I initially planned on doing this two months ago, but time is an illusion at best these days and I just kind of missed it, but now seems as good as a time as any to talk about Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Like I said, this would’ve been more apt had it been the 1-year anniversary of its release, but I feel like the things I wanted to say then are still applicable a few months on. So with that said, I’d like to go over my brief love affair with the game and where our relationship stands today.
Like many people, I found that Animal Crossing: New Horizons hit right when I needed it to, providing a pleasant escape from the misery of the newly imposed lock-downs that swept across the globe. Despite how I feel about it today, I still maintain that Animal Crossing: New Horizons was one of the most important games I played during 2020, solely based on how it helped prop up my relationships with others. Yet here in 2021, I might be able to give the game a half hour of my time every two weeks or so, at best. Where did it all go wrong between me and Animal Crossing: New Horizons?
Well it probably has to do with the fact that nothing substantial has happened over the course of the year. Every seasonal event that was rolled out was underwhelming and immediately forgettable, leaving me yearning for the bigger content updates that would never actually come. The events for the most part, all followed a similar formula of “collect this thing so you can craft a different thing,” and that’s pretty underwhelming if you ask me. Sure it follows in the motif of the game itself, where crafting and building are kind of the cornerstones of the entire experience, but sometimes you want to do something that grants you a reward that isn’t a crafting recipe. I just find the Animal Crossing: New Horizons failed to ever do anything with the momentum it built up, as if no one at Nintendo had a plan for if the game actually sold well or something.
The core issue isn’t that the events are underwhelming however, the real issue is that nothing has changed in a meaningful way whatsoever. Sure new items have been injected into the game here and there, but outside of that and the terrible seasonal events, there hasn’t been any real reason for me to spend time on my little island paradise. There aren’t any new buildings or NPCs to interact with, nor have there been any new shops to spend my dragon’s hoard of money in. No new functionality has been added to the game outside of being able to go swimming and diving for clams or whatever, so I’ve just been in this, “why bother?” mentality with the it all. Hell, none of my townsfolk ever have anything interesting to say anymore either. Just like real life, in Animal Crossing: New Horizons I’m just kind of going through the motions.
It’s an absolute shame too considering that a lot of the good will and praise that people heaped onto Animal Crossing: New Horizons when the pandemic started has almost entirely evaporated into thin air. Everything I hear about the game itself these days falls into one of two buckets: Either it’s an event from last year coming back much to the chagrin of the people still actively playing it, or how Nintendo patched out a glitch that people found because they wouldn’t want the game to be too fun.
I guess this is the part where I’m supposed to list things I’d like to see added to the game, but at this point I’d take anything. The game has gotten so stagnant and dull that even just a new store or mechanic could entice me to check in on my animals who refuse to do any manual labor, instead opting to let the town get overrun by weeds before actual getting their hands dirty. I remember rumors of cooking systems and more in-depth interactable objects like in past entries of the series, none of which have actually come to pass. Honestly I was kind of hoping that Animal Crossing would inject more Harvest Moon or Stardew Valley elements into it for the people who really wanted to stick with the game. Give players more things to do on a mechanical level and stop being so punitive when it comes to doing simple shit like rearranging the layout of your town.
It just sucks to think about because Animal Crossing: New Horizons helped me transition from a relatively normal life to the one I’m currently living without falling too deep into a pit of despair. Its positive, bright and cheery atmosphere was truly the pick-me-up I needed during some of the rougher parts of the lockdown. It was a way for me to keep in touch with my partner who lived far away at the time, as well as friends and co-workers. It was a lifeline during an incredibly bleak period of time, and to see it just be ignored after being so influential and beloved in the gaming space is incredibly disheartening. I hope something new comes into play soon, but I’m really not holding my breath.