My last article was a glowing review of Animal Crossing as a whole. Rather than continuing to gush about this great series like the professionals are likely doing, I’m going to keep this as critical as possible.
Let’s start with why I’m bitter: I preloaded my digital download weeks in advance so that I could play the game as soon as it was available. Some retailers released physical copies early and those folks were able to play the game before me, the person who chose the environmentally friendly option.
That’s okay. I used my waiting time wisely: with more Pocket Camp and by making themed cupcakes for the occasion. Once I learned that some of my friends got their physical copies from GameStop early, I started periodically checking to see if Nintendo would show me the same kindness. By 11:50pm, I was checking every minute. Imagine my frustration when at 12:05am, I still did not have access. In fact, I was unable to play this game until 12:09am.
In hindsight, it was good that I opted to play at launch because a lot of this game is waiting. The days reset at 5am ET so players who played prior to that had a one-day head start, which matters when rivers and hilltops separate the bulk of the map.
I have mixed feelings about the initial limitations on the map. On one hand, it’s nice that the map starts small because it allows players to ease themselves into the game. On the other hand, players run out of things to do really quickly.
The game gets repeatable quests as soon as the player opts to become a homeowner. It makes the Animal Crossing grind slightly more bearable by offering “Nook miles,” a secondary currency that can be used to unlock features such as a favorites bar and a custom design creator. The best Nook miles reward is a plane ticket that can be used to travel to random, uninhabited islands, meaning that you do not need to play online to access foreign fruits.
Crafting also adds a new element of gameplay. Rather than running back to the Nook family to replace a broken axe, players can build whatever they need from the comfort of their DIY workbench. Recipes can be purchased, found in the world, earned from quests, given during dialogue with villagers, or inspired when obtaining the item.
Local co-op is possible but I do not recommend it. While switching party leaders is done in two shakes of a lamb’s tail joy-con, it gets old switching every time P2 wants to check their Nook Phone or craft anything. There are times where P2 just stands there, unable to do anything, because P1 is swapping tools or in the Resident Services tent. The worst part about local co-op is that leaving the island can only be done in single-player mode.
Realistically, do not buy this game planning to play using local co-op. Like in New Leaf, P1 is in charge of all major decisions. Player 1 has to play the game to progress the island and P2 can just help contribute resources. There is also only one island allowed per Switch so it’s not like P2 can do their own thing if they want to be in charge. The working theory in my household is that this is a ploy to sell more consoles.
I am convinced that the local co-op is intentionally bad to keep Pocket Camp as a staple in our lives. While my partner is doing one of the many things that keep my player stationary, I can get caught up on the gyroid scavenger hunt event. Speaking of gyroids, where are my woodwind friends?
Disappointment and boredom aside, everyone should get Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Online play is a great way to socialize while practicing social distancing. You can either download the Switch Online app to send in-game IMs to your friends from your real cell phone or you can use Discord outside of the Switch for voice chat. Need friends? Check the Reddit /r/animalcrossing.