The Appeal of Animal Crossing – New Horizons

Image Credit: © 2020 Nintendo.

Catching and selling tarantulas so you can pay off your loan from a pushy racoon. Why do we love Animal Crossing so much, again? Eoin Keogh discusses.

So, what’s the appeal of Animal Crossing: New Horizons? As a casual player of the franchise over the years, sure I enjoyed them, but I never understood what made them special. That is, until the release of New Horizons. The release of the highly anticipated sequel to New Leaf sold just over 1.88 million copies in Japan in just three days, beating the previous record of Pokémon Sword and Shield which together sold 1.36 million copies of the game in the same timeframe.  

From the moment I loaded the game for the first time, I absolutely loved it. Whether it was the circumstances we’ve found ourselves in due to the current pandemic, or the game being one of the most relaxing experiences I’ve ever had, I could not put the console down. The characters speak their own language, branded “Animalese”, that changes based on the language the player sets their Switch to. A lot of engineering went into such a small aspect of gameplay, and the hard work it took to bring Nook and Co. to the Switch really shows. From a linguistics perspective, the process they use to make Animalese spoken in game, and the variance from differing user languages is quite interesting.

The game’s graphics on the Switch are as good as can be expected on the console’s 720p panel. Docked, the life simulator becomes more immersive, with colours becoming more vivid and characters really coming to life. The capabilities of the Switch itself greatly improve how the game can be played. With the other iterations of the game like New Leaf, it was portable, but the dual screen wasn’t the best for immersive gameplay and was confined to one mode of play. Others in the series were confined to the home console and couldn’t be played on the go. Having both options available only drives the craving to keep on top of your sessions. Not only that, but Nintendo, knowing how well the game would sell, released a special edition console in the well-known Animal Crossing colours to go with the game.

The game is super relaxing, as it allows the player to escape the world around them and introduces them to the easy-going life on the island of their choosing. The soothing music in the background and the sound of the ocean waves adds to the calming ambiance that island life is all about. I joke all the time about wanting to leave the stressful world of city life and college behind to herd goats in the Alps, and with New Horizons, I can get a taste of that freedom. Apart from owing Tom Nook 200,000 bells, of course. The only real worry is whether you catch that fish or sell turnips for the best price, which is more than achievable. There of course is a story for the game, which can be completed without much stress by just doing the tasks that Tom Nook gives to the player. The tasks themselves are very easy, such as collecting bugs with your net, resources for building the in-game store, and giving bugs to the museum curator, Blathers.

The addition of Nook Miles adds ways in which players can buy possessions to fill their homes. By doing one-time tasks such as cutting down two trees, the player can earn a few hundred nook miles, which can also be used to buy tickets to fly to random islands, one of the most anticipated features of the game. These random islands can contain flowers, rare bugs, and the dangerous but extremely valuable tarantula. Not only did Nintendo add these mystery tours, but the online experience is massively improved since the release of 2012’s New Leaf. DIY was also added, meaning people can now make their own furniture and tools, and with this comes the addition of the landscaping features, enabling the player to perfectly sculpt the island around them.

Although all the new features brought in relatively new players like me, the majority of the fanbase were drawn in due to the nostalgia another instalment brings. The franchise for many people my age was a staple of childhood gaming. The game is calm, easy to play, full of quirky and cute characters that you can convince to move to your island. Besides, why wouldn’t a 19-year-old want to live on a tropical island by the ocean with a zero percent loan, a solid job selling fruit and fish with the only responsibility being a healthy dose of interior design?