There is less than a month to go before the release of New Horizons, the first mainline game in the Animal Crossing series since New Leaf was released in 2013. The real treasure trove of information for this game is the Nintendo Direct from February 20th. Branded as a “deserted island getaway package”, players will start small and build their whole world around them as they please.
Animal Crossing has always been the same game at its core; a life simulator with the ability to create friendships with the NPCs in the game and work your way up from where you are when you get to your new home. New Horizons seems to have stuck to this core concept whilst adding many different features in order for you to be able to personalise your town completely. This takes place right from the start of the game; “Residents” will be able to pick their town map at the start. This solves the problem many dedicated fans had in the last game; Players would restart their game over and over again until they got the town layout they wanted, a process that can take a long time with the starting sequences of the game. Players also now have the opportunity to place their bridges and ramps wherever they want when they have the money, which means you no longer need to walk the length of your town just to come all the way back to where you were on a different side of the river. This, paired with the new ability to cut into mountains and shape your own island the way you want, means that despite the standard map layouts offered at the start of the game, no two islands will be the same once the player can change the landscape itself.
Nintendo seems to have shaped the game in order to create more of a feel of this island being your island right from the start. In other mainline games, the player starts by moving into an already fully functional town, full of NPCs and shops and features such as the museum. With New Horizons, the player will move into a town with few facilities and few villagers and they will be able to pick where each house, shop or facility will be set up. Players will also be able to visit other villagers on other islands and invite them to move into their town, having way more control over which villagers they have available to interact with than ever before.
Another exciting new feature is the introduction of Nook Miles, a new in-game currency you get from completing objectives. These points can be used to claim items or visit another island in-game where you can gather flowers and fruit and supplies for your own crafting. Crafting itself is yet another new feature; in previous games you could ask another character to craft things for you, but this time you do it yourself, giving greater opportunity for a completely unique island.
As a bit of a night owl myself, I’m hoping for more 24-hour gameplay possibilities. In previous mainline games, NPCs went to bed before 11pm and shops shut around the same time, so when you load up the game after then there is a limited set of things to do. I always resorted to adjusting the date and time for my town within the game before, but it is uncertain right now as to whether this “time travel” will be a possibility in New Horizons or if the game itself/different technology has prevented this. However, it has been stated in the most recent Nintendo Direct that some shops are 24 hours, so hopefully there are some villagers to interact with if you’re hanging around on the island late at night. The Direct does also show some night gameplay, so at least we know there are some options for things to do.
Nintendo have already confirmed that as of release day there will be no cloud saves for the game. Understandably, many fans were troubled by the possibility of losing a lot of hard work due to a broken console or game. Nintendo have said that if this was going to happen, they would arrange for your game file to be restored from their own servers. This is definitely a solution that works but it seems like it drags the process out a lot more than having cloud saves. It works, it’s fine, and it is a fix, but I do wonder how long waiting times would be if you did have to access these recovery channels. There are also the terms and conditions which make this more difficult to access; you have to have Nintendo Switch Online in order to restore your data and can only do it one time. This means that this feature is entirely inaccessible to anyone who doesn’t fit these criteria, and creates more problems for the fans who will play this game for a long time, increasing the problems caused by losing a save file more as time goes on.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons will be released on Nintendo Switch on March 20th.