It’s been over six years since Animal Crossing: New Leaf released on the 3DS and I think every fan will agree we’re overdue a new entry in the series. And although we’ve seen a few spin-off titles release since then, like Happy Home Designer, Amiibo Festival, and most recently Pocket Camp on mobile, none of these games have been able to fully satisfy players’ desire to socialize with bipedal animals and acquire as many Bells as possible.
After multiple teases and even more false leaks, Nintendo’s E3 Direct provided us with a first look at Animal Crossing: New Horizons, the next installment in the social sim and the first Animal Crossing title to launch on the Switch. And while the game’s reveal was met with overwhelming praise from long-time fans, knowing it’s now being delayed has made things somewhat bittersweet.
So we’re here to cover everything you need to know about New Horizons, including story and gameplay details as well as highlighting some new features. We’ll be updating this story in the future, so make sure to check back.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons Release Date
Initially, we were led to believe the next Animal Crossing game would be released sometime during 2019. Unfortunately, that’s no longer the case as the trailer for New Horizons ends with a release date for March 20, 2020; and while we’d love to get our hands on a new Animal Crossing game this year, taking a look at the Switch’s already crowded 2019 release schedule leads us to believe Nintendo made the right decision. A delay would grant them some extra time to polish the game’s multiple new systems and deliver the best product possible.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons Story
New Horizons sees players creating a new character using the game’s expanded customization options, which now include gender-neutral hairstyles and different skin tones to pick from right at the start. Afterward, they’ll be transported to a tropical island as part of business-savvy tanuki Tom Nook’s “deserted island getaway package.” From there, players will set-up a tent and be given access to everything their new island has to offer; long walks by the beach, fishing in the water, growing crops, and decorating the inside of their tent as well as the entire island. Along the way, we can expect to make some new friends and try new activities such as pole-vaulting.
This set-up is a nice inversion of New Leaf‘s premise, which saw players take on the demanding role of Mayor. After having spent countless hours getting approval for public works projects and tending to the needs of villagers, it makes sense for our character to crave a change of scenery and some peaceful relaxation. However, don’t expect to do too much resting since at the end of the trailer we see Tom Nook give the player character an itemized bill for the entire trip’s cost – a whopping 49,800 Bells. Yikes.
Speaking of familiar faces, it seems like Tom Nook won’t be the only returning character to grace you with their presence in New Horizons. In a recent interview, the game’s director Aya Kyogoku revealed that upgrading your island will result in more characters appearing, including fan favorite, Isabelle. It’s not yet clear what her role would be on the island but we’re looking forward to catching up and hearing about all her epic brawls in Smash Ultimate.
Players may interpret the game’s new tropical setting to mean that weather will remain fairly consistent. However, in the trailer, we get a brief glimpse of the different seasons we can expect to see; with Winter, Fall, Spring, and Summer all making an appearance. Just like with previous games, each season will open up new activities and items to the player.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons Gameplay
New Horizons appears to be much more ambitious than any of the previous games and features a number of quality-of-life improvements as well as some new systems. Multiplayer, in particular, has seen the biggest changes, with online support allowing for up to 8-players to inhabit the same island. This is a major upgrade from New Leaf, which only allowed up to 4-players.
Each player will have their own island that others can visit, however, it’s been speculated that there may also be a main island that serves as a hub for shops and other services. Surviving off the land shouldn’t be too difficult though, thanks to your character’s new Nook Phone, a handheld device that comes pre-installed with a handful of useful applications:
- Camera – allows you to take photos and apply different filters
- Map – displays a more detailed image of the island’s layout
- Call Islander – lets you connect with friends and visit each other’s islands
- DIY Recipes – pulls up a list of craftable items and the materials needed to make them
- Nook Miles – a new achievement system that keeps track of any milestones your character reaches
Aside from getting a fancy new smartphone, players will be able to experience two new features that are sure to make their island in New Horizons feel a lot more personal. The first is the ability to create custom paths throughout the island, something New Leaf would have greatly benefited from.
The second is the option to place items anywhere you want to inside your home and on the island. This is a remarkable feature to include and something fans have always wanted but never seemed possible in previous games due to hardware limitations. It should make the prospect of visiting other islands a lot more interesting since each one will be distinct and reflect that player’s unique style.
The Final Word
There aren’t that many franchises that can tug at fans’ heartstrings to the same degree as Animal Crossing. The series has been around for almost two decades and it’s great to see Nintendo give it a new home on the Switch. While the game’s delay is both surprising and disappointing, we’re confident the wait will be well worth it.
Refinements to the social sim’s gameplay and online multiplayer functionality show promise for where the series is headed. New Horizons is shaping up to be one of the most beautiful-looking titles on the Switch and we can’t wait to see what other vibrant environments await when the game releases later next year.
If you’re excited for Animal Crossing: New Horizons and want to learn about more upcoming Switch titles, make sure to check out our list for the Best Upcoming Nintendo Switch Games.