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Game Review: Animal Crossing: New Horizons (One Month In)

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the latest release from Nintendo on the Switch and is the fifth main release from the Animal Crossing series (excluding the Japanese original release). Released on March 20th 2020, New Horizons takes your character on a deserted island where you have to build up civilisation, pay debts and complete special tasks through the forms of fishing, bug catching and developing friendships with your animal villagers.

This has been a game that I have played for many years. Whilst my first version was Wild World on the Nintendo DS, I have played every edition of Animal Crossing extensively, putting in hundreds of hours to each version. This has been my most anticipated game for years, even before it was announced. When the game got delayed, I knew it would be for the best as this is a game that, if good, I could see myself playing for at least the next year. It also just so happened to release right before a lockdown was announced due to COVID-19, meaning I had more time and reason to play it extensively.

In the month that I have played this game, I have clocked in over 200 hours of gameplay. That is on average 6-7 hours of playtime in a single day. The reason it is so addicting to play on a daily basis is the time cycle that this game goes by. Being a life simulation game, the series has been known to replicate exactly what time it is in real life. If you play at 12:15pm, it will be 12:15pm in the game. If you play in summer, the weather will reflect that. If you play at Christmas, you will get Christmas-related events and snow that you can build specific items for. The amount of detail, including to play in the Southern Hemisphere for the first time in the series, is so well done and incredibly detailed.

Of course, there is so much to do in the game as every day presents new tasks and every month gives new items to collect. Whether you want to catch the new bug of the month to donate to the museum (and frighten poor Blathers in the process) or compete in the fishing tourney that just went on a week ago, there is so much content to enjoy. Every day, you are presented with Nook Miles challenges that can help you earn gifts big and small, including flights to mysterious island tours which can help you gather more materials and new items to decorate your town with.

The main change between this game and others in the Animal Crossing franchise is the inclusion of DIY. Previously, the only way to collect furniture was to buy it from a store or trade with villagers or through online services. Now, by collecting wood, rocks and other materials, there are hundreds of unique recipes that you can craft as well as customise. This makes it easier than ever to collect items, and even more rewarding now furniture can also be placed outside, completely helping decorate your town to your heart’s desire. Between the outdoor furniture and the flexibility of the terraforming features, allowing you to completely change the rivers and cliffs of your layout, my town has never looked this good.

I wanted to wait to review this game until now because the true test of this game is how it succeeds in its goal of being a game you play daily and for a long stretch of time. This is not a game like another game that released the same day, DOOM: Eternal, in which there is a set storyline, end goal and completion. Animal Crossing: New Horizons does not have a true ending and throughout the entire year, there will be events that will make you come back and enjoy. It is very difficult to say that you have experienced every single thing, bought every single item and truly completed the game, and that is what makes this game perfect for any sort of player. There is no pressure of achieving 100% and there is no right or wrong way of completing the game.

There are obviously some small imperfections with the game, which have to be expected, but the main one I have to highlight is the Bunny Day event that was held between April 1st to the 12th. As this was the first major event since the game’s release, we were all excited to see how this would be done. Unfortunately, whilst the concept of finding eggs based on the different actions in the game is strong in concept, it was way too frequent for an event lasting a total of 12 days. Given how many eggs were needed for all of the items, the event only really needed to last for 2-3 days instead. It instead took away from some vital resources, making it harder to craft items, as well as ruined the fun of fishing for that short amount of time. It seems like the team has noticed this though, and I am sure that when the Earth Day event arrives (which does seem to be a single-day event) it will be more manageable.

As somebody who plays the game for the creative aspects, this is easily my favourite Animal Crossing game of the entire franchise. With so many possibilities and no town truly the same, there is only enough hours of the day to enjoy this game even on a lockdown. I plan to release extra reviews of this game at certain points, including a 3 month, 6 month and a year update, letting you all know if this game really is still as enjoyable after the first month where it is new and shiny. Right now though, I can easily see myself sticking at this game for a very long time.

Have you started playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons yet? Are you new to the series, or have you playing for as long as I have? Let me know in the comments section and let’s have a discussion.

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