‘New Horizons’ calms nerves in hectic times

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As a fan of previous “Animal Crossing” games, something about “New Horizons” hits different. In a time where the whole concept of routine and normal living has been flipped, “New Horizons” provides a much needed sense of relaxation and fulfillment. 

“New Horizons” has been one of the most hyped games for the Nintendo Switch since it was announced in 2018. Then, when the pandemic hit, “New Horizons” became even more essential. Since its release on March 20, “New Horizons” has given many, including myself,  hours upon hours of playtime to distract from the depressing nature of quarantine and COVID-19. 

“New Horizons” starts your villager off in a character design screen. Then, you select a map of a deserted island, where you will be curating your dream, five-star island for the next few weeks and months. The customization in the game is stellar from the beginning, especially compared to previous games. Even if you think your villager’s look is a little frumpy, you can change their features with a mirror and wardrobe very early into the game. 

You start off playing on your weed-covered island with two random villagers and a random, native fruit. Starting off with only two villagers makes the beginning of the game seem a bit slow, but spending so much time with these two makes you develop a specific attachment to them. But your island won’t be underpopulated for long, though. By day nine or ten, you will have all ten of your island’s villagers to interact with.

Unlike previous games, “New Horizons” allows you to completely craft a deserted island into whatever you could imagine. While some might not like having to wait a few days for Nook’s Cranny and the museum to open up, the ability to choose where each shop is placed more than makes up for it. Part of the fun in “New Horizons”, at least for me, is roaming through the trees, climbing the jagged cliffs and planning out the next few weeks of landscaping. The customization “New Horizons” is top notch and gives everyone the opportunity to create a completely unique island experience.

The customization also shines in the game’s DIY projects your villager must complete. With customization kits, you can design a lot of DIY furniture to be as ridiculous as you want. The DIY projects are also how you create your tools, another difference from the previous games. While this makes the game a bit more hands-on, it can get a bit annoying when your fifth fishing rod breaks and you have to scour your island for materials.

Though there are many changes in “New Horizons”, you still collect fish, bugs and fossils in the same way. A new, more interesting addition to this is the differentiation of northern and southern hemispheres, meaning different species might spawn on your island. Catching the same sea bass and horse mackerel time and time again can get frustrating, but it’s all worth it for the rush of excitement over catching a tuna. 

“Animal Crossing” has always been a great game to use as an escape from the messiness of the real world. With COVID-19 news flooding our timelines and filling our hearts with fear, I think escapist entertainment like “New Horizons” is the best way to not overwhelm yourself.