The Healing Powers of Animal Crossing: New Horizons

By Percy Mohn

Elm Staff Writer

On March 23, Nintendo’s long-awaited game finally released. Announced back in 2018, Animal Crossing: New Horizons could not have released at a better time.

With many people stuck in quarantine and social distancing, Animal Crossing: New Horizons provides a much-needed escape from our reality, which is currently overtaken by the pandemic. If you have access to a Nintendo Switch and enough money for a new video game, you may want to consider purchasing the latest installment in the Animal Crossing franchise.

For newcomers to the series, Animal Crossing is a life simulation game, in which you, the player, move to a village populated by animals. You can name your town, meet cute animal friends, and build your very own house. Other activities include fishing in the streams and oceans, catching bugs, and even finding fossils. In addition to those activities, Animal Crossing games offer you opportunities to customize your appearance and your house with cute clothes and furniture.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is no exception to this pattern, except that instead of taking control of an entire village, you take control of your very own deserted island. Compared to most Animal Crossing games, you start off with practically nothing. Some fans of the series found this choice questionable, as stated in an article by Samuel Claiborn from IGN.

He said the new game is “ a different vibe than moving to a new town already full of bustling shops and animals going about their lives, and while building a town from scratch offers a lot of customization, it takes too long to get to the good stuff.”

When you start up the game, it is only you, two random villagers, and three raccoons who set up shop to help you through the basics. I will admit I was a little off put by the lack of, well, everything on this island. It truly was as deserted as advertised. Instead of a small house to sleep in, you are only given a small tent and a cot.

However, what Claiborn described as a slow start was not unenjoyable in the slightest. As someone who has played Animal Crossing religiously since its initial release on the Nintendo DS in 2005, this game offers exciting new opportunities not offered in previous installments.

The game’s main new mechanic is crafting. You must go around the island and collect materials to build your tools, some furniture, and even some outdoor amenities like bridges. After a few days, you will get the ability to customize almost any piece furniture you build. Ever since getting this option, I have been making every piece of furniture I own match my house’s chic aesthetic. I could even customize what the papers on my writing desk looked like.

I am not the only one who loves the new freedom I have over customization. Russ Frushtick of Polygon described his joy over the amount of customization in the game when he said, “The do-it-yourself furniture crafting systems in this game are lovely. They give me a feeling of ownership over the objects I create, letting me customize small details, right down to the design on the bedsheets.”

It is the littlest details that make this game incredibly charming. As I run through my island, my character’s hair sways with each movement. You can see the individual leaves blowing through the trees. The animals look like they are fuzzy, not just plain 3D models. There are so many more details I could list, but these tiny specifics show the dedication and care put into the game. Animal Crossing: New Horizons feels like a love letter to the fans of old and is incredibly inviting to newcomers.

This care has not gone unnoticed as well. As reported by Tom Phillips at Eurogamer, Animal Crossing: New Horizons has the second biggest Switch launch ever, behind only Pokémon Sword and Shield which released in November 2019. Compared to the other games in the series, New Horizons’ launch sales are greater than every other installment in the series combined.

Perhaps my favorite aspect of this new game is the multiplayer aspect. If you have a subscription to Nintendo Switch Online, you can visit your friends’ islands or any player’s island who gives out their code. My friends and I have spent hours running around our islands, hunting bugs with each other, trading fruit, and obnoxiously playing our in-game ocarinas at each other.

During this quarantine, Animal Crossing: New Horizons has cultivated the perfect way to be social while distanced. For a moment, while my friend continuously hit me with his bug net, I did not feel so isolated.

Animal Crossing has simulated a peaceful life experience amid fear of COVID-19. So, if you need some stress relief, consider picking up Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

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