Animal Crossing: New Horizons has felt like an inevitability on Switch ever since the announcement of Nintendo's hybrid wonder, but it took them almost two years to confirm its development. For fans or newcomers, there's a lot to look forward to
From its earliest days as a Japan only release for the glorious Nintendo 64, right through its jump to GameCube (and now microtransaction laden debut on mobile in Pocket Camp), Animal Crossing elicits gleeful joy from even the most pessimistic Nintendo faithful. The effortlessly charming characters and unbridled positivity have been mainstays of the franchise since the beginning, but its various sequels and spinoffs tend to be more iterative in nature, subtly adding new features and tweaking the formula without making drastic changes.
New Horizons looks set to mostly continue that trend, with a few interesting tweaks that should provide just enough fresh ideas to keep things moving. Given Nintendo's first (and very mixed) foray into paid online subscriptions with Switch Online, it's pleasing to see them throw their weight behind building out the multiplayer functionality. 8 players can now hang out together online (and four locally via LAN play).
It brings a much needed sense of community to the whole thing, as despite your interactions with the loveable existing cast, there were restrictions in previous titles that prevented any large scale engagement with your buddies. Speaking of those delightful critters, you have much more control over where they decide to put down roots, with environmental customisation now absolutely at the forefront.
The world itself promises to be much more dynamic and reactive, with weather patterns determined by your real world location relative to the hemisphere. We have very fond memories of adjusting our GameCube's clock to experience the different seasons in one sitting, so we're chuffed to hear that these elements will continue to be included. It's a huge part of what makes Animal Crossing really come alive.
Crafting, which was introduced in the divisive Pocket Camp, has been expanded here, with a huge selection of options that allow you to funnel resources into your desired equipment. This has been intrinsically tied to multiplayer, which again, thanks to the renewed focus, will ultimately only be a good thing. It's an interesting loop too, with crafted tools granting access to new materials, which in turn gives you yet more options to play around with.
A recent delay may have been disappointing, but Nintendo have always subscribed to the notion that a delayed game will ultimately be good. Given the phenomenal year that Switch has had, with relentless first party output and some big third party ports, it's probably for the best that it has been bumped a few months.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons launches on the 20th March 2020, exclusively for Nintendo Switch.