Animal Crossing: New Horizons

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Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the eighth and most recent game of a popular social simulation game franchise for Nintendo video game systems. The Nintendo Switch version of the game comes with many of the same elements and characters fans of the franchise have grown to love (and hate) over the years. Released on March 20, 2020, the game became especially popular due to the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing players to simulate being outside and socializing with friends in neighbors in an era of social distancing and stay at home orders.

The first Animal Crossing game came out in 2001 in Japan for Nintendo 64 and was later updated and released for the GameCube system. In the next three years, versions for North America, Europe, and Australia were released. Animal Crossing: Wild World, a new version for the Nintendo DS released in 2005, introduced online play to the game series. Two more main versions of the game, Animal Crossing: City Folk (2008) and Animal Crossing: New Leaf (2012), followed for the Nintendo Wii and Nintendo 3DS, respectively. The series also includes spin-off games Happy Home Designer for Nintendo 3DS, Pocket Camp for mobile, and Amiibo Festival for Wii U.

How do you play 'Animal Crossing: New Horizons'?

A common question among the uninitiated is "would I like Animal Crossing: New Horizons?" and the easiest answer is, if you like games with a lot of action, violence, and tension, you probably won't enjoy this game. But if first-person shooters and fighting games stress you out, Animal Crossing is probably more your speed. 

Players perform low-stakes tasks like planting flowers, chopping down trees, catching fish and bugs, and shopping for clothes and furniture in a colorful world populated by anthropomorphic animal characters. At the beginning of this version of the game, a Japanese raccoon dog, or tanuki, named Tom Nook sells you on an island vacation giveaway, whisking you and two other adventurers to a remote island that turns out to be... pretty rustic. As you advance in the game, Tom will encourage (some would say "gently extort") you to develop the island by building homes for potential new villagers, beautifying the landscape, and building businesses for the community.

Animal Crossing in-game characters:

In addition to the villagers you start with and those who eventually come to live on your island (which are randomly generated from over 300 potential villagers of various species and personality), there are several in-game characters every player will eventually encounter:

  • Tom Nook — A tanuki and the person behind your island adventure. He can be found in the large green tent in the plaza, which will eventually become the Residential Services building as your island evolves.
  • Timmy and Tommy Nook — Tom's nephews who help their uncle run the retail side of things and eventually open their own shop on the island, Nook's Cranny.
  • Blathers — An owl who opens a museum on the island where you will donate new specimens of fish, insects, and fossils found on the island
  • The Able Sisters  — Mabel, Sable, and Label / Labelle Able are hedgehogs with a tragic backstory. Two of the sisters, Mabel and Sable will first have a temporary stall and eventually a brick and mortar shop on the island, whereas their wayward sister Label, a fashion designer, will eventually visit to give you her "Label challenge."
  • Isabelle — A dog who eventually moves to the island once you expand your residential services tent to its own building. She handles general island announcements and residential affairs, while Tom focuses on construction and infrastructure changes.
  • Celeste — Blathers' sister, who visits whenever there is a meteor shower in your town. She teaches you how to get star fragments by wishing on shooting stars, and provides DIY recipes for using the fragments.
  • Flick — A chameleon who loves bugs. He will buy insects from you for twice the normal price and construct statues of bugs if you give him three of the same kind. He also hosts occasional Bug-Off bug-catching tournaments.
  • CJ — Flick's partner and friend, CJ runs the quarterly fishing tourney and also visits occasionally to buy fish at double price, issue fishing challenges, and sell fish statues made by Flick.
  • K.K. Slider — a dog and the most popular songwriter in the world as far as animals are concerned. His recordings are available to buy in the game and eventually, once your island is cool enough, he'll come to visit every week to play a concert in the plaza.
  • Orville and Wilbur — two dodos who operate Dodo Airlines, allowing you to visit random mystery island or visit your friends' islands and receive visitors through online or local play.
  • Kicks —A skunk who occasionally visits to sell shoes, bags, and accessories not available at Able Sisters.
  • Saharah — A camel who occasionally arrives to sell wallpaper, flooring, and rugs.
  • Daisy Mae — a runny-nosed piglet who sells turnips on Sunday on behalf of her grandmother, Sow Joan, who runs Sow Joan's Stalk Market.
  • Gulliver — A seagull who is constantly getting shipwrecked on your island and asking your help to find the scattered parts of his communicator so he can get in contact with his crew.
  • Wisp — an easily frightened ghost that will split into five pieces when you encounter him and ask you to collect and return his spirit pieces to him.
  • Leif — a sloth who will visit on Earth Day.


What is the point of 'Animal Crossing'? Does it end?

What is the point of any video game? But in all seriousness, the central point of gameplay is to build your island up to achieve a five-star rating, tend to the plants and wildlife, and generally see to it that all the villagers are happy. There is no true end to the game, even after you achieve a five-star rating. There is always something to do to improve your island or you can simply spend hours catching fish and releasing them back into the water if you like. It's low stakes, but very cute, very entertaining, and at times, oddly satisfying.


How do you chat in Animal Crossing?

While there is not a voice chat function on Nintendo Switch, players can type messages to their friends online, or they can use the Nintendo Switch Online mobile app to initiate voice chat or more easily type text messages to friends they're playing with online.

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