As with all Animal Crossing titles, Animal Crossing: New Horizons opens by flinging you onto a stretch of land with limited capital from everyone's favorite raccoon VC, Tom Nook. It's up to you to revamp the surrounding area, making it more habitable and accommodating to entice anthropomorphized critters like the Isabella and Mr. Risetti to live with you.
For any Animal Crossing newbies out there who may have their preconceived notions about what these games are about, you should know that New Horizons presents something rather different from your typical AC experience from something like Pocket Camp. It's so much better to enter this scary new world with some tips about what you should know before the [managerial] going gets tough.
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4. Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a chill tropical sandbox with more humans
In prior Animal Crossing titles, you were a human transplanted into a world full of anthropomorphic animal people. The area's culture was already set up to some extent, and you were just living in it. Now, you're the one forging a new community, creating new locations and forging bonds with your neighbors. When you get started in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, the island you're on is completely barren. You need to set it up with some funding from Tom Nook, who has provided a "vacation package" to you as an investment.
At this point, the only life on the island will be you, two other tents occupied by villagers, and the cold mechanical interface used to purchase more items from Tom Nook. New residents will join and you'll unlock more things as you continue, but for the most part, your island is naked for much of the game.
3. Animal Crossing: New Horizons has several multiplayer options
While your island will be initially quite lonely if you're playing single-player, new multiplayer features can remedy that from the get-go. As a series first, New Horizons includes both local and online multiplayer settings.
For local multiplayer, up to eight users on your Nintendo Switch will each get their own space on the island, allowing you to share operations. It's unknown what effect this will have on overall story progress, and it seemingly functions as an independent game mode. You can also team up in a group comprised of up to four local villagers to operate as a "party," running around the island together.
If you don't live with other Animal Crossing enthusiasts, online multiplayer is also an option. You can join other players via an Island Code or via your Nintendo Switch Online Friends List. When visiting, each island can be occupied by up to four player-characters at one time.
2. New auto-saves will force you to work for your Bells
By its structure, Animal Crossing is meant to be a very time-consuming game. Tom Nook invests in you. You invest your (real) time into the game. Much of it is reliant on working hard to earn a living, and your income is influenced by the real-world clock. Earning money takes ample time, leading players to cheat the system by advancing their console's clock or hacking their save. Both were methods to artificially progress previous Animal Crossing games without putting in the work you were supposed to.
Players can no longer do that in New Horizons, as it operates on an Auto-Save system unlike the previous Manual saving system the series has employed thus far. In a conversation with IGN, New Horizons' director Aya Kyogoku explained the rationale for the chance:
“By putting in hard work, I think it creates value and love for that specific item you were able to gain, and at the same time, by creating an environment like that, fans who do put in the hard work, we wanted to make sure their hard work does not go in vain and we are able to support those players who put in that time and effort.”
In that same interview, Kyogoku said that cloud saves were initially nixed to stop New Horizons from being exploited in a similar way. She also confirmed that New Horizons will have cloud saving eventually, but it will be implemented in a manner specific to the series.
1. The character customization is incredibly robust
The Animal Crossing series has always let players customize their surroundings in really robust ways. Nintendo has released multiple games that let you alter the place you inhabit but it isn't until now that you can fully customize yourself! Things like skin tone, hair, and clothing all have multiple options that can be changed as soon as you launch the game. And there are no restrictions based on gender, as Kotaku pointed out earlier this week.
This is the most robust character customization the series has ever offered. There's a full range of hairstyles, with 30 available right as you're starting up. New Horizons also sheds the series' iconic "baked" oculars that were given to seemingly all human characters. You can choose from over 24 eyes for your character. With all these options, you better make sure your lead character looks good!
Animal Crossing: New Horizons will release for Nintendo Switch on March 20.