A few months ago, I posted my “One Month In” review of Animal Crossing: New Horizons. I said in that particular review that this game is different to score, in that content is available based on the calendar year and content is not accessed until you reach a particular season or event, and even less so with updates that Nintendo are doing throughout to prevent people accessing content earlier. I made a note that I would give an update on what I make of the game throughout the year, thinking I would still be in love with the latest game from my favourite franchise.
Sadly, I haven’t had the motivation to even pick up the game for the past two weeks and I don’t see myself doing so for a while. This isn’t me done with video games either, as I am playing my Nintendo Switch more than I have in its three-year run so far. I have just bought games such as Cuphead and SUPERHOT, whilst Breath of the Wild is now my go-to game for the Switch at the moment. It just so happens that I haven’t wanted to even log on to my island on Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
I want to clarify from the start that I am not here to completely hate on the game or the way that Nintendo is approaching it. In fact, I like the fact that events such as Halloween and Christmas are locked away in updates and can’t be accessed with time-travelling. I also cannot hate on a game that I played nearly 600 hours of in less than five months. For any game to get that amount of playtime, it is clear that I got my money’s worth in entertainment and joy. However, I have stuck with this franchise since the release of Wild World on the Nintendo DS and it is clear to me that, whilst certain aspects of the game were improved on in New Horizons, there are also some aspects that have been downgraded and ended up affecting my view on the game. This will be split into three parts.
1. Villager Interaction
Above everything else, this is the main reason I fell out of love with New Horizons. In every single main Animal Crossing game before this one, the interactions with the villagers and the way they were acquired were great. They had real personalities, gave you a variety of chores to do and the developing friendship felt real. Sadly, this is far from the truth with this latest release.
The dialogue with this game is extremely repetitive, especially between specific personalities. Aside from the grumpy and snooty personality types, I basically did not like any character interaction with any of my villagers. The chances of getting chores is very slim, being lucky if you get one chore a day at most. They do have a built-in minigame with the villagers in which you dig up treasure, but it is also rare you will access this. It also feels like a downgrade when the previous installment, New Leaf, had numerous minigames with your villagers including a hide-and-seek one.
It is also way too easy to pick and choose your villagers, something I thought I liked but wish I hadn’t done myself. The best part of the Animal Crossing franchise has been finding new villagers and falling in love with ones you never expected to. That is why when I look back on my island, I question why I have decided to choose an all-wolf town. If I go back to the game or even start my island again, I will be letting the game randomly generate my villagers just like the other games do. I want to bring some of the old charm back into this game, because I honestly miss that.
2. Lack of Content
It was clear from the very start of the release of New Horizons that this game would operate very differently to others in the franchise. Instead of getting the complete game from the start, there instead would be updates that would add content throughout the next year at least. Whilst this is a good plan for some events, I cannot say that I am a fan of this way as a whole.
On the positive note, these updates are completely free. There is nothing wrong with adding extra content to the game free of charge to keep players engaged in the game. However, that means that the game was sold incomplete after being delayed from being a 2019 release. There were things in the code of the first release of the game, such as the Dream Suite, art collection, and sea creatures, that were released later on in the run of the game. If they were ready to release at the start, why weren’t they?
Sadly, the most recent update was not enough to get me excited to log back on at the game. There are still many aspects that I miss from the previous games, including the café and gyroids. It is not only just the updates that are lacking, but the overall step back from New Leaf. In your island, you only have two shops, the visitor for the day and your museum and town hall. In previous games, you had an entire city, a refurbishing shop (that is instead now just an item to help customise your furniture) and a home evaluation place (which has now gone back to being a weekly mail you get). Even the getaway islands you visit in this game feel like a step down from the islands you could visit in New Leaf. Sadly, for a game that is meant to be played for over a year, I need more content to make me go on daily rather than just checking my daily furniture and being discouraged to chat to my neighbours.
3. The Fanbase
This feels like a weird thing to mention, but it is something that has to be brought up. Whilst there has always been an online presence with the Animal Crossing fanbase, it has never been as loud as it is now. Many of these people are lovely and sweet and I’ve had great interactions with a second Twitter account I made specifically for Animal Crossing, but I ended up having major issues with how it impacted the physical game.
A big part of Animal Crossing is collecting items, DIY recipes and getting the villagers you desire. Whilst there are many lovely people online that are willing to help out each other with trading, several websites came up with the intent of selling items for in-game currency. This is already bad enough when people are charging extortionate amounts of in-game money for a single villager, but it does not stop there. People started to get scammed out of their time, their islands ruined by visitors, and I even saw people charging real money for items that are already simply available in the game. For a franchise that is targeted at all ages, including young and influential children, I think this is such a bad idea and not in the spirit of the game at all.
I have seen it first hand with a player I know that the community has drastically changed since even the 3DS days of New Leaf. She not only got scammed out of in-game currency through a fake turnip price posted, but she ended up buying every single DIY recipe from another person. After that, she had nothing to collect and therefore started to stop playing the game. It is stuff like this that ruins the excitement of the game for me, as recipes that I shouldn’t be getting until November are already openly shared by those who hack or time-travel. Usually, this wouldn’t impact the way that I play my game, however an online game like this makes it hard to not have an impact.
I hope one day I find myself looking forward to picking the game back up again, because I do have a love for this franchise and how much joy it has given me. Whilst I do not want to make any full judgment of the game until next March, a year on from its release, I feel a desire to instead find my 3DS and going back to older editions of the game instead of this one.