Nook and Co. Set Sail to New Horizons
We recently had the chance to go hands-on with Animal Crossing New Horizons. This new adventure brings the Animal Crossing main series to the big screen for the first time in almost 12 years. Our demo focused on the new multiplayer elements coming to the game this time around. Each island will be able to hold four corporative players locally on the Switch, as well as eight players online. This dramatic change left me, and many other hardcore fans of the series, wondering how will this work. More importantly, will it even be any fun? I have always liked the shared experiences found in Animal Crossing dating back to the Gamecube version. Is this something I would get into with my friends?
Immediately, I was drawn into the new visuals. The shading, the water, the new assets, if you have played Animal Crossing before, this hits you right in the face. Our demo was at a point very far along in the game. The island was developed, the home and shops had been expanded on and our inventories were full. This gave us the opportunity to discover some new things and take a look at many of the new items.
The New In New Horizons
Along with the new multiplayer, Animal Crossing New Horizons brings a new crafting system. This exponentially changes the game’s core gameplay mechanic. We discovered a recipe in a bottle that washed up on the beach. We also purchased a recipe from Timmy and Tommy Nook. As well as obtained one in the mail from our Mom. These recipes were then used as blueprints for crafting. You need to discover or buy the recipes then cultivate the resources from the map to then build that resource.
I come from the old Gamecube days of Animal Crossing, seeing different types of fruit on the trees started to turn gears for me mentally. Seeing the trees break down into different types of wood, the weeds pulled to make umbrellas as well as custom fabrics and shades. It illustrates that this crafting system is going to be deep. Having a high level of customization is going to expand the possibilities for the game by giving players the ability to expand their own personal in-game goals.
The crafting system enabled us to make new items that changed all aspects of the gameplay. We made a pole vault to traverse across rivers, which was useful, but the axe that couldn’t actually chop anything down was less so. Axe may be generous, as it was actually, just kind of a rock on a stick. There was a new net that was of a similar quality as the axe. This makes me think we are going to have a number of levels to the items. That should contribute to the content in the game by creating layers of unlocking recipes, crafting the lower level items then expanding on that with higher quality tools.
Four Passengers Set Sail That Day
In Nintendo’s Animal Crossing Direct, they outlined how multiplayer would work. There would be a leading player and up to four followers. Owners of each island would be able to dictate permissions for anyone visiting. We got the opportunity to see how that would all play out. The lead player really gets full control of everything. The followers can use items but they can not bring up any system menus or pick up any items. So follower players must use X to cycle through their item inventory. Then return to the recycling bin found in Tom Nook’s office to collect their discovered items once they have been granted leader power. Leader players can shake their controller to prompt other players to take over as a leader.
I find the entire leader process to be annoying. Being able to go through the motion of chopping trees down or, breaking down items then not being able to collect the pickups that are right in front of you is infuriating. It’s the literal reverse of the satisfaction you get from completing a gameplay loop. When the leader player shakes the controller to pass over leader status to another player, everyone hitting A at the same time is frustrating. You can’t blame them since there is not much fun about not being the leader. If you were wondering how traversal worked, there is a warp system that puts you next to the leader player if you travel too far off-screen.
Everything Else We Learned About Animal Crossing
During our playtime with the Animal Crossing demo, we did discover some other small tidbits. Fish caught in the rivers and streams on the map will be freshwater fish. Similarly, fish caught in the ocean will be saltwater. The museum is a massive sprawling environment divided up into a number of sections. There is a terrarium for the bugs and butterflies caught as well as an ant farm. All of the wildlife and fossils are showcased in a beautiful display that dwarfs anything Animal Crossing has done before.
We discovered some unique wearables like a helmet that is similar to Mega Man and Zero but with the face closed off. As well as suits, skirts, bathrobes and glasses that can all be mixed and matched. The camera can shift up and down to transition between Gamecube style views and 3DS style views. You jump over holes as you try to walk into them. There will be daily Nook tasks to achieve as well as extremely extensive ones. Nook tasks will work like achievements some of them could take over 100 hours of playtime I noticed.
Check back for more of our hands-on impressions from PAX East. As well as all of the forthcoming Animal Crossing content this coming month!