By MOLLY AVERY
As COVID-19 worsens in the United States, people search for entertainment while they isolate themselves in their homes. Luckily, “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” was released last Friday on March 20, just in time to save the public from the boredom and restlessness of the quarantine.
To say the game is a success would be an understatement. Not only are their launch sales bigger than any of the other launch sales for the previous games in the series, but it is also the most successful game launch the Switch console has had so far. Numbers can only tell a gamer so much about a game though, leaving them wondering, how does New Horizons compare to previous Animal Crossing games?
Without a doubt, I can say that New Horizons is the best Animal Crossing game to date. The original concept of Animal Crossing that gives it heart remains, while also combining aspects from previous games in the series, and adding new ones.
The player begins the game by preparing to fly off to a deserted island with two other villagers where they will begin a new life. In these preparations players get to make their avatars, which for the first time in the series, allows avatars to have different skin colors.
Also new in this process is the ability to choose what your island is going to look like. In previous games, gamers were given a randomly generated town, but in New Horizons there are four maps players can choose from showing different island layouts. Players are not even restricted to these four islands though, as most of the landscape can be changed later in the game with new landscaping and waterscaping features.
Once the player is on their island they go through a welcoming ceremony where they are introduced to the concept of gathering materials and crafting. Although this concept was introduced in Animal Crossing’s mobile game Pocket Camp, this is the first Animal Crossing mainline game that features crafting. At first I was skeptical at the concept of crafting; I was worried it would remind me too much of Minecraft, and it does. New Horizons and Minecraft are very different games, however, with New Horizons being much more pure of heart. Due to this, I find myself not minding that the crafting system in New Horizons matches the crafting style of Minecraft.
Once the basics of the tutorial are over, players are free to progress the game however they wish. Gamers can fish, catch bugs, dig up fossils, interact with villagers and so on. Players may also progress in other ways such as building a museum, shops, houses, bridges and much more.
The biggest fault of the game that may turn people away is the inability to time travel. In previous Animal Crossing games, players have been able to change the date and time. If they were told something in the game would be built the next day, players could save their game and set the clock to the next day rather than wait in real time. New Horizons takes away that option.
Since time traveling is no longer a possibility, the game can drag at some points. Once a player runs out of ways to progress the game for the day, it may feel like there’s nothing else to do. However, I personally view the inability to time travel as a positive. While I do miss being able to grind through the game, having to play in real time allows me to enjoy aspects of the game I usually would not. This is the first Animal Crossing game that I am actually taking the time to make sure I catch all 80 bugs and fishes that are offered. Before I used them solely as a means of profit, and didn’t care if I caught them all. Since the game is no longer all about progressing through, I’ve come to have a new appreciation for doing such tasks for fun rather than profit.
Not being able to time travel also allows for the player to step away from the game. In previous games it was easy to get caught up in developing your town as quickly as possible. Gamers would stay holed up inside playing the game all day having forgotten the real world. Since only so much progress can be made in a day now, players are able to put down the game after playing for a few hours.
What really makes New Horizons so successful and great is that it came when we needed it most. Times are hard for everyone with the coronavirus outbreak, and New Horizons allows people to escape to a fantasy world with a kind community. It provides a stress-relieving outlet for people that are quarantined in their homes. With the real world going through a pandemic, it’s a relief to be able to escape to a virtual world that reminds us that, in the words of the Animal Crossing character Katrina, “bad times really are just times that are bad.”