Recently, I had the opportunity to go hands-on with Animal Crossing: New Horizons. The demo showed me three different stages of the new Animal Crossing experience. The first part of the demo was fairly early (with villagers still living in tents), the second part of the demo showed a semi upgraded island and the third was a later part of the game, where I could pretty much customise anything on the island.
The first part of the demo was dedicated to learning how to gather resources and craft items. My tools were all at beginners level (or flimsy as the game calls it), which meant they were breaking fairly often, which of course would lead to having to scavenge more wood and other items in order to re-craft these items. Whilst tools breaking will be a little bit annoying, the requirements to craft these are fairly small (five pieces of wood for instance).
The brand new Nook Phone has a bunch of new features, including a camera, Nook Miles (which we’ll touch on later), a Map and the ability to call other islanders to join you in multiplayer (among many other features), but thankfully, there’s a DIY Crafting app, that allows you to keep track of how many of each resource you need in order to craft tools. At a point later in the game too, we got to experience setting up a workbench (which can be placed anywhere on the island), so that you don’t have to keep trekking back to Tom Nook in order to craft items.
One of the new tools that I got to use is the vaulting pole. It allows you to jump over small beds of water (where previously you’d have to find a bridge to make your way over). From what I can see, there weren’t too many other new tools, but I’m hoping there’s a few surprises left once we get the final version of the game.
One of the biggest gripes I’ve previously had with Animal Crossing games, is the lack of objectives after a certain period of time. Nook Miles improve on this hugely, and will bring a brand new audience to the game. You earn these points based on completing challenges. These challenges range from catching a certain amount of bugs or fish or just doing general things around town. There’s a good mix of challenges that you’ll complete naturally and others that you’ll have to grind for. They give the game an even bigger sense of purpose, for those that might want a bit more direction.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons lets you control how your island looks more than ever. For instance, the new terraforming tool lets you lay down water, cliffs and even lay down different forms of ground. It’s extremely easy to use and whilst there’s not too many options, it’s surprising how quickly adding in a bit of water, or a cliff with water hanging off the edge can change the look of your island. Similarly, when new villagers come to town, you get to pick where their tent (or house) goes on the island. This means that you’ll no longer have things just popping up and ruining the aesthetic of your island.
In terms of making the island/your house your own, New Horizons takes this to a new level. You can now place items outside, meaning that your island will have even more personality and whilst placing furniture inside your house, there’s a brand new top down view (similar to that of Happy Home Designer), which makes placing and rotating furniture easier than ever.
The museum was by far one of the most impressive parts of my demo. Seeing the fish you’ve caught, bug’s you’ve netted and fossils that you’ve collected come to life with such graphical detail made me feel giddy inside. It’s largely the same experience of that in previous games, but the graphics make for a way more immersive experience.
Another big inclusion is multiplayer. Using your Nook Phone, you can have friends join you either locally or online. I can see a lot of people playing co-op on their couch. One person is designated the leader (which can be changed by shaking your controller), and this person will basically dictate your movement around the island. For instance, only the leader can make you enter a house.
All in all, Animal Crossing: New Horizon feels incredibly familiar, but there’s a bunch of quality of life improvements here and some genuine game changers in the way of customisation, which will go a long way to making everyone’s islands feel more unique than ever and Nook Miles, which I believe will hold the attention of the most casual Animal Crossing players for longer.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons releases this Friday on Nintendo Switch. I’ve got a feeling a lot of people are going to sink a lot of time into this one.