Because Animal Crossing is the type of game that develops over time, I know that these early Impressions won’t cover everything the game has to offer. But between my knowledge (general) of the series overall and my experience with the game here we go…
My first Animal Crossing was Wild World for the DS. I instantly fell in love. It was cute, it has the mindlessness I enjoy in games when I need to shut down for a while. There were enough goals for me to feel like I had something to work towards, but no pressure to do so. It is a lovely experience for those looking for something like it.
The games overall have the same general idea. You move to a town/city/island inhabited by anthropomorphic animals. The area you live in starts out pretty basic. You slowly over time, develop it and yourself. The more you play, the more you unlock, and the more you shape your experience, the way you want it to be.
New Horizon starts with you moving to an island. You are tasked with helping Tom Nook (the world’s most divisive character I swear) with setting up the island and bringing more people to it. As with the other games, you start with the basics, and over time you build up more and more. You bring in the museum to donate bugs, fish, and fossils to. You eventually find the means to access parts of the island that you could not get to. Eventually, you can bring in new neighbors and expand the services of the island. Overall it plays much like the Animal Crossing games of the past just with some new features.
One of the new features is crafting. You no longer buy or wait for tools and items to become available but can actually build and craft your own. I rather enjoy this feature as it gives you more variety in the resources you collect around the island and what you can do with them. I am not, however, the biggest fan of how frequently tools break. I assume, at some stage, I will get even better quality tools, but even the “good” quality ones break with far more frequency than I feel needed. I think it is to ensure that you have more to do, but it’s still not my favorite.
In addition to your main island, you also have mystery islands. For a certain amount of points (a different type of in-game currency), you can go to a mystery island to get more resources, meet new animals, etc. These islands are randomly generated, and the character even informs you that they are destroyed once you leave for “safety purposes.” I especially like this feature because there is a limit to how much you can do on your main island every day. This expands how much you can gather without requiring you to go to a friend’s island and take their resources. There are also a lot of special islands which will net specific rewards or challenges.
Miles, as mentioned, are a new sort of “currency” in the game. You get miles for merely playing the game. Catch x number of fish get x number of miles. Sell x amount of bells worth of stuff get x miles. And so forth. There are certain things in-game that you cannot buy with bells and must buy with miles. The miles do challenge you to try to do specific things to be rewarded and is a nice feature. However, you can find yourself short on miles and struggle with “do I save them for mystery island hopping or get those special things I really want in-game.” Although again, the game is relatively new, so that struggle might become less of one over time.
There is also more challenge with expanding the island, which I appreciate. It’s not just a matter of meeting an animal, and they move in in a couple of days. Now you have to actually gather up materials, craft furniture, etc. It’s not so much so that you will struggle with expanding, but it is nice to have more goals and tasks to complete.
The game also looks incredible and has much more dynamic weather effects. The art style is the same but sharper, and with that coat of paint that the games get every time they come out.
I am looking forward to seeing how events play out in this game. Animal Crossing often links real-life holidays with in-game ones, so I am looking forward to the upcoming Easter event and Earth Day.
So bottom line. I think at this point, most people know what they are getting with Animal Crossing. It is a relaxing game, meant to be played every day, with little to rush you other than your own expectations. I am not the first to note that it is kind of a great game in current times as it is distracting, lighthearted, and a time suck. However, beyond even that, this is a polished version of a franchise that just keeps getting better and better. If you have liked Animal Crossing in the past, you’ll likely enjoy this one. If you have never given it a go but are curious, this might be a great first game to try out.