Video Game Review: Animal Crossing: New Horizons


Credit: Elizabeth Zhong

Join WSPN’s Kris Poole-Evans as he reviews the best video games to play.

“Animal Crossing: New Horizons” came out on March 2o, 2020. “ACNH” can only be played on the Nintendo Switch and, in my opinion, was a factor that greatly boosted the Nintendo Switch console sales during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. “ACNH” made nearly $700 million in sales by the end of 2020 and has sold over 30 million units worldwide.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is about starting a new life on a deserted island. A cute opening cutscene introduces you to two adorable raccoons, Timmy and Tommy Nook, who both help you set up your island. After picking the perfect island from four randomly generated ones and creating your avatar, you are off on your own and ready to begin your casual island life.

On the Island, you meet Tom Nook, a money-hungry businessman as well as the father of Timmy and Tommy. Tom Nook gives you a small list of chores to do before you can progress through the game, such as picking fruits off trees and gathering wood to set up your tent. You are also given two random villagers, one with a sporty personality type and one with a sisterly personality type. Once you complete all of Tom Nook’s mindless busy work tasks and name your island, he suddenly springs a giant bill on you. Naturally, you have no bells, the currency in this game, so Tom Nook agrees to let you pay it off at your own pace.

Unfortunately, you can’t progress in the game without paying them off. Cleaning up your island will gain the notice of other important characters like the Able Sisters and Blathers. You can also invite more villagers to live on your island, either by “island-hopping” or using an amiibo. Once you upgrade Tom Nook’s tent into the Resident Services building, he invites a character named Isabelle to help out. There’s no real goal in this game other than to build your island, at your own pace of course.

I have a love-hate relationship with Animal Crossing. I don’t like doing chores in real life and rarely enjoy games in which you do mostly chores. New Horizons to me feels like work with no real reward, yet I can’t not play it. It’s so well made and has so much character that it’s impossible to put down. New Horizons takes a lot of grinding and daily check-ins to get to the point where it’s enjoyable, or maybe grinding in games is your thing and in that case, a majority of New Horizons is going to be super fun for you. Luckily, it’s not like everything stops once you hit the “endgame.” There are monthly events, seasons and holidays to decorate for as well as NPCs that will come visit your island to buy or sell. And, with the newest update to the game adding a ton of new content, players who put the game down months ago are coming back and picking up where they left off.

New Horizons, in its early stage, was very addictive. Within the first year I had the game I restarted my file and started over about four times; I got bored with no real goal to work towards. To reach “endgame” you need to have a five-star island and have K.K Slider, a famous musician, come and perform. And to do that, you have to have a certain number of things on your island, such as flowers, trees, fences, bridges, inclines, villagers and buildings, so it gets extremely tedious. So every time I got bored, I restarted. Of course, this isn’t the way I would recommend playing. I wouldn’t recommend restarting at all. Restarting means losing everything: money, achievements and most importantly, villagers.

People go crazy over villagers. There are about 413 total villagers, meaning there are bound to be favorites and least favorites. One fan favorite, in particular, is Raymond, a business cat with heterochromia. Fans went nuts over this guy. From starting fan wars over his popularity to grinding for hours just so they might get the chance to invite him to their island, Raymond was all over Twitter for months.

“Island-hopping” is when you use a “Nook Miles Ticket,” something you can buy using an in-game currency, to travel to a smaller randomly generated island that is inhabited by a random villager. To earn “Nook Mileage Points,” which can later be used to buy the tickets, you complete simple tasks around the island like fishing or catching bugs. The whole “island-hopping” thing can be related to Gacha Games, whereas you have no idea what you’re going to get out of it going in. The only difference with New Horizons and Gacha games is that in Gacha games you spend money and with New Horizons you don’t. Except you can spend money… for Raymond. When a villager wants to move off the island, you have the option to make them stay or agree for them to leave. You can also have a friend visit your island and take the villager to their island.

People who had Raymond moving off their island took to eBay and were selling him for hundreds and even thousands of dollars. What’s even crazier is that players were paying for it. Raymond is the most extreme example of this, but he wasn’t the only village that was a victim. This was a dark time in the New Horizons community. Luckily I haven’t even heard so much as a whisper of Raymond’s name in months, mostly due to what I like to call “the New Horizons drought.”

One of the best parts of the update comes in the form of a paid DLC, the “Happy Home Paradise.” “HHP” allows the player to design a home based on what their villagers want. “HHP” is a lot of fun because it not only gives you the chance to interact more with your beloved villagers, but it’s simply mindless fun. Mindless fun is something that I think would benefit a lot of games, even if it’s just a stupid minigame. Stuff like this allows those who are burnt out from the games they love to keep playing them, if they so choose, by providing the same feel of the game but without effort.

I enjoy the soundtrack of New Horizons. The song that plays when you load up the game is catchy enough to get stuck in your head and not annoying enough to drive you crazy. The game also has a variety of collectible tunes that you can buy from the Resident Services machine, each having its theme and concept. Something unique about these is that they are “sung” by K.K Slider himself. The singing itself is interesting as it’s not typical singing, it’s more of a beep that sounds like words. Nonetheless, it’s charming and cute to listen to.

Animal Crossing games generally do very well, but I’ll be honest, I still don’t know where I stand with them. I’m sure that whatever rating I give ‘New Horizons’ will change later as my opinion of it is constantly shifting. Right now, I’m giving it an 8/10 for graphics and 5/10 for gameplay, so overall I think a 7/10 for New Horizons is fitting. If you’re looking for a calming game to spend hours and hours of your life on, then I recommend picking up “ACNH.”