I wasn’t going to write a review of this game; I mean, how could I? Is it even possible to review a game that has no end? That is experiential and follows real-time? It’s impossible, but I did want talk about Animal Crossing: New Horizons in some form. So, consider this more of a “first impressions” rather than a full-fledged, extensive review. I am currently in day 5 since the conception of my island, appropriately named Hilo after a town in Hawaii I was fortunate enough to vacation at. There has been a lot of progression even now, looking back on all I have accomplished in these very short days. And that is something I would like to highlight. This new entry in the Animal Crossing franchise has a steady stream of progression at every turn, and you will rarely find naught to be done.
If you have played an Animal Crossing before, you already know how inexplicably fun and addictive these games are. Where else are you given what are essentially chores, that deliver a lot of fun and relaxation. There was no perfect time to release New Horizons than in this age of uncertainty, where many people are in lockdown or self-isolation. Instead of going about your daily routines, the hustle and bustle of everyday capitalist life, and striving for financial comfort; you are now tasked with staying home, which is for the betterment of all humanity. You are literally saving lives by hunkering down in a warm-knit blanket, sipping a morning coffee as you escape to this fairytale island. And oh, what an escape this is. You will develop new routines, as in-game tasks open up to you and must be completed. It is the perfect distraction to what may otherwise have serious ramifications on the mental health of many individuals. Timing could not be any better.
The game revolves around a character whom you create at the onset. You are offered an Island Getaway Package that entails moving to a secluded island with two other anthropomorphic strangers. In your time here you will create relationships with your brand-new villager companions, newcomers, and in-real-life friends who have also chosen to purchase the game. This game is an experience and can only be described as a life-simulation; however, it is much more than that when you consider all it has to offer. Tom Nook of Resident Services sends you on your way with direction to locate a spot you can see yourself settling down in. Once this is completed you are given the choice of where your villager companions can set up shop. You eventually learn how to craft your own furniture and tools, send letters, and visit other islands in your journey to collect everything and expand your horizons. In all honesty, the game must be experienced for a better idea of what it’s all about.
The graphical fidelity is far beyond anything we have seen in previous entries. Everything looks clean, polished, and all around impressive in its child-friendly, cartoonish style. The new improvements are evident in the items you collect, the wildlife you capture, and the trees. Oh my god, THE TREES. The leaves rustle in the wind and fall from the branches when the trunk is shaken. Minor details, yes, but they go a long way in making an experience that is both immersive and charming at the same time. And this game drips in charm. The music has had an overhaul, sounding more fluent and pleasing to the ears than in previous years. The islanders all speak in their signature language that consists of each individual phoneme interlocking and strung out quickly. It is incredibly charming, albeit seemingly annoying to people on the outside looking in.
When it comes to replay value, the randomly generated worlds and character appearances make this game incredibly enjoyable to start anew. In a game that demands progression, even at your own pace, I don’t see why anyone would want to restart though. Of course the game can be replayed ad infinitum and still be enjoyable, but the real treasure here is in the constant progress that is made in the development of this deserted island and the relationships you build with the various characters. It is compelling to continue to progress, and therefore draws the player back in at the turn of each day. It is not only replayable in the sense that you can restart from scratch and still have a good time, but that the player is compelled to advance in the game, day after day, for the rest of eternity should they so wish.
My first impressions of Animal Crossing: New Horizons is that it is the definitive entry to date, and any longtime fan will find an endless amount of content to enjoy here. Newcomers to the series are also likely to enjoy themselves if they are looking for an escape from the dark times we are living in now. This time will pass, and there is no better way to pass the time than with Animal Crossing.
Replay Value: 5/5
Total: 24/25 or 96/100
Note: I have only completed 5 days of the game (I am no time traveler), so the number score may not reflect the actual quality of the game going forward; however, I have unabashedly sunk around 20 hours into the game so far (that’s the self-isolation life for you) and am an adherent that this is more than enough time to offer my opinion.