Thoughts on Animal Crossings: New Horizons

At the start of every day, I see what news, if any, Tom Nook has for me. Usually it’s nothing. He’ll then close out his morning announcement with some sort of ‘neat’ advice about how to do a menial task a little less menial-ly. I make my way around the island, sloppily laid out with a grotesque shotgunning of coconut, apple, bamboo, and cherry trees in no pattern or pleasant arrangement. Each tree is shaken and/or whacked for its goods. Holes around the island of Cozomozo are dug up, revealing their bounties of fossils and Bells (or recently the unfortunate abundance of annoyingly-present Candy Eggs).

The dug-up fossils get assessed by the local museum curator, an owl named Blathers, who prattles on endlessly (as is his wont), surveys the various bones for anything new before sending me on my way, his collection marginally improved.

Once 8AM hits, I take my burdens, loaded carefully in my altogether-too-small personal storage, to Nook’s Cranny. The two proprietors, Timmy and Tommy Nook, assess my wares and offer me some Bells in exchange for all of my excess shit.

By 9AM, the rest of the day can be used for fishing, catching bugs, earning Nook Miles, visiting other islands (which are mostly boring flower-laden spits of land), and, well, simply not playing Animal Crossing.

This is all occurring in real-time, and there are advantages and disadvantages of playing at particular times of day and on particular days of the week.

To some people this kind of game is tedious and boring. Some find it over-cutesy, kind of weird, ‘not their thing,’ etc. Usually I personally love these kinds of games, but there’s a few things about Animal Crossing: New Horizons that keep it right around the Good-but-never-Great area.

As somebody who pretty much only plays single-player games, preferably of the “chill,” play-at-your-own-pace variety, I was intrigued by what ACNH had to offer. It was the first game of the franchise in a number of years, and since I’d been pining for a new Switch game to pass the time, this felt like the ideal fit.

I’ve been playing for a couple weeks now, and here’s my thoughts:

  • So I definitely feel as if I’ve walked into an established world that I’m drastically unfamiliar with. Not to say the game isn’t welcoming – far, far from it. Are there other people? Is my character a human? What were the origins of the world I am apparently inhabiting? Thankfully any existential questions one might have about the Animal Crossing world are absolutely meaningless, because the game doesn’t delve into itself seriously at all. The point is that you’re here, you’re cozy and happy, and the game’s world is simply here for you to enjoy as little or as much as you want.
  • The real-time aspect of the game is in some ways enormously satisfying, but in other ways it’s a needless wait. When I’m done with any sort of harvesting or similar activities for the day, I basically am stuck waiting for the next day. There IS a way around that, which tons of people have employed – “Time Travel.” Basically you go into your Switch’s settings and manually set the date/time to whatever you want. Next time you boot up Animal Crossing, it’s the future. I tried this precisely once, and I found the experience of ‘cheating’ very unsatisfying. I realized that I like the tradition of getting up in the morning and doing the work, and it was a tiny thing I got to look forward to every day.
  • There’s a ton of stuff online about how people have beautified their homes and I simply have no idea where this becomes a viable option. My assumption is that those that have these awesome setups (for their characters to do…what exactly?) have Time Traveled out the wazoo, so for now my house is simply a cluttered pile of mess, which is fine – I’m never in it anyway.
  • Since I’m playing real time, I’m curious: Are there seasons? Part of why I adore Stardew Valley is the transition between seasons is so enormously satisfying, complete with total tonal change in both music, world color, and ‘feel.’
  • The game’s community hasn’t opened up for me in Animal Crossing, so I can’t quite judge it. I’m guessing that’s part of the endgame, but I’m nowhere near that.

Anyways, there’s some thoughts on Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

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