Remember when an elderly Rose in Titanic said it had been 84 years since she rode the ill-fated ship? That’s what it’s felt like since the last Nintendo Direct that provided significant new information on Animal Crossing: New Horizons. As the world gears up for its much-anticipated Switch release in a little over a month, there has been a recent trickle of details — in addition to things we’ve known since the initial reveal at E3 2019.
We’re here to go over everything we know about the Switch title, including how this installment in the popular Nintendo series expands to… new horizons (thanks, we’re here all night) before it sees the light of day (and before you stop doing so, since we know many of you won’t get much sun after you get your hands on the game).
You have to commend Tom Nook, who is good and unproblematic, on his hustle. After years of running a shop and real estate agency, the raccoon tycoon has moved onto bigger goals and established a development company called Nook, Inc. One of its services is the Deserted Island Getaway Package, which you and several animals take advantage of in the new Animal Crossing. This is the premise of New Horizons — a change from the olden days when you simply moved to a new town. In past titles, you could travel to an island by boat, but this is the first time you’re actually living on one. At the start, all you and your fellow islanders have is a tent that eventually becomes a house — and nothing else. Tom Nook said equal rights!
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It’s the First Mainline Animal Crossing in Seven Years (and It Shows)
Since the series’ inception in 2001 with Animal Crossing on the GameCube, there hasn’t been a gap between main entries as long as this one between New Leaf, which came out in 2012 for the Nintendo 3DS, and New Horizons. That gap makes it the first HD title in the series, which is immediately noticeable.
There are detailed shadows; your hair has physics; you and your surroundings look wet after it rains. There are more realistic improvements and additions, such as leaves shaking in the wind, villagers being able to sit down on the floor, and breakable tools. Animals will actually wear sweaters in the winter! They have toebeans! We have kneecaps! We Animal Crossing fans also promise that we have standards. This is all genuinely exciting.
Significantly Improved Character Customization
In New Horizons, you can choose your look from the get-go and change it mid-game. This is a major change from previous Animal Crossing games, in which your features were permanently determined by a short personality-like quiz at the start. Additionally, in the past, people of color couldn’t actually play as characters who resembled them — at least not for long. You had to go through the trouble of tanning your character during the summer. That meant staying outside for hours until your skin visibly darkened for a short while, before it returned to a lighter hue.
Now you’ll be able to choose from a range of skin tones, in addition to new hairstyles and colors, mouth shapes, and nose shapes. You could say the bar hasn’t been high here, but it nonetheless comes as an incredibly welcome (and long overdue) feature.
No Cloud Save Backups (For Now)
Nintendo has confirmed you won’t be able to transfer Animal Crossing user data between Switch consoles. This means that, should you lose or damage your Switch and buy another, you will lose all your progress and have to start over again… However, using Google Translate on the game’s Japanese site uncovers some text that states Nintendo is “considering a function to back up saved data in a unique form of this software in case of failure, loss or theft of the Nintendo Switch itself.” The text specifies that “use of this function is limited to Nintendo Switch Online subscribers,” and that this currently remains undecided.
Using your NookPhone, you can use the “Call Islander” option to play with friends. Up to four local players can play while using a single Joy-Con; rather than on a split screen, they’ll play on a single image that follows a specific “leader” player. The leader can give up their position to someone else, so the camera follows them instead anytime. Up to eight players can be on one island while playing online or on local wireless. Meanwhile, up to eight accounts on a single Switch can live on the same island. We’ll explain more about that further down in this article.
There will be Amiibo support in some capacity. Not much has been said about this yet, though.
Only One Island Per Console
This one is a bummer, especially for low-income families. Even with separate copies of the game, you won’t be able to have more than one island per Switch system. That means you won’t be able to have another island even on a different profile on the same system. To make this utterly clear: you will need both a separate Switch and a second copy of the game to have another island of your own.
Animal Crafting: New Horizons
For the first time in a mainline Animal Crossing, you’ll be able to craft items instead of only buying them. The “DIY Recipe” app on your NookPhone will contain all recipes — some of which you’ll have at the start of the game, and some which you’ll collect as you progress. This means that now, when you hit stones and trees, you’ll be able to obtain crafting materials like wood and clay, instead of just bells (or the cursed beehives that lead to your face getting stung).
Speaking of apps on your handy NookPhone: one entirely new feature in New Horizons is the Nook Miles system. Real life is often boring. The fact is that all Animal Crossing games can get a little dull, too, since they tend to emulate reality (besides the animals you talk with and can owe debts to). Nook Miles exists to add some spice and reward you for investing significant effort and time. Complete specific objectives to earn Nook Miles, which you can exchange for special rewards. That’s a nice incentive to do more obscure and completionist tasks.
Carve Your Own Path(s) in Life
New Leaf introduced the ability to radically transform the look of your town, but you had to work with the roads and paths said city already had. In New Horizons, there’s a tool you can use to carve the paths you want, however you want. There are plenty of other new environmental customization options, too. You can place items outside, set up fences, move entire trees, pluck flowers from their stems, and more!
Where Are Isabelle, Resetti, Blathers, and Other Staple Villagers?
This is a loaded question. We also don’t have all the answers, yet, and likely won’t until the game comes out. Currently, we know New Horizons will have auto-save. That means Resetti has lost his job of angrily reminding you to save before turning off the game. Thankfully, Nintendo has confirmed Resetti will have a new occupation in this game — so capitalism has not taken everything from us just yet.
Isabelle, who was your mayor’s assistant in New Leaf and is now busy throwing people down in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, will arrive on your island once it’s more developed. While there’s been no mention of a museum for Blathers to run on the island, the player character has been shown in footage to dig up fossils. It’s pretty safe to assume Blathers will be back. Mabel and Sable will surely come back, as well, to help with your fashion needs. Though the fates of everyone else remain speculative and to be seen…