After exploding in popularity last year with millions of new players joining the fandom, Animal Crossing: New Horizons slowly started to fall off even the most dedicated players’ radars, mostly because of the lack of new updates.
While most long-time fans recognise the visual improvements in New Horizons compared to previous games, many claimed it didn’t have the same charm as its predecessors.
In October, the dedicated Animal Crossing Nintendo Direct blew many fans away, with both unexpected and highly sought-after free updates announced for the 2.0 update, as well as paid DLC. With everything from new villagers, the beloved froggy chair and white picket fences announced, this update certainly has the potential to create a resurgence of interest in the fandom. But will it be enough to ignite the same sense of devotion players had when the game first released?
The Roost and its caffeine-loving pigeon owner were one of the noticeable elements missing from New Horizons upon initial release. Brewster seemed like a no-brainer addition, as one of the many missing elements that made the Switch game feel a little lacklustre.
Fans were thrilled when it was announced that The Roost was finally coming to the game, with many rightfully anticipating Brewster’s arrival. NPCs at The Roost were also warmly welcomed — Timmy and Tommy needed a goddamn lunch break.
With Dodo Airlines being such a prominent aspect of New Horizons, many fans accepted the loss of the bus/taxi driver-turned-boat captain.
A much friendlier version of the Japanese Kappa mythology, Kapp’n has returned to bring players to more mystery islands. While the logic is a little flawed (how can a boat get you to an island with a different season, but a plane can’t?), finding the new flora will offer a few more hours of fun to the game.
More Returning Characters and Permanent Shops
So it turns out Tortimer isn’t dead, he’s just retired. Love that for him. Harv’s island finally has some use, with a huge City Folk-like expansion. Characters like Leif, Kicks, Saharah and more will find a permanent home in the new areas, while fan favourites like Harriet and Katrina have made a comeback.
Lottie also made a return in the Happy Home Paradise DLC. However, there hasn’t been any indication the post office is coming back, after being replaced by a postcard stand in the Dodo Airport. We probably won’t be seeing Pete, Pelly or her adorably grumpy sister Phyllis.
New Villagers and Amiibo Cards
The prospect of new villagers coming to the game brought equal levels of excitement and confusion — which of my beloved residents will I sacrifice in order to bring Shino to my island?
Audie, Judy and, of course, Raymond were among the most popular new characters first introduced in New Horizons, so it comes as little surprise that the update introduced more new villagers (although it does feel a little late).
Amiibo cards have always appealed to our collector, magpie tendencies since their inception during the New Leaf era. The concept of finding a full series collection is both a thrilling and wallet-busting task.
It was smart of Nintendo to finally release a series five, essentially putting an end to the villager ‘black market’ online. Although, it remains to be seen how pricey Raymond’s Amiibo will be when resellers get a hold of the new collection.
Animal Crossing players who started in New Horizons will have the joy of being absolutely baffled by Gyroids for the first time. What a sight it will be! The iconic Gyroids have confused and entertained Western players for many years now.
They’re actually based on Japanese clay figures named haniwa, which are buried alongside the dead in graves. So if you dig up a Gyroid, you’re basically a grave-robber. At least you know it’s not Tortimer’s. Gyroids are now customisable, which means you won’t end up with half your new storage space being filled with non-aesthetic wobbling creatures.
What’s Cookin’, Good Lookin’
When pumpkins were first introduced in October last year, many fans speculated a cooking component would be introduced to the game. A year on, we finally have confirmation. New crops are now available and cooking dishes can be used as decoration or to boost your character’s strength, for things like breaking boulders or pulling up tree stumps.
Quality of Life Updates
Nothing makes an Animal Crossing players’ heart sink like seeing a stray weed at the top of a difficult cliff. However this issue may be a thing of the past, thanks to the new addition of permanent ladders. Rather than taking up valuable space in your pockets, you’re now able to set up ladders around your island for easier access. Just make sure you still bring a ladder when you go villager-hunting.
Another sought-after update was additional bridges and steps. Players were forced to get creative with their bridge plans when they started to realise there was a cap on how many you could place around the island. But, no more!
Happy Home Paradise
The Happy Home Paradise DLC is essentially another whole game added onto the mainline, for those who want it.
Its predecessor, Happy Home Designer, was a spin-off game of New Leaf on the Nintendo 3DS. The sandbox-style gameplay had mixed reviews, with some enjoying the relaxed, minimalistic style while others herald it as boring or a cash-grab (a title that was soon taken by the widely disliked Amiibo Festival).
It was a smart choice to offer dedicated home designer gameplay to the main game, with players being given the additional choice to use the DLC on their main island, as well as the numerous features of the sandbox gameplay.
It also provides an incentive to continue playing Animal Crossing, with content like changing your own islanders’ homes being unlocked over time. If nothing else, Wardell seems wholesome as hell.
What We Probably Didn’t Need
There are certain additions in the update that don’t quite seem to add up. The stretching feature probably would have been popular if it was included at launch. It’s still not clear who’ll enjoy doing this multiple times or if it’s a ‘try it once’ kind of scenario. Kids will likely have fun following along with their favourite character, however.
New songs from KK Slider feel too little, too late. While early players occupied themselves collecting his full discography, KK quickly became one of the semi-redundant features of the game that mostly just became an inconvenience when you wanted to give a villager a gift on a Saturday. Perhaps KK still appeals to a younger demographic, but how many kids will really know about the additional songs?
The Island Life 101 seems the most out of place. Animal Crossing isn’t complex by any means, with part of the fun for new players coming from working out everything you can do in the game. For those of us who have already racked up 500+ hours in-game, the new function seems useless and for new players, it just takes away from part of the fun.
What We Didn’t Get
Many fans stopped playing New Horizons due to the tediousness of some tasks and the generic feel of many villagers’ personalities. Terraforming became tiresome after the first few hours (even though designing your island took far longer than that) and villagers with the same personality type would repeat the same bland phrases over and over.
Especially if you’re choosing villagers based on a certain aesthetic (be it kawaii, cottage core or horror), you can end up with multiple of the same personality type — and there’s only so many times you can listen to your villagers telling you about their pop star aspirations before you get the urge to whack them on the head with your net.
However, with villagers now able to enter your house, as they have done in previous games, there will likely be some more dialogue available. Another commonly cited issue is the lack of events, especially this year.
While stuck in lockdown, fans around the world eagerly awaited the next holiday or special event. The first bug-off was a fun change of pace and growing pumpkins during Halloween created the perfect cosy atmosphere (even if it was out of season or in the middle of spring for us in Australia). But if you collected all the Easter recipes when the game first launched last year, there was no real draw card to subject yourself to Zipper once again in 2021.
With new characters announced, established characters finding a permanent home on Harv’s island and the cooking option now available, perhaps more events will take place. However, Nintendo has confirmed there will be no more major free updates to New Horizons, so we’ll just have to keep our fingers crossed.
We did miss out on a few other popular suggestions, such as more villagers on your island, moving and customising resident services, bridges across cliffs, new path designs or just putting a goddamn rug outside.
Players are always going to feel like there’s something missing, but the small quality of life options Nintendo did skip over certainly won’t make or break a resurgence of the game’s popularity. With hype over the new update well and truly here, it seems as though many fans are looking forward to adding more hours to their gameplay. And rug outside or not, you’re gonna have a good time.