Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Animal Crossing: New Horizons probably needs no explanation if you’ve been paying attention in the console games world. Since its release in March 2020 it has become one of the most popular games of the year and the 2020 COVID chillout game for people all around the world. 

It’s success is clearly due to a number of factors, including the simplicity of gameplay and the charm of the characters, but what drew me to it is that it is very absorbing and nothing “bad” ever happens. Unlike most other games where you’re fighting and risking instant death at any minute, AC:NH is just really relaxing. You have chores to do but nobody shouts at you if you feel lazy and you’re constantly given little bits of encouragement when you complete easy targets and challenges.

I love to sit in the museum’s butterfly house and just watch them flutter past me. Even sitting and watching the sunset feels relaxing – you’re not actually doing it but you get the feeling of doing it.

I wasn’t sure if I’d like it but a month in and I still love checking out my island every morning and doing the little chores. You always have a strategy and a more longterm target, like catching all the bugs or fish, or raising the rating of your island. There is a huge amount of information online and helpful Facebook groups if you get stuck or you wonder what you should be doing. 

Some of the things that still amaze me

There has been incredible attention to detail spent throughout the game. Just a few of the things that I am still amazed by:

  • The way that the game matches your local date & time plus phases of the moon
  • The accuracy of the drawing of the insects and fish – they really are beautifully rendered
  • The sound of waves on the shore is matched brilliantly to the actual wave patterns
  • The way that weather is rendered in the clouds and lighting – you can even watch changes in the weather come in so there are no harsh transitions. The only downside is that I’d like a weather forecast for the day ahead 😀 
  • Incidental sounds like the noise your feet make on different surfaces are absolutely convincing 

Some tips and tricks

  • Nook Miles Ticket islands: You can trade 2000 miles for a ticket to fly to a random uninhabited island. Here are my thoughts of each one:
    • There are a few common types of island where you have different layouts but you’ll have only your own native fruits or a “sister” fruit type. You’ll also have around 4 rocks that you can hit for clay, stones, iron or gold.  
    • Bamboo Island – fairly common
    • Big Fish Island – very rare
    • Tarantula Island – very rare
  • Catching tarantulas: there are generally 2 methods:
    • dig a load of holes to form a barrier, lure the spiders closer and and hide behind it while netting them. I don’t like this method because it is a bit of a waste of time – if you do get bitten then nothing bad happens because you just wake up outside your house OR by the dock if you are on an island.
    • OR raise your net (hold down A) and just creep up to one and freeze each time it raises its legs – shuffle forward bit by bit and then net it when close enough. I prefer this because it is just simpler and faster. You do have to be careful not to attract the attention of 2 spiders though because as you catch one then other will rush you and bite, 
  • Every island has some flowers but you’re encouraged to buy and plant more. These are really useful to attract insects like mantids but they can also hybridise so watch out for unusual colour forms. Apparently you can induce hybridisation by planting different colours of the same species close together (with spaces) and watering them daily. If you can get friends to visit and water them then it’s even better.
  • Every day you’ll get 4 fossils to find somewhere on the island – just dig up the stars on the ground and then have them assessed by Blathers in the museum. Always donate missing ones to the museum but if you have duplicates then consider wrapping them and gifting them to villagers to build their friendship.
  • You’ll also get one light coming out of the ground somewhere – you’ll find 1000 bells if you dig it but replanting bells in the hole will grow a money tree. The money tree will give 3x the amount you plant but the amounts above 30,000 are randomised so it is more risky. The safest return is with 10,000 bells, which will give you 30,000 guaranteed.
  • You can catch bugs and river or sea fish but by far the most productive activity is to dive for sea creatures so get the swimsuit as soon as you can, jump in (press (A) facing the sea) and dive (Y) when you see bubbles. 
    • Leave your tools at home to maximise your pocket space.
    • The rarer and more valuable creatures (Sea Pig, Venus’ Flower Basket & Umbrella Octopus) will swim away from you very fast so you need to sneak up on them.
      • Always approach bubbles at 90-degrees to the border fence or the land – trap them so they have to go right, left or straight towards you. 
      • They will stop dead as soon as you break off the chase so swim away if you need to change your approach or catch another creature.
      • Hitting (A) will make you swim a stroke extra for a bit more speed.
    • The rarest fishes are:
      • Marlin – always try for these on the pier and use bait to draw the fish in but it’ll take you a long time to land one. 
      • Coelacanth – only available during rain or snow – appears as a huge shadow
      • Sturgeon – not actually very rare but look for a big shadow at the mouths of your rivers.

The game isn’t perfect – here are a few things I’d change in the next update

  • To be able to look around 360-degrees outside, not just in your house.
  • To craft multiples of each thing.
  • To have different puns in response to catching something – the bad jokes get old very quickly.

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