21 March 2020 06:36
There was never a real chance that Animal Crossing: New Horizons wasn't going to be a hit. The game, for Nintendo Switch, is the latest installment in a beloved franchise, so it's about as sure a bet as you can hope for. However, Nintendo could not possibly have predicted that New Horizons would also capture the zeitgeist as precisely as it does. It's an immersive life sim built around voluntary isolation at a point in time when much of the world is in at least their third week of social quarantine. It's a level of coordination between life and escapist fiction that would seem contrived if this wasn't really happening.
In New Horizons, your custom character opts to purchase a vacation package from series mainstay and tanuki "businessman" (read: extortionist) Tom Nook. He sends you to your very own desert island, where you can explore it at your leisure, and eventually develop it from a single campsite to a thriving community of NPC villagers. However, as is Nook's wont, you do end up going in debt to him in exchange for your island getaway. The primary driver of New Horizons is to go out and earn money to pay off that debt, by collecting bugs, foraging for salable goods, building equipment, tending a garden, or whatever else you might find that you enjoy. Like previous Animal Crossing games, New Horizons is primarily about setting your own goals. It's a "sandbox game," where you're surrounded by things to do and weeks of potential playtime, but can prioritize for yourself what you want to pursue. While you can get stung by wasps if you aren't careful, there are no failure conditions or violent activities in New Horizons. It's meant to serve as an absorbing, pleasant distraction. Many reviews of New Horizons are currently works in progress, as several major features of the game such as the multiplayer servers weren't active until today. Most of the reviews are specifically based around going through New Horizons's solo content, which at time of writing has earned it a score of 91/100 at review aggregator Metacritic. Some of the critical highlights include: 2020 has been a relatively slow year for video games up until this weekend. While many previous years' first quarters have been at least somewhat busy – a lot of big third-party games tend to come out directly after the holidays, presumably to avoid having to go directly up against that year's Call of Duty sequel – the release calendar this year has been quiet since Bandai Namco's anime RPG Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot in early January. March 20 marks the point at which things start to speed up, however, with the release of both Animal Crossing and id Software's Doom Eternal, followed by Valve Software's Half-Life: Alyx next week. April 3 sees the debut of Capcom's horror remake Resident Evil 3, followed by the hotly anticipated Final Fantasy VII and, at an unspecified point in the month, Microsoft's Minecraft Dungeons. Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a system exclusive for the Nintendo Switch. It's available now for $59.99, in a physical retail edition as well as a digital download via the Nintendo eShop. Players who buy the game digitally before April 30 will also receive a voucher for 7 free days of Nintendo Switch Online, which is required for the game's online multiplayer.