March 20 is an exciting day for video game fans worldwide for two equally exciting reasons. Bethesda and Nintendo, two well known and popular companies, are releasing highly anticipated games on the same day: “Doom Eternal,” a fantastic sequel to 2016’s immensely popular shooter “Doom” and “Animal Crossing: New Horizons,” the first mainline “Animal Crossing” game in eight years. Fans of both are hyped, as many debate which game is worth sinking $60 and countless hours into first. But look no further than Nintendo’s 27 minute showcase of their new island paradise, and the choice seems obvious.
In it, Nintendo treats us with a three part demonstration which expanded upon already known aspects of the game, showed off never before seen activities and features, and ended in an FAQ about specific gameplay mechanics. IGN said it had “massive potential” while not departing too far from what kept the previous games so popular, and I completely agree. The “Animal Crossing” games have a certain sense of nostalgia around them, as players often put in dozens of hours getting to know their villagers and watching their town grow. It was good to see Nintendo stick with what worked so well in the past.
On paper, “Animal Crossing” sounds extremely boring. You are a villager in a town full of animals, working to pay off the debt you accrue from your realtor and overlord, Tom Nook. Gameplay consists of living day to day collecting creatures, buying furniture and clothes, and chatting up your neighbors. It is essentially a very cartoonish version of real life, with a real time clock and calendar in game tracking every minute and day. But what seems to be a chore simulator on paper, turned out in actuality to be one of the most popular games by Nintendo — which is saying quite a lot — and one of my personal favorite games ever.
This new installment of the franchise is set on an island, you start from scratch with almost nothing, besides a tent and two neighbors, rather than joining a well established town like in previous games. At first I was worried it might lead to slower gameplay or a lack of content at the beginning, but it seems like the opposite. The direct showed off how new villagers, shops and features will become available throughout the game as time passes, creating a nice sense of progression and making you really feel like you’re building up a town from nothing.
My earliest memories playing video games are of “Pokemon” on my Gameboy and the original “Animal Crossing” on the Gamecube, which I played with my mom. These two games took up an unhealthy amount of time during my childhood, Animal Crossing especially. My mom and I would trade off playing while I was at school and she was at work, putting in hundreds of hours over several years. Her favorite activity to do in the town — which I artfully named Cityville — was to pick weeds. Mine was going fishing.
“Animal Crossing” is one of those games that ages with you and appeals to all audiences. At eight years old, I loved catching bugs and selling them to the museum to live out their days in a small cage for eternity. At 20, I cannot wait to try and hunt tarantulas destined for the same fate, inevitably resulting in me running away in fear as they assert their dominance. Nintendo knows that the audience for “Animal Crossing” has only grown over the years, and the announcement of a new “Animal Crossing” game back in 2018 made the fanbase erupt in wonderment of what could be in store for us this time.
Back then, the game had no name, much less a look at gameplay or even an idea of what the game would be like — until the reveal trailer dropped 8 months ago. I could not get enough of that trailer, only a minute and 45 seconds long, it seemed to show barely anything, but to those who knew what to look for, it showed everything. From different overall straps, proving a unique customization system to each article of clothing, to clay pathways being hand built and new types of bugs, there was a lot to digest. Digest I did. I spent hours and hours watching 15 minute long graphical analysis videos and the countless compilations showing off the hundreds of new items they displayed ever so subtly.
But now, we have been flooded with information and merchandise, from the breathtaking “Animal Crossing” themed Nintendo Switch, to special themed items from stores when you pre-order the game, to even 20 minute long clips of unedited gameplay. Nintendo has been more than happy to show off the game in its entirety, especially with their long and detailed direct at the end of February, just a month before launch.
Some of the other new features are very promising, such as the ability to have up to 7 other players live on your island, each with their own homes and progression into the game, as well as the ability to mold and customize the island itself, creating waterfalls and cliffs out of thin air. This game appears to be themed around making your own personal island that is totally unique to your game, and I can’t wait to see how everyone’s towns differ from each other in fun and surprising ways I never even thought possible.
“Animal Crossing New Horizons” is looking to be the most unique and customizable game I’ve seen in years, all while preserving the nostalgia and core gameplay that keeps me coming back to Cityville 10 years later, and will keep you coming back to your island if you give it the chance.
Nate Duggins is an Opinion Intern for the 2020 winter quarter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.