Image: IGDB/Nintendo

‘Animal Crossing’ Direct: a ‘New Horizon’ for the franchise?

In a month where so many big titles are coming to our consoles, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is certainly on the lips of many fans from all different gaming backgrounds. The recent Animal Crossing Direct took a deep-dive into all the information announced so far and made sure to give us plenty of new details to get excited for!

A standout theme for New Horizons is customisation, as with all Animal Crossing games, and it goes further than ever before. Not only by allowing you to customise design elements of your Island but allows complete control over the setup of your Island community. The player can now choose the placement of their animal resident’s tents and even the shops that will begin to be built as the game progresses. In a Minecraft-esque fashion, you can literally change the terrain of your island- creating or removing rivers, building waterfalls and even building land back over water. While it is unknown how long it will take for these features to be unlocked or updated, the idea of building an island from scratch is very appealing to many in the fanbase. These updates appear to progress through playtime and encourage really getting invested in your little island. These features, presented as ‘optional extras’, do not seem intrusive. Whether you want to sculpt your perfect utopia or just catch some fish and decorate your house, the possibilities are there to be explored to your own wants and needs.

I will continue coveting that beautiful Animal Crossing Switch until departure on March 20th.

We also see the return of many fan favourite NPCs including Kicks, Label and Celeste, as well as NPC additions to the Animal Crossing universe such as Daisy-Mae and Flick. My own personal high-point of the Animal Crossing Direct was that all-familiar theme tune that seemed to confirm a change of station for Mr Resetti.  As the auto-save feature of New Horizons puts Mr Resetti out of a job, he will instead terrify children (and me) for years to come as the operator of the Rescue Service – a fail-safe for if you get trapped somewhere on the island without the equipment to get off. With his diminished role hid behind a bell-wall in New Leaf, it is nice to see the old mole get his groove back.

Some other things that will make a reappearance are Amiibo functionality, and players will also receive special rewards for using the mobile app Pocket Camp and you can import designs from New Leaf and Happy Home Designer. Those hours of using the 3DS touchscreen to make patterns with the Able Sisters have not been wasted!

In a Minecraft-esque fashion, you can literally change the terrain of your island

As someone who fell in love with the franchise with Wild World and then sought out the Gamecube version to see how far Animal Crossing has come, I was hoping we would hear more information about the online services and if there would be any connectivity with previous games in the series. Whilst the direct revealed some information – the classic ‘visit other people or have them visit you’ setup makes a return– I wanted more beyond the usual visiting friends. While the announcement of ‘Party Play’ and the capability to play together on one Switch has my housemates and I thrilled, I hope to see whether New Horizon’s builds on the legacy of Club Tortimer. There have been hopes for a server where you can build Islands online together and despite there having been no confirmation of this as of yet, I remain optimistic.

To see how the core features have grown and seeing how the wants of a fanbase have been treated with such respect, creativity and time is something that I really respect when it comes to New Horizons. Delaying the game was a disappointment to many, but seeing how it looks and plays during the Animal Crossing Direct, I do not think a better decision could have been made. Hardcore Nintendo fans have been disappointed before with games that feel rushed in places but Animal Crossing seems to be ready to deliver an experience that has the care and beauty that it deserves. It is a very exciting time for people ready to converse solely with virtual animals for the next few months. I will continue coveting that beautiful Animal Crossing Switch until departure on March 20th.


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