Last month I put out a call on Instagram, pleading with my friends to fill me in on the appeal Animal Crossing, and what is it, exactly, anyway? Don’t get me wrong, I do understand the appeal of escapist video-games (I mean, we’re entrenched in the FF7 remake right now!) but I just knew absolutely nothing about Animal Crossing, and I was SO curious. Not curious enough to play, mind you–I know how easily I get sucked into games and I don’t need that temptation right now–but I just wanted to hear, from someone’s personal perspective and experience, just what is it that makes Animal Crossing so special? If nothing else, I can live vicariously!
My friend Shay rose to the occasion. Shay and are internet friends who have actually met in real life, and to say I adore her is a vast understatement. She and I were in somewhat similarly bad places in our lives when we first crossed each other’s path on the internet in the comments section of a blog that we both loved. As we became friendly and learned more about each other over the years, I’ve really come to lean on her friendship and cheer and perpetually bubbly nature, and I am happy to say that, while we switched places geographically (when we first started chatting she was down south and I was up north, and now the reverse is true) we chat at least once a week, and are always cheerleading each other on in our various goals. Shay–much like my Best Good Friend–is a very Aries Aries and as a slow, shy, sort of detached Taurus, I really need those dynamic, enthusiastic Aries energies in my life.
Thank you, thank you, darling Shay for taking the time, especially right now, which is a super weird and scary time, to have given this some thought and to have shared it with me. See below for Shay’s Top 10 things I Love About Animal Crossing New Horizons I hope you guys found this as illuminating and enjoyable–and fun!– as I have!
Hello, I’m Shay and I’m a casual gamer that has found a little place of zen in a game. I have played puzzle, design, and sim games for years. I played Animal Crossing beginning on the GameCube and have played every iteration of the game since. It’s the game with no rushed goal, no actual end, it’s a game where you just exist. There is something special about the town and now it’s an island that you get to create and curate.
The Sounds and Songs
Kazumi Totaka has created something amazing with Animal Crossing. The ASMR is being recorded and people are making YouTube videos of his hard work. The Washington Post described it as “a blissful 24-hour lullaby that’s helping countless players weather countless hours of forced downtime.” Totaka recorded the sounds of the island that you hear while out in nature. The ocean waves, a crackling campfire, walking through wet grass, the sound of the mole cricket, cicadas and he changed into sandals to get the sound just right for walking through sand. There is also a theme song that changes throughout the day starting slow chill in the morning and building up to a pop song around noon, happy hour sounds a little jazzy and then as you get late into the night and the dark sets in the tune takes on a slow gothy sound. It’s all so lovely and thought out.
Cute Anthropomorphic Characters
If you have played the game before, most of the characters are still here and there are quite a few new additions as well. I’m pleased to say my islanders so far are enjoyable but if they weren’t you could go to the town hall and submit a complaint to Isabelle, she’s the dog that works there. There are different animals and they all have different personalities. Personality types tend to be nice, hard workers, lazy, jocks, rude and some are just eccentric. I currently have 2 that think they are a pop star & a superhero (a panda and a rabbit).
The Ever-Changing Seasons and Holidays
Depending on if you choose to play the game in your own hemisphere and time zone your game will follow the current seasons. The fish, bugs, and flowers change with the seasons. There are a number of holidays that come along with the season change. We just had Bunny Day that had the CREEPIEST bunny I have ever seen. It really topped the charts in its creep factor, right down to the zipper in the back of his suit. Cherry blossoms bloomed with the beginning of Spring so all the hardwood trees turned into trees covered in pink flowers and at the end of the season the town was raining in pink blossoms.
All The Outfits!!!
My character is nothing but stylish. She has a packed closet and since you get Nook Miles for changing the outfit….she pretty much changes daily. I have been stuck on a retro 1940’s look lately but I have so many to choose from. The Able Sisters show up on the island and start selling you clothes from a stall, but soon get a store and you can go daily and buy new pieces. I have hipster outfits, gothic lolita outfits and some of my favorite are my punk outfits.
Fishing and Bug Catching
Part of what drives the game is catching fish and bugs and digging up fossils that eventually start being collected by Blathers, an owl that runs a museum. You also get to sell these items to help pay off loans that the island creator Tom Nook (in the American version of the game they call him a raccoon but he is actually named after his Japanese likeness…a play on words, he is a tanuki which is a raccoon dog that lives in East Asia) give you when he helps you set up your house. Tom Nook continues to help you build up the island with loans for expanding your house and costs that the island creates as a whole to build bridges and inclines to easier get around the island. The money is called bells and you get bells when you sell items to Nook’s Cranny, the local general store. The fishing and bug catching is very much like the real thing. A relaxing pastime that allows you to clear your mind a bit and focus on a task that requires sneaking up slowly to a butterfly or outwitting the tarantula.
As mentioned above, part of what drives the game is the seasonal comings and goings of fish and bugs. This makes the collection to help fill the museum have time frames (again, a few months’ time that isn’t rushed by any means). You have a few months to catch a Marlin. Come May 1st that fish leaves along with the elusive hard to catch tarantula. Taking the place are a scorpion, catfish, and rainbow fish just to name a few. Filling the museum is probably one of my favorite activities. Once Blathers has taken the item from you he adds it to the museum. You can wander through the many halls anytime you like. The museum is quiet. The music is in hushed tones. You can hear the splashing of the water recycling through the tanks, you can hear buzzing from the bees and chirping of crickets. It’s part of the game that feels the most like a meditation. You can sit in the museum and watch the fish swim in schools. It all feels very natural.
Decorating the Home & Island
Islanders share recipes with you and you can collect flowers, stones, clay, and iron to create furniture to fill your home and the island. You can also buy things from Nook’s Cranny to fill your home. There are multiple random ways to get furniture or designs for furniture. Filling your home and making the island feel cozy lead to happy homes awards and visitors deciding to stay. I tend to like decorating games, so with this part of the gameplay I end up taking a long time changing up wallpapers, flooring, rearranging the furniture in my home and all over the island.
One of the final tools you unlock allows you to then take your designing even further. Terraforming allows you to change the shape of the island. This allows you to build cliffs, create waterfalls, and lay down paths. I spent days building paths. I found myself cutting down trees and moving flowers so that everything moved in a flow that felt like a little village I would want to live in. I carved a waterfall into an area I dubbed my zen garden. This game has become an escape from a world that is troubling. When the news is too much I find myself turning off the TV and picking up my Switch.
Connecting With Friends and Visiting Islands
Finally, the last thing that I love about this game is sharing the fun with friends. You can swap codes and fly to each other’s islands. Here you can swap recipes, trade fruits (you start with only one type of fruit and build all the fruits by traveling and visiting other islands), and get ideas for all the many ways you can design your island and make this game your special Universe. I find myself watching YouTube videos of the 5-star islands. If any of this interests you, you must look up the Zelda island and the Twin Peaks island. These are both spectacular examples of people taking an idea and making it so wildly, wonderfully weird. I hope when my friends that are playing visit my island they feel the love, glitter, and weird I have added to make this place something that takes me away from all the bad in the world.
If you are interested in becoming Animal Crossing friends, you can find me on Instagram @shaynovinnyc and send me a DM for my friend code. I sometimes make stories about my island, but most of the time what you see is what interests me on my walks through the New York park near my apartment or something cute my cats did while we are in quarantine in a tiny apartment. Take care, stay safe, stay weird and happy gaming.