As the first mainline Animal Crossing game to come out since Animal Crossing: New Leaf in 2012, the upcoming March release of Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a pretty big deal.
On one hand, Animal Crossing games can and should last for a very long time. There's so much to do, from decorating your home to unearthing every fossil to digging holes around your least favorite villager (looking at you, Diva) and chuckling to yourself as they struggle to walk. But eight years is a long time, and eventually you have a decked out mansion, a full museum, and an ideal town with little left to do other than curate your garden.
Thankfully, New Horizons will let players start from scratch on a mostly deserted island, fulfilling every gamer's ultimate fantasy of going from living in a tent to owning their own home––in a town full of cute anthropomorphic animals, no less. But as if Animal Crossing on an island with Switch-generation graphics wasn't a big enough draw already, Nintendo revealed a number of new features in their Animal Crossing: New Horizons Nintendo Direct that seem to fulfill fans' every wish.
For instance, most hardcore Animal Crossing players are familiar with the dreaded map hunt that precedes the true start of a new game. In layman's terms, this is the process of endlessly restarting the game at the beginning to ensure that the randomly generated town map layout has all the right features to maximize space (i.e. beach location, river placement, etc.). New Horizons streamlines the process by...just letting players pick the layout of the island.
Considering how much time people put into designing and curating their town, there are few things worse than having a new villager move in and build their house in the exact wrong spot (who builds their house RIGHT IN FRONT of someone else's house, Diva?). New Horizons has a solution for this, too, allowing players to set up the locations of new villagers' houses in advance of their move.
Go away, Diva.Nintendo
In fact, almost every new feature in New Horizons seems tailor-made with player customization in mind. Players can now change their skin color, as well as access gender-neutral hair options. Players will get access to terraforming tools, allowing limitless town customization with the ability to turn rivers into solid ground, or vise-versa, and build or destroy hills. There's even compatibility with New Leaf through a new NookLink mobile app that allows players to scan the QR codes from their old custom clothing/art designs and transport them to the new game.
Of course, New Horizons also has Amiibo support that promises a photo mode featuring fan-favorite villagers along with other as-of-yet unannounced functionality.
In fact, the only major drawback to New Horizons is Nintendo's decision to tie game saves directly to the Switch console, without the ability to backup data on the Cloud or transfer through an SD card. Moreover, only one island can be built per console, although up to eight different players can create characters on the same island. Perhaps the lack of transfer support comes down to Nintendo wanting to prevent situations where one person in a family transfers data to a new Switch, resulting in every other family member losing access to their island––but somehow that seems rarer than the likelihood of someone simply getting new Switches and being forced to start their entire game over. Still, Nintendo promises to have some sort of backup support available in situations of loss or Switch breakage.
All that being said, Animal Crossing: New Horizons will almost undoubtedly be the definitive Animal Crossing experience, where we can delight in throwing our lives into the void of a happy animal world simulation. Animal Crossing: New Horizons comes out on March 20th, but in the meantime, we can gaze longingly at the adorably limited Animal Crossing: New Horizons Edition Switch console which has long been sold out on Amazon.