Illustration of Animal Crossing
This adorable game has quickly become the most played game worldwide. (Image by Francesca Mahaney, Pratt Institute)
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Illustration of Animal Crossing

First appearing almost 20 years ago, the franchise is back with a new game that has all of the fun of its predecessors.

The year 2020 hasnt started off too great. The entire world is on edge because of the widespread attack of COVID-19. Countries have quarantined off public places to restrict the spread, forcing people to stay inside and keep themselves entertained. Across social media, people have shared their stories of being bored or already eating all of their quarantine snacks. There is one thing, however, that has helped to keep spirits up during our trying times: Animal Crossing on the Nintendo Switch. It has become one of the most-played games worldwide.

I bought the game on March 20, the day it was released, at 9 a.m. My boredom with being self-quarantined had reached its peak. No books or social media could keep me away from checking the time and waiting for it to pass by faster.

When I first started playing Animal Crossing, I didn’t even realize six hours passed by until I looked outside to see that it was almost pitch-black. You get so caught up playing that you forget about all your surroundings, transporting you to another world of fun and relaxation.

History of Animal Crossing

The debut release of Animal Crossing was in 2001 for Japan on the Nintendo 64. Shortly after, it was enhanced and released to North America on the GameCube in 2002. It was a hit amongst an audience of all ages, with its appealing animals and easy gameplay. Later games released for different Nintendo consoles like Wii, DS, Wii U and 3DS. There are other spinoff games related to the series such as the mobile app Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp.

Personally, I had never played the games growing up. I never owned a GameCube and it didnt really spark my interest as a child. My brother and I had other games to beat, like Halo 2 or Grand Theft Auto.

I jumped right into Pocket Camp, however, with no background knowledge on the game series. And I was hooked. I remember that I used to wait for time to pass to pick up the furniture I needed to bring over another animal friend. Or wait for new tasks to complete. The game was like a never-ending campaign; the possibilities of playing were limitless.

Past and Present Together

Animal Crossing games follow the same type of gameplay. Players customize avatars and move into an area inhabited by animals to start their new life. You make friends with your animal neighbors while working to pay off the loan to Tom Nook in bells, the game’s currency, for renovating your home. To earn bells, you can sell anything to Tom Nook like fish, insects or fruit. Once one loan is paid off, another is offered. By continuously updating their home, players are given more space to decorate each room to their own desire and show off their belongings; its a game that thrives off collecting.

New Horizon, however, begins with players arriving on a deserted island with a couple animals. You begin with a tent before upgrading to a permanent home. As you increase your loan, more rooms are added to give more space for customization.

You also have a new kind of currency called Nook Miles. To earn Nook Miles, players must complete achievements on your NookPhone. Nook Miles can be used at the Automatic Bell Dispenser, ABD for short, to purchase items or a plane ticket to a random deserted island. Keep in mind, however, that every island you go to is different; you wont be able to return to pick up things you left behind.

As you progress through the game, different characters such as Gulliver or Whisp will appear to ask for help and give you a reward for your work, depending on the time of day. Occasionally, you can pop balloons in the air that drop off random presents. Just be careful not to pop the balloon over a river or youll lose whatever it was carrying.

Online and Couch Co-op

Unlike other Animal Crossing games, New Horizons offers the opportunity to play cooperatively on a single device with up to four people. One of the players is designated as squad leader while traveling on the island, shifting focus around them. Other players within the squad, however, are given a limited amount of actions when not squad leader; for example, they arent able to view inventory or chat like solo play.

If you want to play with others and access inventory, its best to play online.

Online gameplay allows up to eight people to visit an island at once. To do so, you would need to access the airport and tell them to open the gates for visitors. Once that happens, any friends can stop by to check out your island and play alongside while doing any task. You can show off your home or even trade goods like fruits or clothes.

Reliving Nostalgia of Childhood

With such simple gameplay, its no wonder its popularity increases day by day. There are no set guidelines to follow when playing; youre free to roam the island to find new discoveries. You can uncover fossils and have Blathers put it in the museum. Or try to catch all the rare fish in season. Or redesign the landscape to benefit you.

It’s gaming that solely focuses on the interests of the individual gamer to collect anything and everything. Collecting, upgrading and customizing is what draws in people of all ages; youre never too old to be absorbed into the gameplay.

And, during quarantine, youre able to chat and hang out with your friends online; it’s a fun way to implement social distancing. Its not the same as going outside to play but talking to friends can alleviate any feelings of isolation you may experience. Plus, its just a fun game.

Without this game, I wouldnt know what to do with myself besides eating and sleeping as Ive always done. Im drawn to play to pay off Tom Nook and give Blathers any discoveries I make while walking around the island. As days pass, different things are available to gamers. Seasons change according to the hemisphere you’re in. Fish and insects rotate with the months and times. Special visitors come by with goods to sell. Theres always something new you havent seen or collected, forcing you to search all over the place. Once youre done playing, you can put it on the charger and sleep, and another day of fun passes by.

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