Opinion

Analyzing “Animal Crossing: New Horizons”

By KAINE ENE

Back in late September, Nintendo teased a new update for Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and they started by teasing The Roost Café. Once Animal Crossing New Horizons Direct went live, what flooded out was what this version of The Roost will look like, then new characters, hairstyles, and much much more as Nintendo opened a new door…a door that has been noticeably shut, painted red, and beaming with flashing lights. But now, the update is known as version 2.0, the last major content update for the game.

 This update recently dropped a little earlier than expected, and now fans can bask in new content. New Horizons has always been a game with more customization and options to change your island than ever before, but something crucial to Animal Crossing had been missing from the game for well over a year. The Roost was among the pile of missing content. It’s a place where you walk in at any time, talk to a quiet pigeon named Brewster, and buy a daily cup of coffee for 200 bells. That’s it. Traditionally in Animal Crossing, there’s no gameplay benefit to coming here. The coffee doesn’t help you shovel up trees on the island—like the fruit—and Brewster doesn’t give you a special item for being a regular. Yet, a legion of fans of the older Animal Crossing games have been asking for Nintendo to bring back The Roost. Why?

Players shown relaxing together in The Roost in the Animal Crossing Direct. (Image source: Nintendo)

Really, when fans asked for The Roost, they asked for Brewster. I believe this ties into the core of the original idea of Animal Crossing: community. The Roost may not be a place to get benefits for your island life, but it enhances it by simply being a place where you can talk to other special characters you’d otherwise barely get to talk to and listen to the soothing music like the soft piano (or guitar in New Leaf) that even made an appearance in MarioKart 8.  A lot of special characters besides Brewster have been absent from New Horizons, and each and every one of them were used to add a sense of virtual community to the game.

 Since the original Animal Crossing came out for the Nintendo 64 in Japan, then Nintendo GameCube elsewhere, the game had been solely focused on what it’s like, and what it means to move to a new place with new people. From the start of the original game, the emphasis was on saying hi to everyone in your town and getting a feel for their different personalities. There’s no building or shaping the island itself as an organizer like in New Horizons. It was essentially a game about nothing in a way that was refreshing. To have everyone you interact with be animals added to the “foreignness” of Animal Crossing. It truly felt like you had arrived in a new place. It makes the world all the more intriguing, all the more a virtual second home where you can escape to. New Horizons provides you a place that feels like it’s yours, because you’re building it from the ground up, but I’d argue it didn’t feel as much as home. That’s due to the lack of memorable characters, despite there being hundreds of possible residents, since there are 10 personality types to make small talk with.

Throughout the series, special characters added a sense of virtual community to the game where the player could’ve been just presented with a machine, menu, or loading screen. To name a few, Kapp’n the Kappa (a Japanese mythical creature) sang sea shanties as he took the player from one island to another, Harriet gave the player new hairstyles, and Dr. Shrunk taught the player reactions. Kapp’n was just a musical loading screen in disguise, but having him and the others there to entertain was part of the charm that made Animal Crossing great in the first place. Yet, in New Horizons, Harriet and Dr. Shrunk were replaced with the convenience of being able to obtain hairstyles and reactions with Nook Miles. It’s not the same.

The player (right) about to talk to Kapp’n (left) in Animal Crossing for GameCube. (Image Source: Nintendo)

So I’m sure that seeing a wave of characters pour back into our hearts as more about New Horizons’s 2.0 update was revealed made fans happy. Harriet is now present and ready to  give players additional hairstyles, and my personal favorite special character, Kapp’n, will be setting sail once again. 

With even more favorites like Tortimer, Cyrus, and Reese returning on Harv’s island, it sure does feel like a bit of the “community” in Animal Crossing is returning. Though, this update isn’t only a reunion, there’s also a new cooking system, furniture, and quality of life updates for accessing menus from anywhere, like player storage and ATMs. The New Horizons 2.0 update holds something for every kind of player that adds to the theme of settling in a new place, but in my opinion, the meat of all of that—the familiar faces joining the game—will leave New Horizons with a bit of charm from the old games that will last for years to come. I hope time proves me right.

Categories: Opinion

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