Animal Crossing: New Horizons is something of a phenomenon, in case you hadn’t noticed. Not only has it sold by the bucketload, but it has also attracted celebrity fans like Danny Trejo and Elijah Wood, and seems to be the perfect tonic for the current coronavirus lockdown. Heck, we awarded it a well-deserved 10/10 when we reviewed it at launch, and in general, our admiration for this unique life sim has only grown over time.
However, any video game is likely to grow stale over time, even the best ones in the world – and now we’re a few weeks past the game’s release, it seems a fine time to ask that most vital of questions: are you fed up of Animal Crossing yet?
Damien McFerran, Editorial Director
Before I answer that question, it’s probably worth me outlining my own personal history with the Animal Crossing series, because I think it has some bearing on where I am right now.
I got the GameCube version thanks to the overwhelming hype which surrounded its release, and pretty much bounced right off it. I didn’t have the time to dedicate to such a massive undertaking, and therefore my first ‘real’ experience of Animal Crossing was Wild World on the DS – a platform which I could take with me anywhere and was, therefore, a better fit for my hectic lifestyle.
I immersed myself in Wild World’s charms, playing it solidly during lunchtimes and in the evenings. Then I kind of stopped. The allure passed pretty quickly and I moved on to other DS games. Next up was New Leaf, which was pretty much the same story – I went in hot, I thought the game was amazing, then put it aside as other, more pressing titles appeared.
Perhaps the key issue here isn’t with the game – which offers a staggering amount of gameplay potential and content – but with me?
I’m sorry to say that the story remains the same with New Horizons. For the first few weeks, I played it every single day without fail – not booting up the game meant I risked my island being overtaken by weeds, or I could potentially lose a villager without even knowing. The improved customisation options hooked me in for longer than usual, but I’m ashamed to admit that I haven’t loaded the game up for over a week now, and the longer I leave it, the less likely it feels that I’ll ever return. I know that my island will already be covered in weeds and the thought of collecting all of those apples, cherries, oranges and pears fills me with existential dread (there’s also the small fact that my real-world garden requires lots of care and attention right now, as my wife keeps reminding me).
It’s not that I’ve been hit with fatigue as much as fear; because I’ve had other games that have needed my attention (Lonely Mountains: Downhill, I’m looking at you), my limited game time in each day has been taken up elsewhere, and that means New Horizons has been pushed to the bottom of the pile. As I did with New Leaf, I’m sure I’ll pluck up the courage to load up New Horizons again soon, but my overriding fear is that I won’t have the stomach to fully commit myself to the cause every single day – and that’s really what’s needed for a game of this nature.
Perhaps the key issue here isn’t with the game – which offers a staggering amount of gameplay potential and content – but with me? Between running a network of sites, producing content, reviewing games and juggling the commitments of a house and family, my own ‘real-life’ game of Animal Crossing has robbed me of the time needed to truly enjoy Animal Crossing: The Video Game?
Gavin Lane, Features Editor
For me, Wild World was my first Animal Crossing and will likely always be my ‘favourite’. After devouring that game on DS, the idea of being tied down to a television seemed absurd. From my point of view, Animal Crossing was something you squeezed into your daily routine whenever and wherever you could, no matter what. You could be sitting on the bus or the train or the toilet and it wasn’t a problem – on a portable system you always had time pop into your village, check turnip prices and make sure your favourite residents weren’t packing their bags.
So, this is the first Animal Crossing I’ve played on big TV screen and every time I fire it up I’m still amazed at just how pretty it looks. PS5 and Xbox Series X won’t be losing any sleep, of course, but the lighting and attention to detail in New Horizons make it a pleasure to throw on the telly. Perhaps that’s a factor in why I’ve played it every day since launch – even at the expense of other games I’m itching to spend some real time with (hello Streets of Rage 4).
Much has been made of the fortuitous timing of New Horizons’ release, and it’s been a great help personally getting through this lockdown. Where pre-COVID-19 I might have gone for stroll of an evening to get some much-needed fresh air away from a computer monitor, I’ve found myself wandering around my island, idly catching bugs, fishing or arranging flower beds as a way to decompress at the end of the day.
In fact, it’s telling that I haven’t made much progress at all in terms of my house extensions or things like that. I managed to complete my fossil collection a couple of evenings ago, but that’s about it. I’ve been using the game more as a relaxation tool, and it’s in that capacity that I’m returning every night.
I can’t say whether I’ll still be playing when life returns to ‘normal’ again, but I’ve got more than my money’s worth from New Horizons in these past two months and I’m happy to potter about watering plants and making Star Trek uniforms. Lovely!
Alex Olney, Senior Video Editor
Just like Gav upstairs my first dive into the wild world of Animal Crossing was on Animal Crossing: Wild World, although unlike his Gavvishness it’s not my favourite. Looking back it was great for the time, but it’s aged poorly and has naff all to do in comparison to the modern counterparts. Then it was New Leaf, and now it’s that other one that I’m supposed to be talking about.
Even though not all of the 150 hours I put in were entirely voluntary – having to play video games for a career is hard – I can honestly say that through the frustrations of trying to find certain fish and having to wait days for things to happen, I’ve enjoyed every one of those hours spent.
Suffice it to say though, the lustre is starting to lose its sparkle somewhat. What was a daily ritual every morning and most evenings has now become a dip-in-dip-out sort of affair. My island’s in largely good shape, I have some of the residents I want, but the drive to go back and get into the game isn’t as strong as it once was.
When I do pick it up though, I quite quickly tumble into a spiral of lost hours, even though when I booted it up I was certain I didn’t have much to do. Hell, last night after what was rather a frantic and exhausting day of more video games for money, I had so little energy for anything I just booted up the game and wandered around for a bit with no real purpose. And you know what? It was wonderful.
New Horizons may not have the vice-like grip it had on me before, and I may not be playing it as much as I once had, but I think it’s a game I’ll always be dipping in and out of, especially if these updates keep coming.