Over the course of one year I’ve experienced the very best that the Nintendo Switch has to offer, officially qualifying me as an expert in the field. From plunging into the fiery depths of Tarturus and battling through waves of hell spawn in Hades, to soaring high above the clouds aboard monstrous creatures in Breath of the Wild and even serving up Michelin star meals while burning down the establishment in Overcooked. I have truly experienced a thousand lives. Yet despite my several decades of dedication to video game culture, I have never experienced a game that’s delivered near perfection until Animal Crossing New Horizons appeared across the title screen. After returning to the game on it’s one year anniversary, it reinvigorated the same love I felt during its early days. Instead of a fact stacked article, I’ve decided to take my readers on a journey through the mind of an adult falling in love with a game about doing nothing in hopes you too can do nothing (It sounded much cooler in my head).
The Journey Begins
A franchise who’s popularity skyrocketed after each new title since its inception in 2003, Animal Crossing became the premier face for laid back gaming. The premise has remained the same throughout the jump from its Nintendo’s 3DS origins to the visual jewel its become on the Nintendo Switch. ACNH was to be my first venture in to the already established franchise. The extent of my knowledge on the game beforehand were the….interesting… anthropomorphic inhabitants of the village where you begin (while you yourself are a human for some reason leaving many questions never to be answered) with the objective of the game being simply go about your business and do as you please with no real objective. There’s no winning or losing, no clear goal to work towards outside of a tutorial. As someone whose attention span rivals that of a squirrel’s at times, it’s usually a bad sign when a game decides I’m responsible for the amount of fun I can have in their game. However, needing a break from the monotony of only having an annual Call of Duty title to look forward to and a third Cyberpunk 2077 delay, Animal Crossing was now (for better or worse) firmly set in my crosshairs.
The First 24 Hours
I can admit when I have a problem. My life within the first 24 hours from the moment I entered my island appropriately named “The Bronx ” best be described as a fever dream I never wanted to come down from. There is a semi tedious tutorial that does demand at least several hours to advance to the “actual” game, although immersion quickly erases any presence of said tutorial. While you are limited in customization options early on, once those options do begin to open to the player you completely lose yourself as I did. Seemingly mundane tasks such as chopping down trees and fishing along the beach fail to lose any semblance of investment even after its hundredth time (in truth it easily reaches the thousands). I would routinely find myself performing the same tasks I learned during the early game (most are necessary for crafting many different types of objects/furniture). The game does not punish you for taking your time. On the contrary, the mellow tunes playing throughout the day and slowed down text speed when interacting with villagers encourages you to SLOW THE F*$% DOWN.
6 Months Later
At this point in a game’s lifespan is when fatigue would begin to set in. The repetition of the same daily tasks and numerous rearranging around your island and you stop and think “Is this it?” Those thoughts were as absent as the fantasy of a social life. The beauty of a game with no clear objective is that there is no pressure. Is there a particular fish you want to catch? Well then go ahead and spend two hours fishing without remorse. I didn’t worry myself about not making the most of the available options presented, because there was no pressure of excessive grinding to overwhelm myself. The feature of rewards for daily tasks and certain actions requiring “real life” time to complete provide a tremendous sense of accomplishment . Even if I’m unable to pour hours in each day, the few I’m able to invest surpass the same gratification of playing through a few missions of an RPG or a few multiplayer matches of Call of Duty.
Does It Ever End?
A steady flow of free, seasonal downloadable content and a parent company in Nintendo who know they have a cash cow on their hands secure ACNH’s longevity clear through 2021. The recent addition of a 35th Mario Anniversary collection filled to the brim with content opens the door wide open for fans to allow excitement and joyous speculation for potential Nintendo properties to make appearances as well. I, for one, may not have the time I once had to devote to the game (Running a media state is a bit time consuming). However, I do know that whenever I decide to pick up the joycons, my own little Bronx paradise will still be waiting for me…..I just hope Clyde is gone when I return.