Nintendo have dropped the ball into the abyss with Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons a.k.a. Animal Crossing: New Leaf Remastered
Like many veteran Animal Crossing players, I was hyped for New Horizons' release. Well, it's been out for just over two months now, and, I've got to say, I'm a teeny, tiny, little bit disappointed with what Nintendo gave us. To be perfectly frank, I think Nintendo dropped the ball hard with this one, and I'm going to take this article to outline the reasons why. Not to say that any of this stuff will stop me playing the game, it won't. I'm going to continue living my life on this game like I'm not allowed to leave my house. Anyway, let's get into the... ahem... 'criticism'.
The game is not family friendly.
The one island per console controversy
This issue was talked about before the game was released, and I think it's worth reiterating that Nintendo let down it's consumers massively when they made the decision to have only one island allowed per console: not one island per copy of the game, one island per console. This was a blatant cash grab by Nintendo to sell more consoles, and, honestly, it's despicable. Perhaps some parents might be willing to shell out for two copies of a game to keep their children from squabbling, but two consoles costing upwards of £200? That's plain criminal. I hate to think of all the poor parents who didn't get the memo and bought their children each a copy for their shared console. Further to this, it's just nonsensical. Name one other games company that have released a simulation game that only allows the user one save. Name one. I'll wait... Back in the day, I begrudgingly purchased two copies of Tomodatchi Life for this same reason, but who is going to buy two consoles merely to have more saves? With the new customisation features they have added in, there are numerous ways in which you could design your island, but users are limited to just one, as well as there being 397 islanders to choose from and users are limited to only ten. If you want to have multiple islands with multiple themes you are left with two options: demolish all your hard work in the name of creativity, or pay for a new console.
Party play is a joke
Party play was Nintendo's solution to allowing only one island per console, and, to put it bluntly, it sucks. You can have up to eight residents on your island, which can be made by creating new profiles on the Switch, but the problem is only one gets to be the 'Resident Representative'. This means that only one player can complete the tasks in the games short quest line. Any other users just have to wait for the main user to do this before they can do things like buy turnips or donate to the museum. The party play feature is enabled through your phone, where you can call up other residents and play together! Except, the invited residents can't actually do anything. They have no inventory, they can't talk to residents, as a matter of fact the list of what they can't do is actually longer than the list of what they can do, which is pick things up and use their tools. I just can't stress how utterly ridiculous feature is, and the concept of one island per console is in general.
This is a 2020 game, yet basic features are poorly executed or just plain missing
Nintendo is famously bad at implementing online features, and they didn't up their game at all for this release. Visiting people and welcoming visitors to your island can leave you tearing your hair out. From the rigmarole you have to go through with Orville to travel or open your gates, to the excess loading screens everyone has to go through just to get to and from an island, you'll either fall asleep waiting or decide 'maybe I'll just sell my turnips for 63 bells this week...' It's the same system they had in New Leaf and, frankly, it should be far more streamlined by now.
What's more disappointing is that there is little to do on each others islands, other than just checking shops and running around. This was fine ten years ago, but when a game with online features is released in 2020 people are expecting more. One of the major flaws of the online world in New Horizons, is that there is no established trading system. If you are visiting a stranger, you just have to trust them to drop whatever item or currency that was agreed after you have dropped your goods. The game lacking a feature like this can, and probably has, caused people to get robbed.
It seems as though Nintendo didn't think we got enough loading screens while trying to navigate online play. They decided to give us one every time we enter or exit a building too. This can get tedious, especially when you consider a game like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which is a huge open-world game that has virtually no loading screens, so it's not a limitation of technology: it's a conscious choice from Nintendo.
Literally no settings
It seems insane to say that a game has no settings, but this one doesn't. You can't turn down the volume of the eternally playing background music, you can't set any kind of limits on what your visitors can and can't do when they visit, you can't toggle anything on or off, like whether or not you want to be able to pick up items like furniture while you are outside, there are no settings of any kind. This seems crazy, especially since you are given a handy dandy Nook Phone, which contains apps for all sorts of things. That would be the perfect place to allow the user to adjust certain settings. If you want to get a better idea of the kind of settings Nintendo could implement, I suggest watching this video.
Still haven't found a way to stop time travellers
Ok, I know that this is a controversial opinion, but hear me out. One of the fundamental aspects of this game, it's USP really, is that it takes place in real time. Yet Nintendo have found no way to stop people from neglecting this principle. Now, I have heard many a time traveller lament 'Nintendo have said they don't see it as cheating!' Well, yes, and while that's true, they have also said that they decided to release events as updates to discourage people from doing it. So, they may not see it as cheating, but it seems like they aren't crazy about players doing it either. I don't blame time travellers for exploiting this defect of the game; I blame Nintendo for making it a possibility and, in some ways, encouraging it by time gating certain things so tightly. I'm a big advocate for playing a game how you want to play it, but, essentially, if you are time travelling, you aren't playing the game as it was intended to be played, and anything you achieve via time travel means half as much as someone who is grinding through the game as it was designed.
We've only had a few meagre updates since release
Nowadays, the first few months of a games release is when users should see the most updates. This is because the company will be hearing about problems with their game that were not picked up in development, or features that they missed the mark on. Nintendo has given us a few bug fixes, a bit of event stuff, as well as removing two of the mystery tour islands and decreasing bug spawn rates (thanks, I hate it!). There has not been a single update to the quality-of-life thus far. This is unacceptable for a 2020 game, and really gives the impression that Nintendo just doesn't care about it's users. In fact, as I'm writing this, I'm picturing Katsuya Eguchi rolling around in a big pile of money, cackling maniacally, surrounded by screens that are scrolling through players appeals for updated mechanics... But, you know, he probably isn't.
Even if there was, say, some big, global extenuating circumstance that meant they are unable to update the game (which I'm skeptical of), then some verbal or written acknowledgement of the players concerns would be something.
There is nothing new. Well, except crafting and terraforming, and oh boy...
Crafting seemed like it was going to be an exciting new feature in this game. Unfortunately, crafting in this game sucks, simple as that. I mean, really, how are you going to release a game with crafting features in 2020 without a 'craft X amount' or 'craft all' option? How does that get through testing? I really want to know. These are basic options for any crafting game, and they are just missing. Not only that, you can't just stroll into your house and start crafting from items you have in your storage; you have to go into your storage, remove the items you need (if you remember them all) and put them in your bag. Not only that, you have to suffer through an animation every single time you craft an item. I would understand if you saw it every time you craft a new item, but every time when I'm trying to craft 100 fish bait? Get it together Nintendo.
Missing the mark with events
We've had a few events so far, but the majority have been very lacklustre and haven't offered much content. I mean, am I really going to do the same tedious task for Blathers everyday for two weeks just to get the same three cheap items every day? No, no I'm not. The one that did offer a decent amount of content, Bunny Day, was kind of botched too, with the egg spawn rates being ridiculous, especially for people starting their islands who were desperate for materials. In fairness, Nintendo did reduce the egg spawn rates eventually, which really just informs me that they are seeing people's complaints, but they are ignoring about 90% of them.
Limitations with terraforming and outside decorations
Decorating your house is a joy in New Horizons. They have taken a leaf (get it?) out of Happy Home Designer's book and given you a birds-eye view of the room, and you can easily drag and rotate your furniture (except at 45° angles, which is a little annoying). However, outside there is no such system, and placing items is an exercise in frustration as your poor character struggles to drag things into position.
Terraforming is another exciting new addition in this game. Honestly, they didn't mess it up as bad as the crafting, at least in my opinion. Still, it's not the best. Terraforming entails telling your phone that you want to put on a hat, and then putting on that hat, which then, for some reason, adds another dimension of awkwardness to your online play. It's another feature that isn't streamlined when it really should be. There are a fair amount of limitations for what you can and can't do with terraforming, and the only way to find out what you can't do is by watching your character almost topple over, over and over again, as they try to create a waterfall at an angle, or build a cliff too close to the beach, or a plethora of other things. Sometimes you will get a dialogue box that explains why you can't perform a particular action, but these are usually arbitrary reasons. A tree too close to a river, are you insane?
There isn't enough to spend bells on
I'm fairly certain that most of us are bellionaires by now, especially the more seasoned Animal Crossing players. However, once you have completed your house expansions (not to mention they have removed some of the further expansions you could apply in New Leaf) what is there to spend your bells on? Sure, you can have eight bridges, eight inclines, and inconvenience your villagers by moving them four times in one week, but once you have created the island you dreamed of the bells just accumulate in your bank account and gather dust. It's not like their is nothing they could do to up the old bell exchange rate either. They could implement things such as
- More expensive items
- Expansions for your side rooms
- Increasing the size of your island
- Increasing your villager count
- Exchanging bells for Nook Miles
- Paying a rush fee on construction projects, so you can get more than one a day
To name just a few.
The mechanics haven't changed since New Leaf, and we expect more
Shopping is a pain
Just as their is no 'craft X amount', there is no 'buy X amount', unless you are buying turnips. It feels ridiculously clunky in this day and age to have to continuously click through the same dialogue boxes. Shouldn't this be a streamlined process by now? I mean you can type in the number of turnips you want, so the code must be there to implement: therefore, it just leaves me wondering, why would you make a mechanic so frustrating when it didn't have to be that way?
The Able Sisters' fitting room seemed like a fantastic idea, until you realise you can only by one of each type of item at a time, and there is no way of telling what you already have in storage. Again, this isn't an issue of whether they can do it, as you can see in your DIY recipes what you have already crafted. All they would need to do is implement the same sort of system for the fitting room. Unfortunately, the Able Sisters have lost a lot of business from me as I have to think to myself, 'is it worth spending five solid minutes going in and out of this dressing room and skipping through the same dialogue boxes over and over?'
Oh, the dialogue boxes!
As you can probably gather, I think there is far too much repeated dialogue in this game. If you are fortunate to have Gulliver or Wisp visit, then you will have to click through the same 500 dialogue pages every time, and listen as they explain to you how to use a net or a shovel. It's not just that though, it's every interaction with every major character that has me wanting to commit an animal massacre, as there is no easy way to skip through the endless dialogue screens. When you use Nintendo's own system to speed it up, it can often lead to you selecting the wrong options and having to start the interaction all over again.
Please improve our quality of life!
Custom design slots are limited
We are getting to the really nit-picky details now, but these are just as important as the big issues. In New Horizons you get 50 design slots and 50 PRO design slots. This might be fine, but these slots are shared across all the residents on the one island you are allowed on your console. As well as seriously limiting your design space, it poses a problem that any one of the eight residents can freely delete another's design, which doesn't bode well for households with instances of sibling rivalry. There have been some really creative people sharing amazing designs for clothes, painting, and pathing, yet you can barely scratch the surface with the amount of given design slots. For example, if you want some fancy edging for your pathways, these can take up almost your entire stock of slots, and leave you with none to do anything else with.
You can't store certain items
Turnips are the main concern when it comes to storage because come Sunday people might buy literally thousands of turnips with no place to store them. This means that they either have to fill their house to the rafters with turnips or litter their island with them. Not only is this displeasing aesthetically, but it puts the player at risk of having them stolen during online play (which again goes back to the need for a proper trading system). This seems like a missed opportunity from Nintendo to include some kind of garden shed structure, where you can store things like turnips and DIY recipes. Overall, it just seems lazy.
How do I use an ATM without a credit or debit card
There is an ATM (ABD) at your Resident Services where you can store all your bells, so it seems like it would follow that you had some kind of card that you could use in the shops, instead of having to haul bags of bells along with you every time you want to buy something for over 99,000 bells, and quite a few items fall into that category. Perhaps it makes sense for the people that are hawking their goods in the plaza or around your island to only accept cash, like Kicks or Lief, but in the shop? This is just another one of the many outdated features from Nintendo.
Let us get rid of Bill Wibly a bit easier if we don't like him
The system for replacing residents involves... waiting. That's right if you don't like an islander you have to wait for them to take the hint and pack their bags before you even think about inviting anyone else. All the rumours about bludgeoning them with nets or fencing them off turned out to be false. You just have to wait for the cool down, and even then there is no hand selecting which ones you want to get rid of. There are a few theories about restarting your console if an islander you are fond of is thinking of leaving, then you will have a different one thinking of leaving the next day. This is just a player created shortcut, but as players we shouldn't need to think up these inconvenient solutions to get the game to work more in our favour. When I say make it easier, I don't mean make it super easy; I just mean giving us more control over our relationships with the islanders, and giving us the ability to gently nudge the ones we don't want off our islands.
Of course, you can always use Amiibos, but if you purchase them honestly then you are never guaranteed to get the ones you want, and in some ways, hunting for the islanders is fun (until it isn't). Undoubtedly though, getting islanders to move out is the real pain.
And worst of all, Isabelle
Right. Stop what you are doing. Now. No, don't start anything because I need to make an announcement. STOP. Fine, I'll give you no choice but to stop. There, got you now. So, the announcement. It is <current date> and the time is <current time> and there is no news. Wait, let me just subject you to a few more dialogue boxes before you can carry on with what you wanted to do!
I mean... really? I know everyone seems to like this dog, but I can't say I'm a huge fan. The announcements are a useless, and a drag to get through, especially if you have multiple characters. The most frustrating thing is that they could have been utilised in some great ways. Take a look at this post if you're interested in seeing some of the more complex uses Nintendo could have implemented. At the very least she could kindly inform us which NPC we have visiting so we know who to look for, but no, instead we have to hear about a comedian she saw last night or what she found behind her washing machine. Waste my time, why don't you?
Not to mention that Isabelle is seriously broken right now. Did you know, that if you go to someone else's island or they come to yours, then you can swap the designs in their clothes shop? This is a ridiculous concept in itself, but I won't go into that. So, you could have some malicious person visit and place some profanity ridden garment on your wall. If they place it on the top row, you may not see it until you come across a poor, innocent villager wearing a shirt that says something like 'SH*T F*CK' on it. In this situation, you could remove the design from your shop, and complain to Isabelle about what the villager is wearing, but, and get this, they will only stop wearing for a short amount of time, and it is in their inventory forever (I guess the islanders have more design slots than us, huh). Better still, the design will carry over to whomever they subsequently move to if they leave your island. This a serious issue as many young children play this game, and Nintendo have done nothing about it.
Don't get me wrong, as much as I've been disappointed by the game, I have enjoyed it. I just think that Nintendo is very behind the times in the way they approach game development, and I think it's our job as consumers to pull them up on it. I honestly don't think they will implement any of the changes to mechanics that the game desperately needs because they have no direct competition, and there has been no shortage of people buying the game and consoles to play it on, so they have no reason to. On a more positive note, Animal Crossing: New Horizons has been a great distraction in these uncertain times, that's for sure. Personally, I've racked up over 370 hours playing it. The game has certainly brightened up my lock down, and has given some really creative people an outlet, and brought people together that have otherwise been kept apart during this pandemic, including me and my mum, who bought her first ever console to play it. Anyway, I'm off to play some Animal Crossing.