With Animal Crossing New Horizons for Nintendo Switch just days away, we can finally reveal what we thought of this long-awaited game. Is it the best opus of the license? Is it worth it if you're not a fan of Tom Nook and don't know anything about Tinker Bell? After more than sixty hours of play, here's our verdict.
Please note that the online features have not yet been tested. We will update this test shortly after March 20th.
- Genre: Simulation, Animals
- Release date: March 20, 2020
- Platform: Nintendo Switch
- Developer: Nintendo
- Publisher: Nintendo
- Price: $59,99
- Tested on : Nintendo Switch
Welcome to a familiar territory (or unfamiliar territory?)
Why change a winning recipe? Like a Pokémon game that always starts the same way, Animal Crossing is no exception to the rule - and it's not meant to be a nuisance! While the scenario will be familiar to all fans of the franchise, Nintendo has broken new ground on many things to make a game that everyone will enjoy.
Animal Crossing New Horizons is the perfect blend of everything that worked in previous games, and everything they lacked. As a player of Wild World or New Leaf, you will immediately appreciate the efforts that have been made on the gameplay and the progression in the game. And if you discover the franchise by reading these lines, you will understand, in the next few paragraphs, why so many people are hysterical about this strange game where our neighbors are talking to animals.
We then find ourselves in unknown but familiar territory since this game proposes us to see faces we know well (Tom Nook, Isabelle, Blathers and so on) while adding new characters. The link with the previous games is very strong, and fans will immediately understand the various references, but it's not present to the point of upsetting the newcomers.
Animal Crossing New Horizons is therefore both a guarantee to thrill fans from the very beginning, but also to convert newcomers. Everything has been sublimated, everything has been thought out so that each player finds something special to do that suits him. Whether you want to find fossils, fully complete your Museum, build bridges, collect shells, fish for sharks, catch tarantulas, talk to your neighbors, pay off your loan to enlarge your house, water your flowers, cut down trees, take pictures, look at the sky to find a shooting star, or write letters to your friends. .. Anything is possible in Animal Crossing, and that's what makes the game indescribable. Any fan of the franchise won't be able to explain why it's so special because the game experience is so different for everyone. One thing is for sure: the game is addictive and makes you come back every day.
Anyway, right away, we find ourselves face to face with Tommy and Timmy asking us some information about our profile before embarking for a desert island. New feature: it's possible to choose your appearance, the configuration of our island, a pseudonym up to 10 characters long, and your hemisphere (North or South so that the seasons correspond to reality).
The scenario is the same: you land on an island (a village in the previous games) and you have to start from scratch: find enough objects to earn money and pay off your debts to get a house, enlarge it and still pay off your debts. Here, the situation is even more challenging since you land on a totally deserted island. Fortunately, you will be accompanied by two animals, who will then become your neighbours but who, like you, will only have a small tent and a bunk to survive. Completely untouched, your objective will be to make the island welcoming in order to bring new inhabitants, to build interesting buildings such as Shops, a Museum or a Camping.
You'll have to work hard to collect enough Bells (game money) and pay off your loans. This brings us to THE great new feature of the game: Crafting. Necessary for the progression of the scenario and the use of the tools (fishing rod, net, shovel etc...), the crafting system is a smart addition that increases the game's life even more. The starting tools are then flimsy and will break after only a few uses. It will be necessary to find a way to reinforce its and to store materials in order to make new ones at any time.
In conclusion, everything reminds us that we are on familiar ground (even the bad puns our character makes every time he catches an insect/fish), and yet we realize that a lot has changed for the better in order to bring THE thing that was missing.
A unique game with a good progression system
This brings us to the progression system in Animal Crossing New Horizons. The game is in fact composed of several objectives to be fulfilled but the player's ultimate goal will be to reach total freedom by being able to shape his island as he wishes. But before reaching this building permit, you will have to go through many steps.
Once your tent is set up, your Nookphone will be delivered and the adventure can finally begin. Tom Nook will teach you how to use his workbench to make tools and various items, and you can start collecting materials, fishing for fish and catching insects to sell. Your first loan can then be repaid and you'll have access to a larger house. Your neighbours the animals are progressing as you do, and it's nice to see that they're struggling to make their houses bigger as you are, too.
While Bells can be used to buy a lot of things and pay off your loans, there is also a second currency in the game: Nook Miles. This is another new feature that makes the progression system very powerful. You can collect Miles every time you complete a daily success or achievment. For example, by catching X number of fish, you will unlock a success. By bursting X number of balloons in the sky, you will unlock another one. And every day, you can collect Miles simply by completing challenges such as "collecting so many pieces of wood", "watering so many flowers" etc...
The Miles you collect will allow you to buy special items, DIY Recipes to expand your inventory or unlock hairstyles for example, but most importantly, Nook Miles Tickets. These tickets are necessary to travel to another island. By contacting the Dodo at the airport, you can then travel to a mystery island. There you will sometimes find new fruits, tropical flowers, bamboo, rare insects and fish and precious materials for your crafts.
Animal Crossing New Horizons is unique because it brings together players from all horizons. Whether you are a collector, an adventurer, an animal lover, a fishing enthusiast, or simply someone looking for a quiet corner, you will find what you are looking for. Let's talk about the collection! Completing Animal Crossing 100% means succeeding in filling your Museum entirely (and thus discovering all the fish, insects and fossils), getting all the furniture and clothes available in the game, having unlocked all the special buildings, and if you want to go further: having seen at least once every available inhabitant. In short, you might as well say that the game's life is almost infinite, unless you decide to cheat by speeding up the time of your console. But that would be to lose the very essence of Animal Crossing: a real-time game.
A last point regarding progression: you will not have access to your whole island from the beginning. You will have to advance in the scenario in order to unlock useful tools such as the Jumping Pole or the ladder to cross rivers and climb cliffs. The most enjoyable moment in Animal Crossing is the moment when you realise that you have taken over your island/village, and this feeling is reinforced in this game as it will take time before you can access all parts of the island.
A different game experience every day
Animal Crossing is therefore a real-time game. This means that when it's 8am at home, it will also be 8am in the game. Too complicated to set up, the real time weather system is not available, but it's a good point: when it rains outside at home, it's better to see that it's sunny in the game, isn't it? Anyway, the strong point of the franchise lies precisely in this temporality. For a few hours, we're in a bubble while being aware of the time it is outside and of our real life. Animal Crossing is the relaxing moment of the day, a relaxing moment that can sometimes last for hours as the game is addictive.
Everything has been designed to energize the gameplay and never get tired of anything: the music changes every hour, Special Characters regularly come to the island, the available fish and insects vary according to the time of day, the season and the weather, balloons with gifts often pass in the sky, the materials available in the trees, rocks or in the ground are renewed every day, the items on sale also change daily, and the game obviously has seasonal events not to be missed.
However, there is a small negative point: the interactivity of the animals (neighbours). As in the previous games, the inhabitants are a little less talkative but this improves once you can welcome a certain number of them on the island. You will still be able to help them from time to time by delivering gifts to another neighbour, offering them objects or answering their questions. Sometimes they'll even give you DIY Recipes that you can craft.
And always in the spirit of making the game more dynamic, the neighbours can move whenever they want (it's up to you to hold them back or not), and you can evict an inhabitant who disturbs you. This way, the same animals will never populate your island.
And if you get a little bored with island life, you can bring friends or family to your island to build their own homes. Please note that only one save per system is available: it's impossible to create multiple islands on the same Nintendo Switch. A progress that could have been made on this console anyway, as every player dreams of having their own island... Bad point.
The co-op game will then be accessible and you'll be able to explore the island in pairs (or more depending on the number of joy-con available) locally. In the same way, with the online features, it's possible to bring up to 7 other players to your island to have fun together!
And if the Camera option was'nt the most expected by the fans, it's still very handy.
A fully customized gaming experience
Let's finish with the beauty and strength of Animal Crossing. As stated earlier in this review, each game experience is unique and individual. Not only does our own experience change every day, but it's also possible to personalize it to the maximum. In a few weeks, we will see pictures of the players' islands and not one of them will look the same. The terraforming allowing you to change the terrain and the hundreds of infrastructures available will give you the possibility to create the island of your dreams. Whether it's all in concrete or a Japanese style zen place, everything is customizable.
As for the avatar, you no longer need the hairdresser, since you can change your style at any time. Many clothes are available and if you're not satisfied, you can always create Patterns to personalize them. You will also be able to unlock new hairstyles and hair colours to create the perfect avatar for you. Furniture, too, is of course customizable: whether it's with designs or with customization kits, you can change the color and even the texture of your items.
And all these characteristics are sublimated by the absolutely perfect maniability of this game. Moves, shortcuts to use objects, action buttons, everything is fluid and intuitive. Moreover, there is no latency and loading times are very short.
However, the Nintendo Switch's tactile aspect is a major drawback. After all, the system was designed with an all-touch screen. Why didn't they take advantage of this? It would have been so nice to be able to move the furniture around your house with a stylus, for example. But don't worry, it doesn't spoil the fun.
In short, in Animal Crossing New Horizons everything is simply possible.
With fully customizable gameplay and a game experience that changes daily, Animal Crossing New Horizons is the perfect companion for a dream life. Having kept the basics and the principles of the franchise, Nintendo has introduced some great new features that allow even more total immersion in this bubble of tranquility. Whether it's with the ability to shape your island as you wish, more customisation than ever before, or the addition of a crafting system, while keeping the basics of the franchise, this new game fully meets the expectations of fans and will even manage to convert even the most sceptical.
Just one month before the release of the eagerly awaited Animal Crossing New Horizons for Nintendo Switch, a new trailer has been posted on the official YouTube channel.