In these pages in the past couple of years I’ve talked about my enjoyment of the Nintendo Switch, a gaming system that frankly I’ve loved about as much as my Sega Genesis and original Nintendo back in the day. I say that as I can’t recall when I last enjoyed playing video games as much as I have on the switch, to the point that I take chances on games from franchises I never played before, such as “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” a game I fell in love with.
When Nintendo announced the release of “Animal Crossing: New Horizons,” the newest installment in their long-running Animal Crossing franchise, which I had never played, I asked some friends who are hardcore NintendFANS about it (Yeah, I’m not proud of myself either for that, but times are all messed up). They told me it was a relaxing little game, where you just live in a little town with a bunch of animal villagers. There are no levels, no boss battles, just a game to sit back and enjoy.
If, like I was, Animal Crossing is something you’re unfamiliar with, allow me to give you a quick rundown on the general idea. There’s a real estate tycoon Raccoon named Tom Nook, who you buy land from and he’s the developer. You’re essentially the mayor of the little town and you help improve it and expand your house. You catch bugs, you fish, you do little things. It’s all very fun and all very cute.
In “New Horizons,” Tom Nook has come up with an island getaway package where you’re on a deserted island that you get to improve into a delightful little community. You pick the name of the island, mine is Freedonia, taken from of my favorite movies starring The Marx Brothers, “Duck Soup.” You pick up weeds, plant flowers, interact with your villagers. You begin the game with two, but over time you add more till there are ten other animals total sharing the island with you.
The game came out right before the lockdown happened, and as such the wonderful escape from it all has become a joy to many people, myself included, and extremely lucrative for Nintendo. As of this writing, the game has sold. By the end of March, Nintendo said the game had sold something around 13.41 million copies—and it came out on March 20th.
The game has brought some much needed socializing to our socially distant times. You can fly out at your island airport, run by a pair of dodos, and visit other islands. I’ve done a treasure hunt on friend’s island, and I’ve been to an island in Toronto and had a long conversation about classic film in the game. It’s very hard to resist the charms of the game and the world. Intellectually, I know it’s a game and all the adorable villagers are just lines of code and programming. Yet, emotionally, it’s easy to get attached and wrapped up in it all very quickly.
My favorite villager is Zucker, an adorable lazy octopus whose catchphrase is “Bloop!” When he runs up to you in the game and asks if he can call you by the nickname “Cookie” then says “Bloop!” I found myself going “I would die for you.” You can get gifts for your villagers too as if there is a goal you want to increase your friendship level with them until you become best friends. Something that the game will signify by having the villager present you with a photo of themselves.
Animal Crossing is fun, adorable, and relaxing. The game was in development for years, and yet it oddly feels like it was literally made for these times. It works in real-time too. So there are seasons and when it’s nighttime where you are, it’s nighttime on the island. You often see stories about how people will say Nintendo is behind the times, how they can’t keep up with what Xbox and Playstation can do. Maybe so, but then Nintendo also casually will be all “We sold almost 14 million copies of a game in six weeks.” You love to see it.
I’m off to my island now, I have a new villager I need to give a race car bed to. He’s a clown sheep named Pietro. He can look weird to many, but he’s pretty sweet and nice to be around once you give him a chance. His catchphrase is “Honk Honk.” Do with that what you will. See you next week.