One year with Animal Crossing: New Horizons

I’m Jonny Casino, and I have played Animal Crossing: New Horizons every day since it was released.  I have over 650 hours in the game and don’t see myself stopping any time soon.

I remember the day, one year ago, when I picked up Animal Crossing: New Horizons.  I had some friends who had put many hours into previous titles in the series.  They spoke so highly of Animal Crossing that I needed to give it a try.  My hope was that I could join these friends in the game and play with them.

A few months before New Horizons came out, I put some time into New Leaf.  The game didn’t really hook me, but I found some activities I really enjoyed.  Fishing and diving were my favorite activities.  Progressing through the game, I liked how I was able to start putting in new places, like a coffee shop.  My favorite part was getting the Nintendo collectibles.  I had a room of the house dedicated to these.

These were the things I was hoping for.  Fishing, diving, Nintendo collectibles, and playing with friends.  I quickly learned that most of this was not an option.  Diving was not in the game, I could not get Nintendo collectibles, and playing with friends was more of a pain than it was worth.  This was a recipe for disaster.

The first few days with New Horizons were not exactly what I expected.  Initially, you are very limited on what you can do each day.  I shook a lot of trees, made some simple tools, and talked to the two villagers that started with me.  I fished a little, pulled weeds, and just tried to progress.  I somehow put a lot of hours into the game without doing much.

Eventually, I built some houses for new villagers to move in and went hunting for new residents.  This was a very exciting moment for me because I was extremely picky about who I wanted on my island.  The game continued to progress, and I was able to terraform the island, move buildings around, and attempt to make it all look good.

My family didn’t play the game with me, but they often enjoyed just hanging out while I played.  A couple months after it came out, I had a day where my work prevented me from playing.  My wife hopped on for me and spent hours giving the villagers items and goofing off.  That day, she fell in love with the game, and I bought a second copy.

The daily routine is often what keeps me going with Animal Crossing.  I realize that it’s often not all that exciting, but it’s a routine.  When I am not traveling for work, our mornings start the same.  My wife and I wake up, we make coffee, and we both boot up the game.  We spend a while drinking coffee, shaking trees, and just hanging out together.

There are a few goals we both have each day.  The simple ones are catching the five wasps, digging up the four fossils, shaking the money tree, and planting a new one.  Beyond that, we try to talk to specific villagers and give them items.  If there is a special visitor on the island, we will deal with them as well.  Like I said before, it doesn’t sound very exciting, but it’s been a great morning routine.

The Animal Crossing games have not been video games in the traditional sense.  You can’t beat the game.  You can make the island the way you want it.  You can purchase items to decorate with.  You can perform tasks.  You can do all these things, but you cannot beat the game.  You just keep playing it until you are done. 

The closest I can find to a way of beating the game is by collecting everything and finishing out the Nook Miles Goals.  Nook miles were added with New Horizons.  They are earned by completing tasks like catching a specific number of fish or bugs, mailing letters, planting flowers, etc.  For a while, I was pushing to close out all of these goals.  Eventually, I realized how long some of them will take me and stopped caring as much.

Something I refuse to give up on is catching all the bugs, fish, and undersea creatures.  The museum in New Horizons is possibly the most impressive thing in the game.  As I caught different creatures, I turned one of each into the museum.  Then, I can just walk around it and look at everything.  It’s beautiful, especially the butterfly section. 

The different creatures are around during specific times of the year.  This means it has taken most of the year to catch everything.  After one year with the game, I have caught all the fish, caught all the undersea creatures, and only missing two bugs.  Those two bugs are difficult to find, and even more difficult to catch.  I’ll have to wait until the summer for them to return.  `

Collecting goes further than just bugs, fish, and fossils.  Five visitors that show up and can add to my collectibles.   Gulliver is a pelican who continuously finds himself washed up on your shores.  After finding all of his communicator parts, he calls for help.  The next day, I will have a gift from him in my mailbox.  Some of these are lame, like hats or hair from different cultures.  Other items, like the Eiffel Tower or Leaning Tower of Pisa, are really cool. 

A few months into the game, an update came out that introduced Gullivarr.  He’s just like Gulliver, except he’s a pirate.  All of his items are pirate-related and all very cool.  All the items from these visitors can only be obtained from them.  They cannot be bought or made.  I search the beaches for these two every morning. 

Flick and CJ are the other two visitors I always have an eye out for.  Flick is the bug guy.  He will pay extra for any bug you catch.  CJ is all about fish.  He will give you a fishing challenge and pay extra for fish.  I don’t really about selling them fish or bugs.  I definitely don’t care about the fishing challenges.  What I care about is collecting things.

Both CJ and Flick will offer to make collectibles.  All I have to do is give them three of a bug or fish.  This alone keeps me catching bugs and fish.  I love seeing the statues.  Some of them are really impressive.  Others, specifically two of the sharks, are oddly small.  All the same, I want to keep going for a statue of every bug and fish.

Redd is the most annoying visitor to the island, but I get excited every time I see his stupid little boat.  This is the guy that sells you art for the museum.  The problem is that his art is often fake.  This means that completing the art collection is going to take me a very long time.  I love it, but it makes me want to scream. 

For a game to keep people coming back to it, it must continue to add content.  New Horizons has added small things here and there that have been nice, but none compare to the March update that introduced Mario items.  The thing I have wanted more than anything is to have Nintendo collectibles.  I want to decorate my in-game house with things I can’t get in real life.  The Mario items are the closest we have gotten.

On March 1st, I was able to start buying Mario, Luigi, Peach, and Wario clothing.  I also started building my collection of coins, mushrooms, fire flowers, and other items you see while playing Mario games.  I am not creative enough to really build up an area the way I’d like, but I’m going to keep acquiring these.

The one big issue I have with the update is I have to order the items from Nook Shopping.  This means I can buy five items a day, and they are delivered the next day.  On the upside, this means I will have something to keep working on for a while.

Every morning, Isabell greets me and tells me if anything is happening that day.  Normally, nothing is going on and she talks about something stupid.  Every couple of weeks, or so, Isabell lets me know that there is a camper at the campsite.  When this happens, I know it’s going to be a good day.

A camper means there is a chance to get a new villager and rid the island of one that has overstayed its welcome.  The moment I walk into the tent is an exciting one.  I never know if it’ll be a villager I want or one that is really dumb.  Either way, I always talk to them and try to get them to move in. 

The villager that they propose replacing is random.  Some villagers I want gone, and others I refuse to let leave.  It is always tough when a cool villager is at the campsite but wants one of my favorites to leave.  Even if the camper is not one I want, having one there is always a joy.  If nothing else, I am able to see more villagers this way.

The only thing more exciting than a camper is when one of the villagers asks to leave.  If I let them leave, I get to go villager hunting a couple days later.  No, this is not shooting villagers.  This is when I can go to mystery island after mystery island, searching for a villager to replace them.  My wife and I, and sometimes my son, will gather around the TV when either of us is villager hunting.

When I have the vacancy on my island, each mystery island will have a villager vacationing there.  All I have to do is ask them to move to mine.  This might not sound exciting, but it becomes a game of finding the right villager.  Maybe I want, or don’t want, a specific animal.  Maybe I am looking for a specific villager personality.  I just have to keep going to mystery islands until I find what I am looking for.

Even better than finding the right villager is laughing at the completely insane ones.  One of my most recent villagers is a sheep whose head looks like a hamburger and clothes look like a hotdog.  I just never know what I’ll see until I get there.  The one thing to keep in mind is that each trip costs Nook Miles.  This means it’s important to pick a villager before you run out of trips.

There is another way to get rid of villagers and get the ones I want.  I have taken a hard dive into collecting the Animal Crossing Amiibo cards.  The problem is that it’s very hit and miss when you can find them available.  On top of that, there are 400 cards to collect, which is going to take a good bit of time and money.  I have no idea how many I have right now, but I’ve started this journey and must see it through.

What really kills me is that there was a time when I could get the cards easily for cheap.  I remember seeing them at the store for a couple bucks a pack.  This was before New Horizons was announced.  If I could turn back time, I would go buy every pack I found.  Sadly, this is not an option, and now I just have to keep checking for when I can buy more and more packs.

I mentioned how two of the most exciting times are when villagers want to leave or are replaced by campers.  My wife and I have one very important rule for when a camper is allowed to leave.  Before they can leave, we must have received their photo.  That’s right, each villager can give me a framed photo of themselves!!

This seems to be something that is not well advertised.  I have spoken to avid players of the game that didn’t know it was a thing.  I only found out about it because my wife was randomly given one from a villager.  Now that we know about it, it is the number one goal when we play.

To get a photo, I first have to become best friends with the villager.  This is done by talking to them daily, giving them items, and sending them letters.  Each of these acts will add one point to my friendship level with that villager.  Eventually, with a little luck, I’ll give them an item and they will give me their photo.  Right now, I have about 26 villager photos.

How you display them is up to you.  My wife places the photo in front of the villager’s home.  When the villager leaves, I think she puts the photo in storage.  I have all mine displayed on the sides of my walkway from the airport to the shopping area.  I have a great idea to make a stone casket for each villager and put a photo by each one.  I know that’s dark but it’s hilarious. 

So, one year of playing New Horizons every day and I don’t plan to stop yet.  It can get a little old at times, but it’s become such a relaxing part of our morning hangout time.  There is also that desire to get as many villager photos as possible.  I don’t know how long I will continue to make the game part of my daily routine, but I think there will be 100s of hours still ahead of me.

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