Animal Crossing is a series that I didn’t play growing up, but it’s something people around me have always seemed to enjoy. As a kid, I loved JRPG’s, platformers, action games, and adventure games. I love games with cartoon aesthetics, colorful visuals, and charming characters, but a simulator game like Animal Crossing never clicked with me. I wanted action, stories, exciting worlds, or all of the above like in Zelda, Sonic, Mario, Pokémon, Dragon Quest, etc.
I was first exposed to the series thanks to the Town and City stage from Super Smash Bros. Brawl. I had never seen anything from Animal Crossing up until that point, but I thought the character designs were cute and that the music was charming. I knew people that put hundreds of hours into the games on Gamecube and Wii, but never tried the series myself until I was in high school.
The games always looked up my alley with it’s almost Sanrio inspired characters and “back to nature” tone and presentation, but the daily life grind of Animal Crossing never excited me. I couldn’t quite grasp what to do in New Leaf-the first game in the series I personally played, or City Folk which I tried afterwards.
I suppose I expected to play a game for multiple hours at a time, which is possible, but I ran out of things to do fast. I expected mini-games, to have all the tools from the get-go, or to have way more to do in general, but your options open up more as you pay off debt and as time goes by.
I returned to New Leaf recently, now called Animal Crossing: New Leaf-Welcome Amiibo. The Welcome Amiibo version is a free update that released in 2016. The update includes a ton of new features like amiibo compatibility, a photo mode, a campsite where you can buy items and talk to villagers, two new mini-games, and a lot more.
I’ve barely scratched the surface in my return to New Leaf, but I get the appeal now. I like the slower gameplay loop. I like talking to my villagers every day and spending time with them. Something I’ve never done until yesterday was playing hide and seek with my villagers. It was a clever way to use the town and basic features like talking to NPC’s to spice up the gameplay just a little. Even though I failed, my villagers seemed to have fun and wanted to play again today. It was a nice little event that made the town more lived in and made me feel closer to these characters, even if they’re “just data”.
I also like having a routine with daily tasks that make me feel accomplished. It’s very different than getting through a level or stage or defeating a tough boss. I personally prefer not to time travel (though you can if you want) and I enjoy the day-to-day cycle since I always have something to look forward to or plan for. I enjoy the real-time anticipation of waiting for new fossils to spring up tomorrow, or a villager to move in, or a new business to open up. I totally get why some people would get bored or not find this type of gameplay appealing, but giving the last two games in the Animal Crossing series a chance has opened up my eyes to how much fun those games can be.
I also tried Pocket Camp on mobile a while back. With the rise of smartphones, I thought Animal Crossing’s gameplay being broken up into daily tasks and based on real-time would be perfect for a smartphone game. I enjoyed my time with it but didn’t like how crafting items took place in real-time and cost currency to speed up. Materials for items also started to cost more than what I could gather in a day or so and I ended up dropping it.
As for New Horizons on Switch, it’s completely won me over. With New Horizons, bugs and fish seem to spawn all throughout the day so it’s a matter of how much time I want to spend catching them. Fruit and resources spawn daily. You can also earn Nook Points from doing tasks, which you can then spend on tickets to islands full of resources. There’s so much more to do in New Horizons that enthrall a casual player like myself, who didn’t want to give up on such a beloved series.
I have way more direction as a player and way more incentives to earn money. The online features and handheld mode for the Switch make this game so much easier to play with friends and it’s so easy to play throughout the day. Starting it up every morning to make money and talk to all of my villagers has become a part of my daily routine.
Animal Crossing is a gem of a series that has given me so much to look forward to. If you’re looking for something to brighten your day and relieve some stress, I encourage you to try Animal Crossing New Horizons.