With over 200 hours logged, I feel well on my way to proclaiming I’m an Animal Crossing: New Horizons expert. I’ve been playing Animal Crossing Pocket Camp on my phone for a couple of years now, but the Animal Crossing brand has been around since 2001. I counted down the days for a year, until Animal Crossing: New Horizons for Nintendo Switch came out, and I can safely say it was worth the wait! Also, it couldn’t have come out at a more perfect time. Here’s why Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the perfect social distancing distraction, and all my best tips on how to improve your gaming experience.
If you are unfamiliar with Animal Crossing and are considering taking the plunge into this perfect world, you are in luck. New Horizons is the most beautiful and comprehensive version of the gaming brand to date, and an incredible version to start with. It’s visually stunning and offers unending joy, for the current price of $59.99. The good news is you don’t have to go searching for the game, as Nintendo has a digital version available on their website. You may just have such infectious glee playing this game, that your entire family ends up purchasing their own Nintendo Switch Lite and copy of the game. Not that I know from experience. *wink wink*
Live in a Perfect World…err… Island
Animal Crossing: New Horizons takes place on your own private island, and you can name and design it however you want. You may want to spend some time thinking about the name, as you won’t be able to change it. Keep in mind that the length of your island name has to be 10 characters or less. You’ll get to select from several basic island designs to begin with and as the game progresses you’ll have an opportunity to work on infrastructure through additions and layout changes. The real world may be a scary place right now, but this social distraction gives you an opportunity to live in a perfect world… err.. island. Gather animal friends, design and expand your own home, garden, dig up fossils for your museum, and catch fish. Purchase and design clothing. Travel to exotic private [Nook’s] islands. There is so much happiness to be found in this video game.
Perks & Pitfalls to Playing on a Single Console
- Only one island can be created. Any additional characters created within your family will live on the same island.
- Only the initial character can be the Island Representative. While other characters can design their own homes and help with tasks, only the Island Representative can get new tasks from Tom Nook. So far, there is no way to switch from residents, but this would be an awesome game patch.
- Playing together as a family on a single console can be fun while collecting materials, however only the one in current control of the game can dictate where on the island you are. You all have to stay together. If you venture too far, you’ll *pop* over to where the controlling character is headed.
Express Yourself/ Your Character
Cultivating your character’s wardrobe is arguably one of the (if not the) most fun part of this game. It’s actually my husband’s favorite thing. While you can’t change the name you selected for your character, you CAN change the appearance. Look in (and click on) any mirror to change your hair color and style, complexion, eye color, etc. Look into drawers and wardrobes to change clothes. I personally like to swap from my real-life dark hair to a fantastical pink-haired alter ego. My character (Marie) has a better wardrobe than I do, and it brings me great joy to change her clothes all the time!
Work & Play with Friends
Once your island is set up, your airport will open for guests. It is SO much fun to invite real-life friends and family over to your island! Show off what you’ve created, help each other gather materials, purchase from each others shops — Nook’s Cranny for housewares, tools, and design elements. Don’t forget to check other stores for their current Turnip prices! Able Sisters for the day’s clothing and accessories offerings.
Be sure to sign your friend’s bulletin board. These notes are so fun to collect and look back on.
Remember to practice friendly neighbor etiquette! Be careful not to run through/ trample or pick flowers. You shouldn’t dig up flowers or fossils without permission either. Feel free to ask for things you want. A lot of people have a “free” section on their island as well.
Host a cataloging event, where you drop items as leaves outside your airport, and invite your friends over to pick up then drop the items, therefore adding them to their Nook Shopping catalog. Make sure to do this with players you trust. 😉
Games to Play Within New Horizons
In addition to island business, playing with “Best Friends” gives you the opportunity to challenge your inner child! Purchase a timer from Timmy and Tommy in Nook’s Cranny. Set it to 5 min. (more or less time available) and run around catching bugs and fish. The timer tallies and declares a winner when time is up. Other games to play? Start together in the plaza and play tag. Suggest a game of hide-n-seek. Count using the chat tool/app. Set guidelines like whether or not people can hide in buildings. Have fun!
Have a Virtual Date Night
I am so happy my husband gave in to my suggestions for him to try this game. Now he’s just as hooked as I am! So much so, that he got his own Switch Lite and version of the game so that he could design his very own island. We love playing New Horizons together after our son goes to bed, and have been known to play into the early morning hours. My favorite? Date Night fantasy play within the game. We give each other tours and act out the most hilarious (often questionable – ha!) scenes. In [real-life] times like we’re in now, it feels therapeutic to have something to laugh about and enjoy together.
Test Your Creative Skills
Use the Custom Design app in your Nook Phone to design patterns for fabric, outdoor flooring, artwork to display in your home, or clothing. You can access these any time once you save them to your app. To wear a design you will select from this app and not your wardrobe. Head to a wardrobe to put on matching shoes and accessories. Unfortunately, there is not unlimited space for custom designs in the app. I am hopeful Nintendo will release expansions as time goes on, but for now, you can replace old designs with new ones.
If you have your game connected to Nintendo Online (which is what you need to play with friends), you’ll be able to post the designs you created to the Custom Design app within the Able Sisters clothing store. A Creator I.D. as well as a design I.D. will be created. Anyone with the I.D. numbers can access them. A quick search on Twitter or Reddit will yield hundreds of unique designs to use in your game! Here are my first two tries at it. You can see the bright plaid pattern as a picnic blanket in a screenshot above.
Once you’ve been able to set up homes for 8 animal residents, and established a decent island ranking with Isabelle, K.K. Slider will visit your island. This is essentially the game credits. Sit through the “entertainment” and you’ll unlock the Island Designer app. With this app you’ll be able to begin “terraforming” — which is to transform the actual land of your island. You’ll be able to add or take away cliffs, transform bodies of water, and create pathways and platforms with various path materials, like wood planks, stone, and brick.
In the screenshot above, I’ve started creating my own version of a greenhouse. I originally saw the idea via @saracrossings on Twitter. I used the Island Designer for the greenhouse platform, and then Custom Design app for the plots of dirt and stone path.
Take Up a New Hobby
Furniture Recipes and Home Design
As you gather materials and work your way through tasks in the game, you’ll unlock more recipes. You may also find them in bottles on your beaches or pop balloons containing them. Each recipe will allow you to create items to decorate your island and make furniture for your home. Another way to furnish your home and island is to use the Nook Shopping ATM. Any item that you’ve previously purchased, were given as a gift, or picked up during a catalog event, will show up in your Nook Shopping catalog. You can purchase 5 items from here, for either yourself or as gifts for others, each day. Once you’ve purchased 100 items in this way, it will unlock the Nook Shopping app on your Nook phone.
You Don’t Need a Green Thumb to Garden
For me, the most relaxing and rewarding activity in New Horizons has been to cultivate my gardens and grow hybrid flowers. Each island has one native flower and one native fruit. Both can also be purchased in Nook’s Cranny, so when friends come to visit, they’re able to either pick or purchase these new versions to grow on their own island. Here’s a great guide to growing hybrid flowers in Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
Set and Achieve Goals
Celebrate Paying Off Nook Loans
I’m not going to get into the nitty gritty of home and island loans from Tom Nook. There are tons of great tutorials and tips online! I will say that your island residents love a good celebration after every milestone.
Improve Your Happy Home Academy Rating
Another of my favorite aspects of the game, has been to steadily improve my Happy Home Academy rating. I’m not sure how high a rating I can get, but I know you earn a gold trophy at 150,000. So far I’ve earned a silver trophy. I have eclectic tastes and refuse to “try displaying furniture that’s all the same color”, so I’m not sure a perfect score is ever in my future. Also, I know nothing about Feng Shui. 😉 I have a great time trying though! Here is a great guide to Happy Home Academy.
Complete Museum Exhibits
If you’re a game completionist like me, donating to your museum exhibits will be very fulfilling. I used to be frustrated when a fossil I took Blathers was already in my museum, but they actually sell for quite a bit once they’re assessed. Still, I can’t wait until the Serenity (my island name) Museum is complete.
Learn to Time Travel Safely
Time traveling in New Horizons refers to changing the date in your actual Nintendo Switch console. There are perks and pitfalls to doing this. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
- You can head to a Sunday morning to find Daisy Mae and purchase turnips. Once you have them, you may consider using the Turnip Exchange (linked below) vs. time traveling in your own account. It’s really easy for turnips to rot! You can go forward a day at a time checking prices, but never backward.
- Add bells to the ABM (Like ATM but with bells — the game currency) Savings. Travel forward as far as 2060 and watch the interest grow.
- While your bank account may be padded, you’ll suffer consequences in the way of your island feeling neglected. Go too far forward and your island will be inundated with weeds, and your island residents feeling neglected.
- Obviously time traveling allows for never ended game play abilities. Stores close at night but you can turn back time to keep them open. Speed things along in the building of bridges/inclines and expansion or moving of homes.
Useful Tools to Improve your Gaming Experience
There are so many incredible resources online for bettering your New Horizons gaming experience. Here are a few of my favorite:
- Turnip Exchange – Buy and sell turnips for the right price, with other players from around the world. Wait in virtual queue for your turn, and be sure to read the rules carefully. Many Island Representatives require entry fees or request tips in the form of bells and items.
- Nookazon – Designed after Amazon, Nookazon is a place where Discord members can list items for sale or items they’re looking for.
- New Horizons Fish Guide – How to catch, shadow sizes, prices, and more.
- New Horizons Insect Guide and Complete List – When and where you can catch every bug in the Critterpedia app.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons makes me incredibly happy! It has the cute factor, it’s fun, and there is always something to do. Achieving goals is satisfying and I love the opportunity to use my imagination and creativity every day. Highly recommend!