If you’ve finished watching Netflix’s “Tiger King” but you still want to play with animals, I have the activity for you. Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the perfect way to kill time in quarantine.
Essentially, the premise of the game is that you do whatever you want in a peaceful town that is inhabited by various animals, like an energetic green koala or an emo pink dog.
In this new installment, your character (the only human among all the animal characters, as per usual) embarks on a journey to a deserted island owned by Tom Nook, the infamous racoon in charge of all your expensive loans. You start out living in a tent. A new feature, however, is the ability to place the buildings wherever you want on the island, including your house, the stores and neighbor’s homes. As the game progresses, you unlock the ability to add bridges, stairs, inclines, pathways and more to the island, but some of those take weeks to unlock in-game after jumping through a bunch of Nook’s red-tape.
The Animal Crossing franchise began in 2001 on the Nintendo 64 console in Japan. After immediate success, it was transferred to the U.S. in 2002 on the GameCube. Since then, Animal Crossing has traversed from the DS to the Wii with a few new releases, with the 2017 mobile version of Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp reviving old Nintendo nostalgia for the cult classic game.
People have used the new game as an escape in many ways, including hosting an online wedding on the interface to replace an actual wedding ceremony that was canceled due to COVID-19.
The game is probably most notorious for its real-time setting, in which the game clock matches real-world time. So if you play at midnight, it’s midnight in the game, and all the stores are closed and the residents are sleeping. There is, of course, a solution to this problem: time-traveling. It’s easy to “hack” your console into thinking it’s a different time than it really is so you can progress faster in the game. You just change the time settings in your console. In New Horizons, many of the advancements take days, or even weeks, to complete in real time. So if you want to amass your kingdom faster, I’d recommend changing the days in your console.
The graphics of the game are simply stunning, merging some of the original elements from the earlier games with modern touches. Small details were added to create more realism in the pixelated world, such as waves in the water, colorful sunsets, vivid night skies filled with shooting stars and the spring cherry blossom trees. Additionally, several of the furniture items have quirky qualities that are both realistic and add some fun to the game.
Another new feature is the ability to craft tools and furniture, in a Minecraft-like style. You collect materials to build tools to do things like fish or catch butterflies. However, the tools break after a certain amount of uses, meaning you’ll have to craft another. I suppose this is a great way to add some sort of difficulty to the game, as it is generally just a wholesome experience with no consequences. You must collect a DIY “recipe” to learn how to craft new furniture items, which can be a pain to find and unlock.
The neighbors in the game, aka the anamorphic creatures, all have different personalities and styles. And just like in real life, you might hate them or love them. TikTok and Twitter have flooded the content streams with memes and jokes about trying to get the residents they think are ugly to move off the island. I can relate. One of my first residents was a Nacho Libre-mask wearing, annoying little hamster named Clay. To express my discontent, I have built a fence around his house so he cannot leave and placed a hamster cage on a table in front of his door. Nevertheless, he persists.
On the other hand, one of my favorite residents is this slightly-depressed lumberjack bear named Grizzly. He lives in a log cabin, saunters around slowly and talks in a deep voice. Maybe I can just relate more to him, ya know? But that’s part of the eclectic draw of Animal Crossing — to make us humans develop strong emotions towards digital personified animals.
The game is also perfect if you miss capitalism. Part of the deal of you living on Nook’s island is that you have to pay him millions of bells to upgrade your house. You can upgrade the space in your house six times and the final price of all upgrades to pay off your loans to Nook is about 5 and half million bells. How do you make bells, you ask? Well, you collect random things on the island, from seashells to butterflies to fruit, and sell them at the shop run by Nook’s (twin?) sons, Timmy and Tommy.
I wouldn’t recommend being one of the fanatics that goes and buys a Nintendo Switch console just to play this game, but if you happen to already own one, I’d recommend purchasing New Horizons. A combination of the Sims and Minecraft, it’s a game designed for sitting on your couch for hours in a trance.