Because of the new features in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, replayability will likely be hindered when compared to previous games in the series.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons released amid the global pandemic last year, gathering a massive following of new and old players during lockdowns. With new free time on hand, many Nintendo Switch owners escaped to virtual, deserted islands in order create their perfect paradise. Fishing, crafting, and socializing with villagers are just some of the many activities which can occupy time spent in-game. If that’s not enough, Animal Crossing: New Horizons allows players to explore the islands created by their friends, or venture to mystery islands for more materials and potential villager recruits.
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Like previous installments of the Animal Crossing series, Animal Crossing: New Horizons expanded on features previously added to the franchise. Finding desired villagers and maintaining the perfect cast of characters has been made even easier, as players can now convince favored villagers to remain on their island instead of simply watching them leave one day. Completing the museum’s collection of fish, bugs, and fossils still offers a grand challenge, but with the ability to travel to other islands now simpler than ever, the process can be accelerated. The connectedness that players can now achieve, in addition to the calm and vibrant scenery of the game, attracted so many players that there were shortages of both Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Nintendo Switch consoles worldwide last year.
Unfortunately, while it could once be considered routine to reset one’s Animal Crossing save after spending enough time in it (such as in Animal Crossing: New Leaf and Animal Crossing: Wild World), Animal Crossing: New Horizons unintentionally revokes that freedom. The option to manually craft each island to perfection with New Horizons‘ terraforming abilities makes default island spawns nearly irrelevant. The placement of rivers, cliffs, and even major buildings like Nook’s Cranny are subject to renovation and relocation. There’s simply no need to restart a save file in hopes of a better world spawn.
Animal Crossing: New Horizon’s New Features Hinder Replayability
Limited-time events such as the Super Mario event reflect a shift to live service, which Nintendo can now take full advantage of with its Nintendo Switch Online subscription program. In-game events such as May Day, Bunny Day, and the Wedding Season place a timer on players to get their islands just right before the items and rewards leave the rotation of merchandise available. In addition to events, time-sensitive merchants (such as Redd the art dealer) can take weeks to show up on an island. Coordinating with other players to purchase art can help speed things up, but there’s no guarantee he’ll arrive with legitimate pieces when he finally appears.
Finally, there is the matter of the other inhabitants of Animal Crossing: New Horizon’s islands: the villagers. Given the initial boom of popularity the game received, there quickly became fan followings of the most popular characters available. Now that players can convince villagers to stay on their island indefinitely, many have pursued the art of villager hunting. Hunting for villagers involves traveling repeatedly to mystery islands to find a specific villager. Given the amount of time invested in crafting the perfect village on an island, it’s hard to imagine that a reset would be very tempting.
Since Animal Crossing: New Horizons allows players to perfect their island existence down to the very last detail, this unfortunately eliminates the urge to ever reset a save file. The events which have already passed, items that are no longer in rotation, the ability to sculpt the land and water, and the villager hunting frenzy seem to ensure that every player’s first playthrough will be their last. Nintendo’s live service approach to the game supplies the player base with updated content as time goes on, making the act of resetting more of a hindrance to future enjoyment of the game.
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