It’s been so long since Tom Nook last bled us dry and left us to die beneath a mountain of themed furniture inside our mini-mansions, and everybody’s begging for more. Pocket Camp was a nice appetiser, but it’s no substitute for the real thing. Animal Crossing: New Horizons for Switch, coming March 20, has co-op and crafting. Also, you can now fill the world with items and furniture, not just your house.
During a demo from the E3 show floor today on its Treehouse livestream, Nintendo provided the first details on how New Horizons will play. For the most part, it’s classic Animal Crossing, but with a few big twists. For one, the game takes place on an island, at which players will arrive as part of Tom Nook’s “deserted island getaway package.” You start out with basically nothing but quickly acquire a tent, which you can place where you please. As in previous games, you can place furniture inside your dinky domicile, or if you’re too much of a free spirit for restrictive concepts like “walls” and “ceilings,” you can lay out your objects wherever you want outside, as well. Basically, you can decorate the whole game world now, which is pretty huge and will likely keep players occupied for decades, if not centuries.
Kotaku followed up with Nintendo after its Nintendo Direct presentation, and the company confirmed that you will be able to select your character’s skin tone in the game. This was a feature that was absent from previous games in the series, and has so far only been seen in spinoffs like Happy Home Designer and Pocket Camp.
New Horizons also has a fairly robust crafting system, which you can access via an app on your character’s adorable widdle phone. If you’ve crafted items in other games, the rest will be familiar: You collect materials by hacking away at trees, smacking rocks with your shovel, and other such activities. Then you take them to a workbench (owned by Tom Nook, of course) to fill in the blanks of a recipe. In the demo, developers used various types of wood and rocks to create a bench, a bonfire, and a flimsy axe. Then they chilled out on a beach next to their tent. It was pleasant AF, which of course stands for “Animal [Crossing] Fun.”
In #AnimalCrossing: New Horizons, get a taste of island life and set up your perfect homestead! In this game, the rules of what goes indoors or out no longer apply! #NintendoTreehouseLive pic.twitter.com/N5JuqWNIv6
— Nintendo of America (@NintendoAmerica) June 11, 2019
When I say “they,” I mean it. Two developers played the demo together, in couch co-op mode, with one using a Pro controller while another held a single Joy-Con. All it takes to invite someone to your world is a quick call using the “Call An Islander” app on your in-game phone. Up to eight players can chill out on a single island. Other players can help you collect materials, work on crafting projects, and things of the like. Near the end of the session, the developers also busted out a camera with filters to commemorate their hard work.
There are also new systems surrounding the core Animal Crossing loop. Nearly everything you do earns you “Nook Miles,” which are inspired by aeroplane mileage programs. Everything from arriving on the island to crafting items to simply picking weeds earns you points, which you can exchange for access to items and activities. The goal, said the developers, was to make it so that players can progress however they want, even if that literally means just obsessively keeping the island free of weeds.
So basically, New Horizons is a bigger, craftier, and more cooperative take on everybody’s favourite video game comfort food dish. You still get to decorate a series of increasingly nice residences, you still interact with villagers (who we unfortunately did not see a tonne of in this demo), and Tom Nook is still a low-key evil manifestation of capitalism’s dual appeals and ills. If all goes according to plan, it’ll be a good, chill time.
Gita Jackson contributed to this report.