Animal Crossing: New Horizons
North American game cover
|Release date(s)||March 20, 2020|
Multiplayer (1-4 player co-op; 1-8 player local wireless/online)
|Media||Nintendo Switch Game Card |
Nintendo eShop digital download
|File size||6.2 GB (digital download only)|
Nintendo Switch Pro Controller
USB keyboard (typing only)
In a departure from previous titles in the series, the player lives on a deserted island rather than in a town (referred to as the "Nook Inc. Deserted Island Getaway Package"), which can develop into a town-like community as players progress through the game. Crafting from Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp has also returned in this installment in the form of the DIY system, along with expanded customization of furniture and the player characters.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a critical and commercial success, having received positive reviews from critics and selling over 33 million copies as of June 2021, making it the best-selling game in the Animal Crossing series and the second best-selling Nintendo Switch game behind Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.
Development and unveiling
Development on the game began shortly after the Japanese release of Animal Crossing: New Leaf prior to the development team being aware of the Nintendo Switch. As with the previous title, Aya Kyogoku was chosen as the director of the game, with Hisashi Nogami in charge as producer.
Kyogoku notes in an interview that the team chose to be ambitious even despite not knowing anything about the hardware that they would eventually release the game on. The team intended for the game to be welcoming for veteran players and accessible for new players by keeping much of the core gameplay from previous titles while still adding in many new elements. The theme of developing a town on a deserted island was chosen because the developers believed that breaking away from the tradition of players moving into a village would be a fresh and interesting concept for old players. Kyogoku noted that some players of previous entries would have difficulty finding goals or objectives. As a response to this feedback, a sense of purpose was purposely developed by having players develop the village from scratch. The developers felt that as players constructed their village from the ground up, they would grow a more personal relationship with their town.
As a result of choosing a deserted island theme, crafting was added into the game. This was done so that players would have a higher level of interactivity with the deserted island. This would give players a different perspective of the environment that used to be just a visual aspect. Crafting was also developed with the intention of keeping players from running out of things to do during the hours that their shops are closed. Another of these new features, terraforming, was added in response to unexpected behavior from players in previous games such as resetting towns in order to receive a desirable town layout. With the introduction of crafting and terraforming, players are able to be more in control of their island. This flexibility in design extends further onto player design. Unlike previous games which involved players having to answer a series of questions to determine their appearance, players are now able to freely change their appearance whenever they'd like to through the use of mirrors or vanities. In addition to this, several new hair and facial features were added that were not present in previous entries. A gender option, referred to as "style" in English versions, is still present, but does not impact the game or the player's appearance in any way other than certain dialogue differences. Kyogoku states in an interview that this level of player customization is not just about gender, but rather more about individuality, which the development team believed was a growing belief within society. Players are not forced into thinking too much about gender, but the option is still there should they decide to.
The addition of the NookPhone was inspired by the belief that phones are essential tools in everyday life. Kyogoku has stated that the NookPhone serves as a source of familiarity between the real world and the game.
In another shift, the effects of time traveling were made less impactful. This is in part due to the fact that seasonal events and holidays are not coded into the game from launch and are instead going to be added through future updates. Kyogoku notes that this method of adding events was not intended to shun time traveling, but rather as a form of creating unity amongst players. Nevertheless, time traveling is still discouraged, though Kyogoku and Nogami do not consider it to be a form of cheating.
Unveiling and release
During E3 2019 on June 11, 2019, the gameplay (from a trailer and Treehouse interview) and title were shown. It was revealed that the game had been delayed to March 20, 2020; it was stated that "to ensure the game is the best it can be, we must ask that you wait a little longer than we thought." Later, President of Nintendo of America, Doug Bowser, said the following: "The crunch point is an interesting one, for us, one of our key tenets is that we bring smiles to people's faces, and we talk about that all the time. It's our vision. Or our mission, I should say. For us, that applies to our own employees. We need to make sure that our employees have good work-life balance. One of those examples is, we will not bring a game to market before it's ready. We just talked about one example. It's really important that we have that balance in our world. It's actually something we're proud of."
An Animal Crossing Nintendo Direct took place on February 20, 2020, showcasing multiple new features of the game, such as terrain editing, additional house customization, and more.
This title supports more languages than all previous entries in the series, being the first main series game to support the Chinese language since Doubutsu no Mori, which was ported to the iQue Player with simplified Chinese support exclusively for mainland China in 2006. This is also the first main series title since Animal Crossing: City Folk to have two separate localizations for Spanish and French; one for Europe and another for the Americas, although it has been erroneously reported to be the first title to do so in the case of Spanish. It is the first title to include all localizations collectively regardless of regional release, and the first main series title to include Dutch and Russian languages.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the first title in the series to launch worldwide on the same date.
- For detailed changelogs see Animal Crossing: New Horizons/Update history
From its release in March 2020 to November 2021, Animal Crossing: New Horizons received twelve free content updates and one paid DLC expansion. The free updates included content such as new events, gameplay elements, characters, and items. Each update was released at 10 AM JST (1 AM UTC), causing them to be released the night before their scheduled release date in some regions, such as the Americas. The Happy Home Paradise expansion, however, was unlocked at 12 AM local time in all regions.
Online multiplayer can only be participated in if the most recent update is installed. The version number is displayed on the title screen and when talking to Orville about multiplayer functions.
Below is a timeline of updates. For more information, refer to the respective articles on each major update.
First Update (1.1.0)
- The first major update for the game, released simultaneously with the game, added multiple items as part of a cross-promotion with Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp. It also added Zipper T. Bunny, the Bunny Day event, and a matching series of furniture and clothing.
April Free Update (1.2.0)
- The second major update to New Horizons was released on April 23, 2020. This update added Leif, Redd, Rover, Cyrus and Reese to the game, as well as an art gallery expansion for the museum and four new events: Nature Day, May Day, International Museum Day, and Wedding Season.
Free Summer Update (Wave 1) (1.3.0)
- The third major update to New Horizons was released on July 3, 2020 as a first wave. This update added swimming, diving, and sea creatures to the game, along with Pascal and Gullivarrr.
Summer Update (Wave 2) (1.4.0)
- The fourth major update to New Horizons was released on July 30, 2020 as a second wave. This update added Fireworks Shows, the ability to visit dream islands, and the Island Backup Restoration Service, which allows players to restore save data from the cloud if their Nintendo Switch is lost or damaged.
Fall Update (1.5.0)
- The fifth major update to New Horizons was released on September 30, 2020. This update added the Halloween event along with Jack, Candy, Pumpkin plants for DIY recipes, four new skin colors, six new eye colors and two new Reactions (named Haunt and Scare). NookLink was also updated on October 6, 2020. It now allows the player interact use Reactions from their smartphone.
Free Winter Update (1.6.0)
- The sixth major update to New Horizons was released on November 19, 2020. This update added Franklin and Jingle along with the events they host, Turkey Day and Toy Day, respectively. It also adds six new hairstyles and nine new reactions, the option to upgrade the player's storage from 1,600 to 2,400 items, and support for Save Data Transfer.
Free Update (1.7.0)
- The seventh major update to New Horizons was released on January 28, 2021. This update added Pavé and Festivale, four new reactions, and several Nook Shopping seasonal items.
Free Update (1.8.0)
- The eighth major update to New Horizons was released on February 25, 2021. It features Super Mario-themed items available from Nook Shopping, as well as three Nook Shopping seasonal events.
Free Update (1.9.0)
- The ninth major update to New Horizons was released on March 18, 2021. It features the return of Sanrio-themed items and villagers.
Free Update (1.10.0)
- The tenth major update to New Horizons was released on April 28, 2021. It features the return of previously available events from 2020, as well as the addition of new Nook Shopping seasonal events.
Free Update (1.11.0)
- The eleventh major update to New Horizons was released on July 29, 2021. It features new Nook Shopping seasonal events and new items from the Fireworks Show and Halloween.
Tom Nook has a new business venture: selling the Nook Inc. Deserted Island Getaway Package, which is sold to the player. The game begins on a nearly deserted island where the player can explore, collect resources, and craft various items (including tools and furniture). The only starting buildings on the island are the player's tent, two villager tents (after the player places them), and the Resident Services tent. The Plaza in front of Resident Services will feature events and visitors. These visitors will have items and services to offer to the player.
Donating 5 unique fish and insects to Tom Nook will unlock the ability to place Blathers' tent. Once Blathers' tent is unlocked, he will give the player a Vaulting Pole to find more creatures and a Shovel to excavate Fossils. Donating 15 more unique creatures and appraised fossils to Blathers will unlock the ability to place his museum, at which the player can donate and assess multiple things at a time. To unlock more tools, the player will need to pay off their tent, help Tom Nook build Nook's Cranny, build one bridge, and start three additional housing plots for animal villagers.
Once the Resident Services tent is upgraded into a building, Isabelle returns as Nook's assistant and the player is tasked with improving the island's popularity to draw the attention of K.K. Slider. Nook instructs the player to pick a location for a Campsite, then to furnish additional housing plots and increase the island's population, and finally to develop the island to a three-star rating.
In addition to earning Bells, the player can also earn Nook Miles, which is a new form of currency that can be exchanged for furniture, Nook-branded apparel, plane tickets to mystery islands, upgrades, and recipes.
As in Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer, the game features the ability to place furniture outside. A new Vaulting Pole tool can be created, giving the ability to vault over rivers, as well as a Ladder, allowing the player to climb up cliffs.
The player earns the Island Designer app once K.K. Slider performs "Welcome Horizons" on their island. Once the proper terraforming tools are unlocked with Nook Miles, it allows them to pave roads (instead of having to place patterns on the ground), as well as modify or add rivers and cliffs.
Up to eight players can live on a single island, but only one island can be made per Nintendo Switch. The first player is named the "Resident Representative", which occupies a similar role to the mayor in Animal Crossing: New Leaf; this player controls the pace of the storyline, and is the only player that can initiate placement of villager housing plots and infrastructure such as stores, bridges, and inclines (though all players will have access to the Island Designer app once K.K. performs). Additionally, there is a maximum of 10 animal villagers on the island.
Resources can be collected through various methods, such as chopping at trees with an axe for several types of wood (including wood, softwood and hardwood), or hitting rocks with a shovel for clay, stone, and ores. Several different types of weeds appear, which can also be used as materials once plucked. Crafting is done through either Tom Nook's workbench, or a bench crafted by the player. With these mechanics, the player is able to build and develop the island over time. Players are also able to dig up clams in the sand, which can then be used as fishing bait or as crafting materials. Additionally, trees and flowers can be shoveled up to be stored in the pocket, flowers can be used as crafting material, and picking them will also leave the stems in the ground.
Players can fully customize their characters at the beginning and during the game without having to answer questions, similar to Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer and Pocket Camp. This includes skin tones, gender-neutral hairstyles, and nose shapes. The player characters' overall design is slightly more detailed than in previous titles, featuring a more subdued color scheme and clear hair physics and shaders. The players also appear more expressive, showing a thoughtful expression when selecting items in their pocket, and moving their eyes around to look at nearby villagers and bugs.
The player can purchase a variety of clothes from the Able Sisters shop and presumably other shops that will appear after doing certain tasks. The Able sisters will set up their shop after to buy a fair amount in Bells from them. Able Sisters now includes a fitting room, allowing the player to try on clothes before purchasing.
An island can support up to eight players. For the first time in the series, four players can play at the same time on a single system, and up to eight can play together through online multiplayer or local wireless. Online play requires a Nintendo Switch Online subscription.
In local multiplayer, the screen boundaries will follow player 1; however, they may transfer their "leadership" to another player at any time. The lead player is the only player able to see notifications after catching bugs or fish. In online play, all players have equal abilities, as in previous games.
This marks the first game where a player's friend cannot modify the island with their shovel or axe unless they are marked as a best friend.
Nintendo eShop description
Escape to Your Personal Island Paradise
- Escape to a deserted island and create your own paradise as you explore, create, and customize in the Animal Crossing: New Horizons game. Your island getaway has a wealth of natural resources that can be used to craft everything from tools to creature comforts. You can hunt down insects at the crack of dawn, decorate your paradise throughout the day, or enjoy sunset on the beach while fishing in the ocean. The time of day and season match real life, so each day on your island is a chance to check in and find new surprises all year round.
- Show off your island utopia to family and friends—or pack your bags and visit theirs. Whether playing online or with others beside you, island living is even better when you can share it. Even without hopping on a flight, you'll meet a cast of charming animal residents bursting with personality. Friendly faces like Tom Nook and Isabelle will lend their services and happily help you grow your budding community. Escape to your island getaway—however, whenever, and wherever you want.
Tom Nook and Isabelle are the main special characters in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, with the former being responsible for moving the player and villagers to the deserted island, and the latter hosting the morning announcements and running the Civic Consultation Center at Resident Services. Many other special characters return in New Horizons, reprising their roles in previous games, such as Timmy and Tommy, Mabel and Sable, and Blathers running the shop, tailor, and museum respectively. However, several characters who appeared in previous games, such as Joan and Harriet, were removed from New Horizons due to their function being either no longer needed or relegated to another character or the player.
New Horizons includes 29 special characters, 6 of which are new to the series. The new special characters include:
- C.J., a fishing enthusiast who hosts the Fishing Tourney (replacing the role of Chip) and can purchase fish from the player for 1.5x their normal selling price
- Daisy Mae, who sells turnips on Sunday mornings (replacing the role of her grandmother, Joan)
- Flick, a bug-fanatic who hosts the Bug-Off (replacing the role of Nat) and can purchase bugs from the player for 1.5x their normal selling price
- Orville, the ground control for Dodo Airlines who works at the Airport
- Wilbur, the pilot for Dodo Airlines who takes the player on Mystery Island Tours
- Gullivarrr, a pirate captain and Gulliver lookalike who gives the player Pirate Series furniture in exchange for recovering his communicator from the ocean, similarly to Gulliver (added in 1.3.0 Free Summer Update Wave 1)
As of version 1.9.0, the game has 397 villagers, 8 of which are new to the series (one for each personality). The new villagers include:
Animal Crossing: New Horizons supports connectivity with the Nintendo Switch Online mobile app, where players can type out messages, use voice chat, view island statistics, and import custom designs from QR codes created by Animal Crossing: New Leaf or Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer.
Players that have Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp linked on the same My Nintendo account can redeem rewards via the My Nintendo screen in the mobile app. The rewards are 50 Leaf Tickets to use in Pocket Camp and a 16-digit download code for Nintendo eShop used to access special furniture and clothing items orders in New Horizons.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons received positive reviews from critics, with many praising the new entry for retaining the soul of other titles in the series while also providing enhanced visuals and new mechanics.
- Famitsu: 38/40
- IGN: 9/10
- Metacritic (an average of 110 critic reviews): 90%
- Forbes: 10/10
- Telegraph: 100%
- Nintendo Life: 10/10
- Pocket Gamer: 5/5
Some outlets have attributed some of the success of Animal Crossing: New Horizons to the stay-at-home orders and social distancing requirements caused as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, stating that the game has become a "phenomenon" due to its open-ended and social nature, and citing it as a form of escapism. Ani Bundel of NBC News stated, "In this time of social distancing, it turns out that a trip to a calming island where all you have to do is build houses and plant trees is the perfect escape," and that the game "couldn't have been timed more perfectly", releasing as shelter-in-place orders began to take place in the United States.
In the first six weeks after the game's release, it sold over 13.41 million copies worldwide. As of June 30, 2021, the game has sold 33.89 million units worldwide, becoming the second-best selling Nintendo Switch title, only behind Mario Kart 8 Deluxe which has sold 37.08 million units.
In Japan as of March 31, 2021, New Horizons has sold 9.37 million units, becoming the second-best selling game in this country of all time, only behind Pokémon Red, Green, and Blue Versions.
In the United States, the game became the best-selling in March 2020 and second best-selling in 2020 overall. It was achieved the third highest month physical dollar and unit sales of any Nintendo game and exceeded the lifetime sales of all games in the series.
In Europe, New Horizons has sold 7 million copies as of March 16, 2021 and was confirmed to be the fastest selling Nintendo title ever released in the region.
In September 2020, Animal Crossing: New Horizons received the Award for Excellence and Grand Award at the Tokyo Game Show, and in November 2020 it won the Nintendo Game of the Year award at the Golden Joystick Awards. It was also nominated for the Best Multiplayer, Best Family, and Game of the Year awards at The Game Awards in 2020.
|2020||Tokyo Game Show||Award for Excellence||Won|
|Golden Joystick Awards||Nintendo Game of the Year||Won|
|The Game Awards||Best Multiplayer||Nominated|
|Game of the Year||Nominated|
|2021||New York Game Awards||Big Apple Award for Best Game of the Year||Nominated|
|Central Park Children’s Zoo Award for Best Kids Game||Won|
|Tin Pan Alley Award for Best Music in a Game||Nominated|
|Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards||Favorite Video Game||Nominated|
|BAFTA Games Awards||Best Game||Nominated|
|Game Beyond Entertainment||Won|
|EE Game of the Year||Nominated|
|D.I.C.E. Awards||Family Game of the Year||Won|
Deserted Island Getaway Package Primer
- Animal Crossing: New Horizons marks the longest time between the release of two main Animal Crossing series games, at 7 years, 4 months, and 12 days from Animal Crossing: New Leaf's release in Japan on November 8, 2012.
- Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the second mainline game in the Animal Crossing series not to feature K.K. Slider on its boxart, the first being the international release of Animal Crossing.
- Likely to tie into Animal Crossing: New Horizons's de-emphasis of gender, villagers with "gendered" catchphrases had their catchphrases changed in this game to use more gender-neutral language. Cole, Cube and Stu, who all formerly included "dude" in their catchphrases, now say "cooooool," "brainfreeze," and "mrooooo," respectively. Shep, who formerly said "baaa man" as his catchphrase, now says "baa baa baa". Fuchsia, whose catchphrase was formerly "girlfriend", now says "precious". These changes were later incorporated into Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp as of version 3.4.0.
Names in other languages
- Animal Crossing: New Horizons - Deserted Island Diary, a manga series based on Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
- Atsumare Doubutsu no Mori: Minna to Tsukuru Shima Seikatsu, a manga based on Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
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