By DAVID MIN
The Animal Crossing series has always done a fantastic job at offering players a laid-back, relaxing experience through its day-to-day events, and New Horizons for the Switch is no exception. The premise is largely the same as before: you, the player, are persuaded into buying into the schemes of local proprietor Tom Nook. This time around, instead of moving into a city like previous installments, New Horizons places the player on a deserted island with three greedy raccoons, a buff hippopotamus, and a koala. The island has no buildings or structures, besides the tents of the inhabitants, and it’s your job to build it up into the paradise of your dreams.
New Horizons starts off very slowly: in order to actually get nice things, like a house or a convenience store, to be constructed upon the island, you need to gather materials, and to gather materials you need tools, and to gather tools… you get the idea. But New Horizons does a very good job at making menial tasks like gathering twigs meaningful. When you make your first flimsy fishing rod, or bug net, you feel a sense of accomplishment as your character proudly shows it off. When you talk to your fellow inhabitants, they’ll give you a DIY recipe or some rocks they found. It’s these small interactions that make the game so charming. The seasons, which are based off the island’s location in the northern or southern hemispheres, and realistic day-night cycles further emphasize the game’s leisurely pace. After all, there’s no need for rush on an island getaway.
As you progress throughout the game, the pace starts to pick up a bit as the scope of the game expands. The amount of variety in this game is stunning, and the best part is, there is no wrong “objective” to pursue. Are you someone who enjoys managing and designing their town? Well, you can shape the entire island and the buildings as you see fit. Are you into making nice clothes for your character? There is a painting option that allows you to make designs for outfits and for paintings. Are you a collector? Well, there is an entire museum that you can fill up with the numerous bugs, fish, crustaceans, and fossils from around the island. Everything that you do is a step towards the ultimate goal of Animal Crossing: enjoying your island life.
One of the greatest aspects of the game is the characters. New animal inhabitants join your island throughout the course of the game, and they all have their own personality and preferences. Other characters serve as key players in the island, such as Tom Nook, the glorious leader, flanked by his businesses-driven apprentices Timmy and Tommy, and Blathers, the owl museum curator with a hatred of anything bug-like. These characters, whom you can see sitting under a tree or walking through the rain with an umbrella, offer a lot of charm to the island life.
The music is also absolutely fantastic. The mellow horn that starts off the opening of the game’s main theme, as well as the relaxing tunes created for every kind of weather and time, create a pleasant vibe that evokes images of island life.
New Horizons is at its best when you’re just living out your life on your island, no matter what you’re doing. The slower pacing of the game doesn’t detract from the experience, but instead reinforces the idea that sometimes, it’s better to take life nice and easy.