I’m not sure if any of you have heard about this not-very-well-known indie game called Animal Crossing.
Just kidding. On this trend, I’m the one who’s late to the party.
The new version of Animal Crossing for the Nintendo Switch came out a few months ago, and I’ve watched my FaceBook and Twitter feeds blow up with various memes, critiques, and pictures of the game. It seems like many of the people playing it played the Nintendo DS version when they were kids and were excited to experience the nostalgia again. Since I did not play this game when I was younger, I didn’t have this same nostalgic draw. I didn’t know what the game was about and wasn’t too interested to learn.
That is, until I heard reviews like this from my friends:
“I’ve been a fan of AC for a while now so I knew I would like it before I got it, how could you not? It’s just a relaxing game where you can do anything you want really. But what motivated me to get it was actually the coronavirus. I wasn’t allowed to see my boyfriend at the time, and I knew he was getting it, and I knew it had multiplayer, so that was a way I could connect and be with him, even if it was virtually.
After thinking about it, I’ve decided that AC is not like real life, but that’s kind of the point, to get away from real life for a second. There are similarities, sure, like when I play with my boyfriend and we go to the museum, I’ve done that with him in real life too. But I haven’t fished since I was five and the only bugs I’ve ever caught, on purpose, were fireflies. There are no adult responsibilities in AC and it’s nice not to have to worry about high stake tasks like other games or being perfect. (I’ve been told I procrastinate because I’m a perfectionist) Sure, you have to pay to get your house upgraded, but when there’s no interest or taxes and all you do is sell bugs and fish all day, that’s easy to pay off. And certainly, during quarantine I’m guilty of changing my clothes in AC more often than in real life. While I do have a garden in real life, I don’t grow flowers, and I do like that sort of challenge in game to breed all the colors which I couldn’t do in my backyard. Animal Crossing, in essence, is a great distraction when you want to forget the craziness of the world for a moment. And I might even agree with some people on the internet who suggested this, that it wouldn’t be as popular as it is if not for being stuck at home during this unprecedented time.” — Tatiana
A distraction from the craziness of the world? Gee, I sure could use one of those.
After hearing positive reviews from so many of my friends, I decided to cave and give it a try.
Since I never played the old version, I decided to have one of my friends who has give a synopsis of the game:
“Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the newest installment in the franchise. This game draws a similar theme from New Leaf, which is the ability to play on an island except this time it’s the central idea. In New Horizons, the player is given the chance to take an “indefinite vacation” to an unnamed island, making it their own by slowly building it from the ground up.
While you beautify your island, you can make friends with your fellow islanders! All of which, of course, are animals. Not only that, you can customize your character into the cutest little island renovator you’ve ever seen.
New Horizons introduces a lot of entirely new features, making this installment into its own relaxing experience. This time, Nintendo gives you the chance to decorate with outdoor furniture and fixtures and eventually you’re able to terraform the land into your own tiny paradise. The added amount of freedom given to personalize the outdoor space for you and your animal friends is definitely my favorite part of this game.
My only gripe with New Horizons is the soundtrack. Admittedly, this might be a bit
nitpicky but, I think the music for this game just can’t quite measure up to the previous games’s
selection of music. The way music in Animal Crossing works is that each hour, the atmospheric music changes to a new song. In my opinion, most of the tracklist just doesn’t have the same catchiness.” — Danielle Smith
I will say that I found my first few hours of gameplay to be humorously NOT a pleasant distraction…within the first hour, I had the title of Resident Representative, I owed thousands of dollars (or rather, bells in the game) to the raccoon mafia, and was stung by wasps. TWICE.
Great, just what I wanted — an escape from reality where I have a job, bills, and there’s pain everywhere…oh wait…
And yet, I keep turning on the Switch and returning to my island. I named the island “Resilience” at the beginning of the game, little did I know how apropos that would be.
After playing for a few weeks, Animal Crossing has proven more and more to mirror the real world. Here are the parallels I’ve found so far!
A Very Ambitious Islander
One of the nicest things about Animal Crossing is that you’re on an (almost!) deserted island. You’re meant to embrace the island life. Stop and smell the flowers. Even the few creatures that come to the island with you talk about how nice it is to be able to slow down and watch the clouds go by. Yeah, they had never met me.
In Animal Crossing, just like in real life, I’m more comfortable if I’m working towards a goal. I hate feeling directionless and trying to “relax.” I’ve tried it. It doesn’t work. I’ve come to accept that.
Every time a new challenge comes up in the game, I breathe a sigh of relief. Oh good, another thing to do that will give me purpose! I have very few options as far as things to say to other creatures in this game, but if I could say what I was thinking, it would be like “WHAT, YOU’RE JUST GOING TO STAND THERE?! THERE ARE FISH TO CATCH AND TOOLS TO BE MADE.” If I could choose a “reaction,” it would be “flustered mania,” but as it stands, I’ll have to settle for “Encouraging.”
Animal Crossing has several long-term goals that are introduced to you at the beginning of the game as well as short-term goals to be triggered and completed as the game is played. It is both comforting and unsettling that I can’t complete everything all in one go. Hell, in order to catch all of the different fish surrounding the island, I’ll need to play through every season. And the thought of that leaves me in a permanent grimace emoji.
The Pockets Are TOO. DAMN. SMALL.
It’s pretty common knowledge at this point that women love pockets. We just want all of our clothing to have pockets. And not those shallow, sewn-up pockets, either. We want real pockets that can fit a smartphone and then some. Just like in real life, my pocket in the game is far too small. You can only carry as much as your pocket can hold, and if your pockets get too full, you need to find something to do with the things you have in your pockets to free up some space. This is where we gloss over the logic of keeping live fish in a pants pocket. Nothing ruins a nice day spent fishing like having to run back and forth from the store to sell your wares then go back out to the beach over and over again!
Renata The Minimalist
Like in real life, I spent the first portion of the game gathering up all of the decorations I could for my room. Would it look good in my room? Did it fit my style? Did I need it? Would it actually fit in the room? Who cares! I’m amassing stuff! And like my real-life bedroom, it quickly became a cluttered mess with absolutely no flow or floor space. So I decided to sell almost all of it. All of my interior and exterior decorations that I didn’t like went back to the Animal Crossing store. I went from hoarder to minimalist in about a week. If only I evolved that quickly when it came to my real bedroom.
However, both on the game and in real life, I don’t care too much what my room looks like because I’m never in my room anyways! I’m not attached to the flooring or the furniture or the layout, which brings me to…
Why I Rarely Played Sims
I keep seeing people on social media with pictures of the interior of their Animal Crossing houses and I can’t help but to think, “Am I supposed to care that much about what my house looks like?” Seriously, I look at their perfectly-laid-out kitchens and their decorated bedrooms, and the thought that crosses my mind is how much mental energy it would take to plan out those rooms. Looking back, that’s probably why I never understood the appeal of Sims. I used to go to my friend’s houses and watch them as they created virtual mansions. Going on about flooring and wallpaper and how pretty it looked. To be honest, I couldn’t tell how it looked. It was a wall.
Even now, as Dan and I start looking for a house, I have trouble visualizing anything that’s not right in front of me. He shows me examples of houses and I tell him exactly what I don’t like about them. Even if he explains that we can fix them up, I can’t visualize it. I don’t know what I want, I just know that I don’t want what I’m seeing. Can’t the house just be perfect for me upon move-in? Sheesh!
I’ve seen Survivor. Once you’re on the island, you have to form alliances. Since I’ve gotten to my island, I’ve taken every opportunity to try and connect and be generous with the other residents. I approach them whenever I see them around and use my very limited options of things to say to converse with them. However, they don’t always seem to see my presence as a good thing. If I approach them too many times in a day, they comment on the fact that they can’t seem to get away from me and I’m there every time they turn around. Like real life, I’m way more excited to talk to those around me than they are to talk to me. Whatever, I don’t need you…I have this seahorse that I just caught…I’ll tell him all my secrets instead.
All the Crossfitters Talk about is Crossfit
When you are sent to your deserted island, you arrive with a few animals (namely, raccoons) to run the island (and intimidate you out of your money) and a couple of animals who are also going to live on the island with you. On my island, I have one adorable pink rhino (who I seem to be smothering with my friendship) and a teal penguin who talks INCESSANTLY about working out. Literally, every single conversation with them, every written missive by them, every initiative created by them is about fitness. If you were hoping to go away to an island to get away from talk of exercise and guilt for not working out, you’ve forgotten one thing: crossfitters always be crossfittin’.
I Can’t Be a Pink Rhino
Okay, so this one is silly, but it actually is a major beef I have with this game. Before I had played the game, my entire perception of it came from images that I saw. I assumed that I would be able to have a cute little animal avatar when I started the game. The word “animal” is even in the name, for goodness’ sake! But alas, even in a world full of teal penguins and owl historians, it seems as though I am destined to always be a human. Le sigh…
Although I will admit, even if my human avatar isn’t as cute as an animal, she’s still pretty adorable when she poses as she tries on clothes. Seriously, I go into my closet and change my avatar’s clothes just to watch my avatar pose. Hilarious and adorable.
Overall, I’ve enjoyed my time playing Animal Crossing, and I’m looking forward to seeing what challenges come up in the game. I do recommend it if you’re looking for a cute animated game that isn’t too stressful.
I wanted to thank my contributors for giving me their thoughts on the game as well! I appreciate you!
If any readers have been playing Animal Crossing and have thoughts about it, please share in the comments!
Photography by my talented fiancé. You can find him on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/hope_grows_here/