Games in Nintendo's “Animal Crossing” series have never been finishable in an all-nighter or a weekend. In “Animal Crossing” the game never ends and it’s impossible to experience the full extent of the game’s content inside of just a few weeks or even more.
“Animal Crossing” follows the real-world clock and progresses in real time, so it takes hours upon hours of gameplay and months of time to pass to know whether the game achieves its goals. We first reviewed “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” inside a week of its release, and since we didn’t receive an early copy or commit the cardinal sin of time traveling, the review only covered the beginning stages of the game.
Now this reviewer has over 150 hours in “Animal Crossing: New Horizons" on their Nintendo Switch and is no longer living in a cramped tent with an endless sea of debt to Tom Nook. When the game first began, progress was extremely slow, even when compared to other “Animal Crossing” games. A focus was placed on gathering raw materials across a deserted island to make improvements, new buildings and custom furniture. Now that gameplay experience is mostly gone, and I can’t remember the last time I swung a stone ax at a tree to collect wood.
However, the slower start made what the game is now more rewarding. “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” has evolved from gathering sticks on a barren rock to living in a bustling island community you feel accomplished to step foot in whenever loading up the game in the morning as part of a daily routine. With a more developed setting, the activities somehow seem even more endless than when the whole game felt ahead of you. But, the game’s issues have also made themselves more apparent.
There’s no major glaring issues with “Animal Crossing: New Horizons,” however, there’s many small annoyances that add up. Not being able to craft multiple items at a time, island visits taking forever due to lengthy dialogue and long loading times and other quality of life improvements players have pointed out could be made to give the game a more streamlined experience.
The game feels lacking when it comes to the villagers that inhabit your island. Many have repeated dialogue and similar personalities, not making for much variety outside of appearance. The ability to place furniture outside has heavily increased the fun of the game, but seeing villagers still sitting on the ground after you’ve detailed your island with cozy spots to relax breaks immersion. It would be cool to see jock villagers using workout equipment or villagers taking a dip in the pool you worked hard to buy, rather than roaming the island aimlessly.
The villagers whom we’ve loved since the day they stepped foot on our islands are a different breed though. Whenever I’m away for too long, I legitimately miss Del the purple alligator or Snooty the pink anteater.
Some players may not have liked a single villager who moved into their island, but an unforeseen aspect of the game has taken over a lot of player’s gametime: the black market villager trade. An entire tier list has been created for popularity of the game’s villagers, equating to how many Nook Miles Tickets or bells they usually are traded for in the game’s Discord server. Those with sought after villagers will trade them to other players for hundreds of Nook Miles Tickets used to island hop in search of whatever villager they really want. Fulfilling your wishlist of villagers becomes a huge aspect of the game for those attempting it and adds an unintended layer of gameplay on top of the many intended layers.
And when it comes to the intended layers, there’s still a lot more to experience even several months into the game. Fall and winter seasons are still ahead, there’s still fish, bugs and works of art to collect, and even though many may have a five-star-rated island or an S-rank from the Happy Home Academy, the spaces themselves are still evolving as more DIY-recipes are learned and furniture is purchased. I still have many construction projects in mind for my island even though it seems complete to visitors, but the constantly evolving setting gives a lived-in feeling unlike anything else.
While the game’s current stage feels completely different to when it began, the same case will be true when viewing the game a year from now. “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” is honestly a game that could receive several more reviews later on, a true testament to the unique experience it offers.