Review: Animal Crossing New Horizons

May 25th, 2020

Meticulously penned by Bill Kratzer

Verdict: A+

I’ll admit it.

I have never played an Animal Crossing game before Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

However, after devoting over 180 hours into New Horizons, I feel qualified to comment and review this game.

Since becoming aware of the franchise when I had a Wii, I have always been curious about the game but simply never found the opportunity to dive in and try it.

I have tried other crafting and simulation games before. I loved the seemingly endless crafting, exploration, and and survival mechanics of Don’t Starve but found that Stardew Valley didn’t capture my imagination. I feared that Animal Crossing might be closer in game play to Stardew, so when rumors of Animal Crossing on the Switch first surfaced, I approached with trepidation.

Instantly, my fears were assuaged. The game is simply charming. Of course, I initially enjoy the crafting mechanics and the griding game play. But as the game unfolded, it quickly and cleverly sucked me into all of the other gameplay components, such as cataloging, decorating, socializing, and expanding my small home.

Once I completed the base game, a whole new world opened up. Next, I was paving, teraforming, planning, and designing my island.

The best part about it all: I was doing it with my family.

Playing Animal Crossing quickly became a family ritual. My daughter and son both live on the island and are active participants. They enjoy the game in their own way and at their own pace. Even my wife, who doesn’t play, is interested in island developments and often provides decorating advice. The entire family spends time on YouTube watching Five Star Island tours. Dinner conversation involves what special visitor visted the island, what villager we want to get next, and what new features are coming to the game next month.

I could niggle about annoying things in the game, such as inventory management, crafting limitations, and limited custom decoration slots. These are all minor inconveniences that are eclipsed by a beautifully designed game with a huge host of characters, mountains of dialogue, tons of details, endless things to learn, and volumes of cute music.

The biggest drawback in the game is Nintendo’s decision to force all players on a single Switch to share an island. The person who starts the game is the main residence and has a few other privileges that the other players do not have. I find this design choice curious, and sometimes it’s infuriating. However, I applaud Nintendo for building a game that forces families to play together.

Seldom does a game beckon me to explore every Nook (sorry) and cranny of the game. But New Horizons does exactly that. Never did I think that I would be into growing virtual flowers, talking to villagers, and selling turnips. Yet, here I am today, doing exactly those things.

Well done, Nintendo.