACNH is laudable. It’s also par-for-the-course with what is expected of a triple-A title game from a company that seems to have gaming magic in its DNA.

If you’ve never played Animal Crossing, wow, there’s no better time to jump into this franchise. It is a game that you should buy a Switch for. This game, only $60, keeps giving you more content over time. As seasons unfold in real time, so too do related events within the game world.

New people arrive. Some may move away. New things happen. More bugs and fish appear in season. Spring Bamboo can be found now. But come Autumn, you’ll be able to collect acorns and pine-cones to craft new items. The game keeps giving. And since there’s no real end-goal, you never beat the game! You just keep living it out, enjoying the journey.

Have you played Animal Crossing? Comment below, or write to me here! Thanks for reading!

Animal Crossing New Horizons

A year ago, my pleasant pastime was playing Animal Crossing: New Leaf… Now, I’m doing it again in a whole new way! Today is the official release of Nintendo’s excellent game Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Last March, my wife and I leisurely explored Animal Crossing: New Leaf for Nintendo 3DS. It reminded me of the time when we first played Animal Crossing on the Gamecube – almost 20 years ago! But New Leaf had improved graphics and other gameplay enhancements that made it more enjoyable. It’s totally casual, labeled a “Life Simulation,” and it’s not everyone’s cup-o-tea.

There have been other Animal Crossing main titles over the years, including a few spin-offs that just were not the same. Now, Animal Crossing: New Horizons looks to be the best, most robust, main entry of the title ever. And since it has been many years in coming, the hype has been through the roof!

A month ago, I was in my local Gamestop where I ended up pre-ordering the physical copy of New Horizons. I was supposed to get a free poster of the game as a perk, and there was going to be an early release at 11pm the night before launch day. But thanks to the COVID-19 virus plaguing the planet, those plans got canned.

Regardless, all that matters is: I got the game and started life on my deserted island! What did I name it: Escape! Because of course.

I’ve been trying to ramp my blogging habit back up, but it looks like I’ll be playing New Horizons for a while! And the thing with Animal Crossing games is you’re never really through! There is no “end.” Time rolls by, seasons change, anthropomorphic animals come and go, affecting the unfolding of events in the game. And life goes on.

Will you be playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons, or do you have a different new game going? Comment below, or write to me here! Thanks for reading!