I was never into the Animal Crossing video game franchise, as I did not own a Nintendo gaming console before I bought the Switch.
So when Animal Crossing: New Horizons (ACNH) was released on March 20, I did not feel compelled to buy it.
Then I started seeing friends who were playing it post the virtual fishes they had caught and the cutesy houses they had built. Intrigued, I bought the game a month ago and now I wonder why it took me so long to do so.
ACNH is the latest iteration of Animal Crossing, a popular 19-year-old life-simulation video game series.
Its premise is a simple one – players usually live in a village or on an island inhabited by animal residents, whose daily activities include catching bugs, fishing, planting flowers and digging for fossils.
With ACNH, you start by creating your character and join the game’s racoon tycoon, Tom Nook, on a new island where you can start your new life.
You get to name the island. But once you have done so, you cannot change it. The same applies to your character.
You will also be asked if you want to be in the Northern or Southern Hemisphere. Since Singapore is above the equator, I chose the Northern Hemisphere. This choice will affect the seasonal changes in the game as it follows real time.
Once you are settled on the island, you will need to finish some tasks daily to get Nook Miles.
Accumulating Nook Miles lets you redeem Nook Miles Tickets, which allow you to visit mystery islands, as well as redeem in-game items such as DIY recipes – needed for crafting specific items, such as a wired fence – or a monster statue.
Most tasks involve unearthing fossils, catching bugs and fishing for new species of fish to fill up the island’s museum. You will also chop down trees for wood to craft things, hit stones to get iron nuggets or clay, and plant flowers and trees to beautify your island.
• Cutesy and interactive in-game characters
• You dictate the pace
• Plenty of customisations
• The “Stalk Exchange” gameplay feature
• Iffy controls
• Requires Nintendo Switch Online subscription at US$3.99 (S$5.60) a month to visit other players
PRICE: $79.90 (Nintendo Switch only)
GENRE: Life simulation
You can sell surplus fish, fossils and other items to earn Bells, the in-game currency. You will need plenty of Bells to pay for your house and its subsequent expansion.
This is just the basic gameplay. If you do not do anything else, the game might seem boring after a while. On the flipside though, you dictate how fast you want to play.
But there is more. At the start of the game, you have two animal residents joining you on the island. Your aim is to attract more of them by beautifying your island, so as to turn it into a bustling hub.
These animal residents, which are each unique and have their own personality, will leave your island if things get too boring. They speak cute gibberish in high-pitched voices, which you can decipher by reading the subtitles.
There is no majestic orchestral soundtrack, but the sound effects are all on point. The graphics will not win any technical excellence awards, but they are good enough in a cutesy way.
As you progress in the game, you will gain the ability to terraform your island. You can add pathways, build cliffs and carve out rivers.
You can also buy bridges and inclines, using Bells, to connect the different parts of the island so your residents can walk around easily.
However, the custom designs are what bring a whole new dimension to the game. Once you are able to get a tailor shop on your island, you can browse the custom designs other players have posted.
To do so, you need to go to the Internet to get the designer’s ID, which you then input into the Internet terminal inside the tailor shop to access the custom designs.
With these designs, you can customise items and even roads. I decorated a stall with a Ya Kun design to recreate the iconic coffee stall on my island.
The other key differentiator of this game is its social interaction feature. You can chat with another player via voice or text when visiting his or her island.
However, to do so, you have to subscribe to the Nintendo Switch Online service, which costs US$3.99 (S$5.60) a month.
I think the price is well worth it. This is because you can not only interact with other players, but also exchange rare items and play “Stalk Exchange”, or turnip trading.
Every Sunday morning, a character called Daisy Mae will come to your island to sell turnips.
Buy lots of them and wait for the prices to go up so you can sell them to your island’s store for a profit.
You can go to the unofficial website turnip.exchange to see whose island’s store has a good price so you can go there to sell your turnips for a huge profit.
My only quibble about the game is regarding the controls. There are times when I want to plant trees in a straight line and the controls do not allow that kind of precision. Plus, you can tilt, but not rotate the camera angle.
But that does not take away from the fun I am having with this game. One month into it and I am barely scratching its surface. So excuse me while I get back to my island – there is much to do and I need to find some star fragments.
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