The hype has been building for Animal Crossing: New Horizons for weeks. What started as a slow-moving train has transformed into a hyperspeed spaceship, on which I count myself a passenger. It seems like the final days before release have started to slow, as I get closer and closer to owning my very own island.
But not everyone can understand the hype. That’s understandable! Animal Crossing, if you haven’t played any of its predecessors, often feel like a series where the hype that comes outta nowhere. It’s never been a game for absolutely everyone, and it still isn’t. However, with the release and latest wave of hype behind New Horizons, there are many people deciding to take the plunge, becoming a forever in debt to Tom Nook. Animal Crossing’s latest installment may just be the best time to try the franchise!
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But as much as the Animal Crossing community always waits with open arms to greet anyone new into the cult of design and museum collection, Animal Crossing may still not be a game for you.
You may like it! You may hate it! But let’s break down why the majority of its fans enjoy the series. Hopefully this will help you decide if it’s something you should try out.
To start, let’s just compare Animal Crossing to games that share some of the same properties (and have had new games in the last five years for comparison). Just keep in mind that Animal Crossing as a whole is not quite like any other game.
Games you might compare Animal Crossing to include:
- Stardew Valley
- Harvest Moon / Story of Seasons
- The Sims
- My Time in Portia
- Fantasy Life
If you enjoyed any of the games listed above for more than an afternoon, then you will likely enjoy Animal Crossing. However, let’s break it down a bit more granularly. There may be some things you just can’t get behind. Perhaps listing these out may help you decide further!
What Is It, Really?
At its core, Animal Crossing is a casual and slow-paced game, meant to be enjoyed over the course of weeks, months, and years. If that kind of commitment alone doesn’t drive you away, good! If I had to personally put Animal Crossing into its own genre, I would call it an “Achiever” style game, where you are actively pursue small accomplishments toward an end goal that you mostly set yourself.
Real-Time for Real
Animal Crossing works in real-time. I mean real real-time. If it’s morning for you, it’s morning in the game; if its nighttime for you, then the same thing is true in Animal Crossing. If you can only dedicate one hour a day to play it, you can still do so, but if that one hour happens to be at 3 a.m…. you may want to think about changing your system clock. That way you can actually get the full time of that hour.
And since things work in real-time, you may miss out on some of the events and things that make the game so charming. Take that into consideration. Ideally, this game is best played throughout the course of the day, with a quick little runs through the morning, afternoon, and evening. If you plan to play six hours straight, you certainly can, but don’t expect to bull-rush through things. Tasks are often time-gated. Unlike Stardew or Harvest Moon, a day in Animal Crossing isn’t just 10 minutes in reality. You have ample time to do all the things you want — which can be good or bad depending on how you look at it, and what your schedule allows.
Non-Linear Play & Goals
Most games have goals, right? Save the Princess, Be the Hero, Get on the Payload, etc. Animal Crossing also has goals, in a sense, but maybe not the kind you’re used to. It truly depends on you!
You can collect all the clothes and design some nice patterns to share with friends, gather and donate all the museum exhibits, explore the neighboring islands for rare creatures, be a florist flower breeder, build your entire dream island, or all of the above. That’s just to name a few! Essentially, Animal Crossing has one overarching goal, it is to play it as you like and make your dream town (or in this case island).
Animal Crossing has no real end — neither in the traditional sense, or in the modern-day conception with repeatable raids you complete for loot. To this day, people still visit their towns in the last installment, New Leaf, because it has become a part of their daily routine (whether they’ll continue to visit their towns after New Horizons remains to be seen). But you play as long as you want; there is no end. You just end the session of playtime, but your island and town will always be there. Unless you abandon it for long enough, your favorite villager probably will leave your island to go to live on your friends island in which you feel an overwhelming rush of betrayal but it’s your fault for not playing for a month.
Overall Vibe & Aesthetic
If you’ve made it this far, and are somehow still on the fence, I would highly recommend watching a few of the previous Nintendo Directs to see all Animal Crossing: New Horizons has to offer. If this article has further sparked your interest and hasn’t scared you off, then I would suggest taking the plunge and trying it out. Then give it a week or two of regular play sessions before truly deciding if its right to make part of your everyday life.
But any existing fan of the series can tell you the same thing when it comes to what Animal Crossing gives them: a feeling of comfort, nostalgia, and general happiness when you achieve the smallest of victories.
I truly hope this helped shine a little light on your decision in joining the humble and pleasantly welcoming fan club that is Animal Crossing. If you decided against it, that’s okay as well! Perhaps further down the road you may change your mind. And if you are still against it, I hope you find a game that brings you comfort and happiness as this series gives to all of us.