On March 20, Nintendo released “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” for the Nintendo Switch. This is a game that fans have been vying for ever since the Switch itself was released in 2017. As the launch date grew closer and closer, fans chose names for their islands and discussed which villagers they hoped to live with. People even began creating videos and images of Isabelle from the Animal Crossing series with the main character from the Doom series because of the coinciding release date of "New Horizons" and “DOOM Eternal.”
Unfortunately, as excitement for "New Horizons" spread, so did the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. The virus threw the world into times of uncertainty and panic, with people stockpiling food, toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Immunocompromised people, and soon everyone else, were forced to stay indoors to lower the spread.
Then, March 20 arrived.
"New Horizons" is the hero we needed, even if not the one we deserved. People who cannot leave their houses to hang out with their friends now have a way to do so — virtually. In a world of panic and uncertainty, "New Horizons" gives players a sense of calmness and purpose.
Many people are struggling with paying rent, finding what they need in stores and interacting with others. "New Horizons" offers a small reprieve from that in a time when it’s desperately needed.
In "New Horizons," you play as a human who moves to a deserted island along with two animal villagers. Tom Nook and his nephews, Timmy and Tommy, are there to provide essentials whenever you need them as you build up and develop your island however you like it.
"New Horizons" gives players a sense of control in a world where they may feel as though they’ve lost it. As Island Representative, you name the island and choose where to put everyone’s homes and businesses. You are in charge of every aspect of the game.
Later in the game, your island earns a museum and three more villagers. You can talk with these villagers whenever you’d like, and they’re always happy to see you. If you don’t feel like interacting with anyone, you can simply fish and catch bugs to your heart’s content in order to fill the museum.
"New Horizons" also introduced a new feature called Mystery Islands, where players are able to visit other deserted islands to gather resources. Some islands have different fruits and flowers than your own, some have spiders you can collect and sell and some have opportunities to catch new species to donate to your own island’s museum.
Players are also able to invite their friends to their islands and work together, trading fruit and gathering resources. The community in Animal Crossing is always large and ready to help other members with whatever they need. Websites like Reddit and Tumblr have entire groups dedicated to helping players get new fruit or specific pieces of furniture.
The game also offers something for those who are more artistically inclined. Players are able to create their own patterns to hang on the wall, act as flooring or wear as clothes. Many players have spent this time creating the outfits of fictional characters, but many are also testing their own design skills by making original pieces of clothing. Players are able to share designs with each other through QR codes or a function earned later in the game.
“New Horizons" also has a camera feature that allows players to take photos with various filters, and some people have been using this to create truly stunning photos, taking advantage of the gorgeous graphics in the game.
In a world where social distancing reigns, "New Horizons" emphasizes the importance of community and friendship. Each character has a distinct personality and their own character traits, making your virtual community feel like just that: a community. With the ability to play alongside other players, "New Horizons" lessens the blow of social distancing for those extroverts who thrive on socializing, and it gives introverts and those with social anxiety a way to socialize in a controlled environment without being too draining.
Animal Crossing: "New Horizons" isn’t able to cure people of the coronavirus, but it’s curing much of their loneliness and helping keep spirits high. Even after the virus is eradicated and the quarantine is lifted, many will still look towards "New Horizons" as a way to escape from their daily troubles and find solace in a world where everything is perfectly OK.