By Lucy Fleischmann
As coronavirus continues to spread, people are fishing in their local rivers, shopping for furniture to decorate their tents and throwing beach parties with dozens of their closest friends.
No, they’re not breaking quarantine — they’re playing Animal Crossing.
Released on March 20, “New Horizons” is the sixth installment of Nintendo’s popular “Animal Crossing” video game series. In the new game, players are the head of their own deserted island.
Available on the Nintendo Switch, the game allows users to build or buy furniture to personalize their island, make tools from materials, such as wood and stone, and complete a variety of quests. Much like the previous installments, players can also collect bugs, fish and fossils to place in their island’s museum. These features allow for a casual gameplay experience, inviting users to play at their own pace.
“New Horizons” has been a fun diversion during this period of quarantine that allows me to virtually connect with friends and family, live out my dream of designing a home and spend more time “outside.”
With new events happening at all hours of the day, I can’t seem to put the game down. As someone who has played every title in the series, I applaud Nintendo for adding such fun elements while maintaining the simplicity that attracted me to the game 15 years ago.
“New Horizons” includes several new features. For the first time in a Nintendo series, players are genderless, with the option to have a feminine or masculine face and hair styles. This was a necessary improvement, as today’s social climate has become increasingly accepting of different gender identities.
New tools in the game include a vaulting pole and ladder, which allow players to reach new heights in search of fun. I’ve made a point to turn my upper levels into a shopping district and an open air pizza parlor.
This new edition allows more than one player can use the same console at once. In previous incarnations of “Animal Crossing,” users would take turns playing the game or play online with other friends who owned the game on their own devices. That feature is still available, but it has more options for the visiting players, such as cross-island development.
The last two game in the series— WiiU’s “Amiibo Party” and the mobile “Pocket Camp” — received mixed feedback, as many of their crucial elements had to be purchased in order to further gameplay. “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” is a perfect addition, receiving a ton of positive reviews and securing a 91 rating on Metacritic.
While there are many familiar faces in “New Horizons,” the game is missing a few key characters from the previous installments. Town Secretary Isabelle (who also became a fighter in Nintendo’s “Super Smash Brothers Ultimate”), stylish sisters Mabel and Sable, and the lovable but ill-tempered Mr. Resetti are missing in the first few days of gameplay. However, these characters are accounted for later in the game as the player progresses in his or her island.
“Animal Crossing: New Horizons” could not have come out at a better time. The simple game play makes for an exciting escape from the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.