Animal Crossing: New Horizons — What we know when we don't know anything

Animal Crossing Beach
Animal Crossing Beach (Image credit: Nintendo)

It's been about eight years since we've seen the last main series entry in the beloved Animal Crossing series. While there have been a few spin-offs and cameos in other games, fans have been anxious for a whole new world to explore and customize. After such a long wait, anticipation and expectations for the latest game, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, is sky-high. To make matters worse, the game has experienced delays, and we have little information to go off of, even a little over a month from release.

As a professional writer, this lack of information, aside from what Nintendo has provided about basic gameplay and the exciting Nintendo Treehouse demo, can be a little frustrating. Since part of my job is to provide information about new releases, it's tough to squeeze blood from a stone.

However, when it comes down to it, my anticipation for this game as a fan is unfathomable. In a leak, spoiler, and breaking-news world where we expect instant gratification, we latch onto any bit of information we can.

Animal Crossing as a series isn't going to forge any mountains. There's no blood-pumping action, no sprawling storyline, and no epic twists. It is, however, a very well-loved simulator game, and a casual, fun way to pass the time. While we don't have a ton of information on Animal Crossing: New Horizons, what we do know takes the simple concept the series started with and makes it better than ever before.

What is Animal Crossing?

Animal Crossing Building Your Town

Animal Crossing Building Your Town (Image credit: Nintendo)

Animal Crossing is a simulator game series that places players in a new environment where they can interact with the world around them. Players control an avatar that is usually embarking on a change-of-life move to a new town.

With nothing more than a little chance in your pocket and the clothes on your back, the game has you head off to make new animal friends, explore the village or town, and do petty labor to pay a raccoon for the lumbering debt you incur. Sounds like a lot of fun, right? They actually are.

The overall game experience is so low-key that just about anyone can pick it up and enjoy it. You can customize the life around you, from your clothes to your home decor, and you can enjoy the whimsy of character interaction. It's a casual and enjoyable experience with no pressure. Collect bugs, catch fish, and plant the perfect flower garden if you wish!

A whole New Horizon

Animal Crossing Fall

Animal Crossing Fall (Image credit: Nintendo)

Animal Crossings fans are so excited for the release of New Horizons they are ready to jump on any bit of information, and it's not hard to see why. From the Nintendo Treehouse demonstration, this new franchise entry shows more than a little promise. There are so many new things to do! While we don't have everything there is to know, we do have some exciting info.

While this concept isn't entirely new, it takes it to a whole new level.

The "Nook Inc. Deserted Island Getaway Package" you start your game with is an empty slate...or in this case, a deserted island. For anyone dying for a chance to create their own Animal Crossing village, this is your time to shine. Everything from the placement of trees to the roads you walk on can be modified to your personal specifications.

Of course, you probably don't get any of this for free. Tom Nook is a business raccoon after all, and considering you get something called a NookPhone, I'm sure a hefty amount of Bells are in order.

Speaking of the NookPhone, here's a handy little addition I'm looking forward to. In addition to collecting just about anything you can catch on your rod, in a net, or get your little hands on, the NookPhone apps add a little dimension to your hunt for all the things. You can now get rewarded for your completionist tendencies thanks to the Nook Miles rewards program. I'm especially fond of this since I make it my mission to capture every insect and snag every fish possible. It gives players another task to complete while offering little rewards in the process.

This is an excellent example of taking a beloved design and making significant enhancements.

Additionally, the NookPhone acts as a filing system for all of your photos, your map, and any DIY recipes you pick up. That's right; you can build things in Animal Crossings: New Horizons. While this concept isn't entirely new (first featured in Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp), it takes it to a whole new level. You can build so many things as long as you have to components, which means everything you pick up has a purpose — even weeds!

Overall, I'm excited by all the new experiences New Horizons has to offer. From the sheer amount of customizable options to the simple things like picking flowers and moving trees, there are so many new things to look forward to! This is an excellent example of taking a beloved design and making significant enhancements. I am itching to dive in.

Fun with your friends?

Animal Crossings: New Horizons Friends

Animal Crossings: New Horizons Friends (Image credit: Nintendo)

I'm not the multiplayer type; I prefer solo experiences for the most part, but the option for local co-op has me intrigued. While the multiplayer option was included in the past, you could only visit other towns and communicate with other players online. There was limited interaction unless you were home for a visitor.

Each of these players needs to have a home on the island, however. That's where the trouble starts.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons will go a step further than that. For local co-op play, you can have up to four different players join you during the game! You can team up, gather materials, explore, and hang out wherever you wish. Each of these players needs to have a home on the island, however.

That's where the trouble starts. Every Nintendo Switch can only store one island at a time. On top of that, you can't transfer your save data from console to console, even if you have a hard copy of the game. That island cannot move off of the Switch it was initially created on

The one island limit is a cause of some concern. That means any local play has to be done on the same Switch — always — unless you want to have a different home on every single one of your friends' consoles.

It's hard enough to find time to take care of one town. Online multiplayer seems to avoid this issue, though it's not 100% clear how it will work. Plus, Nintendo Online can be spotty on the best days. This is one aspect I wish Nintendo would be more open about.

Overall, this seems like an issue that will affect anyone who wants to pick a controller, play with friends, and then take all the benefits back to their village. It's a frustrating oversight, but multiplayer woes are the least of my concerns in the long-run.

Welcome to the town: The fun of Animal Crossing

Animal Crossing: New Horizons Villager

Animal Crossing: New Horizons Villager (Image credit: Nintendo)

While the general idea behind every Animal Crossing is basically the same, each franchise entry brought a little something new. These welcome changes, like adding an island escape, the ability to craft tools, or becoming mayor of your small village, brought new life to a familiar concept, which is something that Nintendo does very well.

However, with the introduction of the Nintendo Switch, Nintendo has been pushing the boundaries of classic formulas with great success in titles like Super Mario Odyssey and Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. While Animal Crossing: New Horizons may not be on that level of change, it does seem to be taking a huge leap when it comes to innovation. Not only will it incorporate many of the exciting, well-loved treats from the past, but also it promises to make players start from scratch.

Your island getaway awaits, but will it be worth the wait?

New Horizons - Tent

New Horizons - Tent (Image credit: Nintendo)

March 20, 2020 can't come soon enough. Once it does, I plan to wave good-bye to my social life and any other games I'm playing to pass the time before release. It's an adorable game series, and with so many new additions, I can't begin to wonder how many hours I may pour into creating every inch of my personalized island getaway.

I may catch all the bugs, build a house on the beach, or live in a tent in the forest; the sky's the limit! Really, that's the fun of Animal Crossing.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is set to release on March 20, 2020.

Sara Gitkos

Sara is the Freelance Coordinator, writer, and editor at iMore. When not editing or writing away, she's glued to her Nintendo Switch, Xbox, or PS5, though she's a retro gamer at heart.