Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Brooke O'Flaherty, Design Editor

In the time of quarantine and social isolation, everyone’s schedules have been thrown for a loop; without physical school and other regulars of daily life, life can begin to feel disorderly and time wasted. These irregularities in schedule lay the groundwork for Animal Crossing: New Horizons—a game of chores, organization, and routine.

Animal Crossing was a series first released on the Nintendo 64 in 2001, with its most recent release on the Nintendo Switch on March 20, 2020. In New Horizons, players tour to a deserted island, which they then customize into their own, unique island; along the way, players will be joined on the island by ten random animal residents, which they can choose to specifically look for.

With no set end goal or enemies, Animal Crossing is a relaxing game you can take at your own pace: building, structuring, shopping, and collecting. Overall, the game is entertaining and allows you to get lost for hours, cleaning up your island, and designing everything about it. Aside from the minor constraints of currency and overall island shape, the game’s customization knows no bounds: custom roads, clothes, signs, villagers, and terraforming can make the game seem overwhelming to design after “finishing” the “main game” and unlocking all the features.

Additionally, the game’s clock corresponds to real-time, so the game’s leisurely progression of waiting two days for a villager to move in or fruit to grow back contributes to the overall sense of peace. Conversely, even if one does speed through the game, New Horizons has many updates for different seasonal events, and bringing new content with the first on April 32 (which reintroduced Redd, a swindling salesman; Leif and his flower shop; a museum expansion; and eventually the couple Reese and Cyrus).

However, the game is not without faults. One of the most significant in-game constraints is bells—Animal Crossing’s currency. Fortunately, two NPCs—Flick and CJ—routinely come to the island paying 150% of the price for bugs and fish, respectively, bringing the player decent regular income. These occasional events are a bonus to the “stalk” market, where players can sell turnips for varying prices daily from Monday to Saturday, and other basic ways to accumulate bells around the island. Still, limited storage space, tools breaking at inconvenient times such as rare bug spawns, and not having the bells to remodel can be irritating. All of these issues pale in comparison with the variable of villagers.

Notoriously on social media, videos of players bullying their unwanted villagers to no avail can be found. These videos are the result of a player’s inability to get rid of an undesired villager, who they are stuck with until said villager decides to move out: something that is, unfortunately, an uncontrollable variable. As I had no idea how permanent villagers were or where the cap lay, when I began playing, I accepted all I could find. But now, when I want a new villager, I must wait for the day an unwelcome villager decides they want to leave, so I begin the journey for new villagers again.

Even with the inability to get rid of abominable villagers and how difficult it may seem to acquire bells, it is far too easy to get lost in Tom Nook’s island trap for hours a day. With no real in-game goals, it comes to you the player to decide what you want to do, and is a great way to enjoy routine and “the outdoors” during quarantine.