Mandy’s Ridiculously Long Review of the Last Animal Crossing: New Horizons Update

On Nov. 5, Nintendo released the last free major update to Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Simultaneously, they came out with their first major DLC (downloadable content), Happy Home Paradise. The most notable additions from the update were the Roost, Kapp’n’s island tours with gyroids, Harv’s Island Plaza, and a new way to cook food. All of which, aside from the food update, are throwbacks to previous Animal Crossing games.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is Nintendo’s second-best selling Switch game, behind Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. It sold more digital copies in one month than any other game in history. But despite the enormous fanbase and following that Animal Crossing holds, there have only been a few minor updates to the game, until now. 

I had the β€œfortune” of finally caving and getting Nintendo Online around the same time I picked up my Switch again to play the update. This meant that I had even more content to explore, although not all of it was β€œnew,” just new to me. Although I still believe Nintendo Online should be available for free as long as you buy a Switch, I will admit it’s incredibly fun to be able to connect with some of my online friends in video games. I decided against buying the DLC for now, or to at least wait until Christmas to try getting it, because it costs $24.99, along with the Nintendo Online subscription that I have.

Finally returning to my island after about three months of inactivity was already overwhelming, but the amount of updates and messages in addition to that when I started the game made me take longer to integrate back into my normal gameplay. The fact that it made me continue the game again is already worth noting, though. For me, Animal Crossing is a game that I pick up and put down every three or four months, and without the update, it may have taken longer for me to play again.

One of the first things that I decided to look into (after weeding my island and getting rid of the roaches in my home) was implementing the Roost into my island. In order to do so, you have to talk to Blathers, the museum curator, and he suggests adding a coffee shop into the museum. You gain the task of going on one of Kapp’n’s tours in search for Brewster, the owl in charge of the Roost in previous Animal Crossing games. As long as you talk to Blathers first, Brewster will be on the first island you check, making the shop’s appearance incredibly easy to achieve. I love the atmosphere of the Roost; it’s quite calming, you can have a cup of coffee with your villagers, or just take a second to relax and plan with slow, quiet music. It’s a very welcoming environment, and has made me visit the museum a lot more than I have in the past.

Kapp’n has been an anticipated character for Animal Crossing: New Horizons since the game was first released. Every island has a dock, which hinted at Kapp’n’s island excursions. I adore Kapp’n’s songs on the ride to and from these islands, and you’re able to clap along while singing. But if you’re in a rush, there is a way to skip his songs. I don’t see why you would, though. The actual islands he takes you to are a little underwhelming, at least compared to the islands you can travel to using Nook Miles Tickets. It does make sense though, since the cost of going on a boat ride with Kapp’n is twice as cheap as Nook Miles tickets. There’s a chance to visit some really neat islands with special items you can’t get year-round, but I think I’ve just gotten bad luck and boring islands. 

On these islands, you can dig up gyroid fragments. Although gyroids were technically already in the game, with Lloid popping up whenever you’re building a bridge or incline, these gyroids are the noise-making and dancing type that were in most previous Animal Crossing games. After burying these fragments again and watering them or digging them up on your island when it rains, you have a gyroid! They’re small, cute, loveableβ€”what’s not to like? I look forward to collecting all of the different gyroids and seeing how they bop along to different K.K. Slider songs.

Harv’s Island Plaza is a very useful part of the update, with a general gathering of some of the shopkeepers who visit your island, as well as a lot of throwbacks to past Animal Crossing games. It did take around a week and a little less than a million bells to fully set up, but it’s definitely worth it. The Shampoodle is a way to gain more hairstyles, Katrina’s fortune slightly changes your gameplay or a way to gain items (albeit in an expensive way), Tortimer offers another storage system, and Reese and Cyrus allow you to recolor objects that are uncustomizable. Cyrus’s recoloring has to be one of the most useful resources available, as otherwise you have to wait for a different color of an item to come into your possession in order to have it. Redd’s participation in the plaza is also a game changer, making completing the art section in my museum a plausible task now. It’s another feature of the game that I’m actually using now, as I probably had only visited Harv’s island once or twice before the update.

So far, I haven’t explored the kitchen update as much as I expected to. Eating food you prepare yourself fills out your β€œhunger bar” more than eating plain fruits does. I love the added crops, I really enjoyed making a vegetable garden, but actually making the meals wasn’t something that demanded my attention. As time goes on and I need to do more construction on my island, I know I’ll find making these meals useful and more fun, but for the time being it remains to be a completionist’s mission for later. I also think the combination of the DIY app and the cooking recipes is too much for one section; it would’ve seemed more organized to me if there was a separate β€œcookbook” app, especially since you don’t prepare meals using a workbench.

There have also been a lot of updates to the player’s house. In my opinion, the most significant one is that your villagers can now visit your home and comment on items in each of your rooms. Whether you’re already home and you hear a doorbell ring, or your villager runs up to you and asks to visit, I adore this part of the updateβ€”it makes my island feel more like a neighborhood, and creates more interactions between my villagers and I. The lack of diversity in villager interactions is one of the few criticisms about Animal Crossing: New Horizons; compared to previous Animal Crossing games, most people believe the villagers lack personality. I definitely believe that this home-visiting will help, though.

Briefly going over the other home updatesβ€”you can have accent walls in your rooms, there’s added storage options (for the wild price of: too many bells), and you can now hang decorations from your ceilings after buying a Pro Construction license for 3,000 Nook Miles. Mainly, there’s added customization for your home, which is even more important now that you can have villagers visit. My only complaint is that it takes a while for you to build up a collection of items you can hang from ceilings, because you only gain access to maybe one a day from Nook’s Cranny.

A smaller, but very entertaining update, was additional camera features. Through the Pro Camera App that you get from redeeming 1,500 Nook Miles, you’re able to essentially walk around your island in a first person point-of-view. This adds a new level of exploration to look at your island; a new β€œlens,” if you will. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing what different parts of my island looked like at eye level, rather than through a third person point-of-view. New camera filters were added as well, including one my friend dubs as the β€œgod-forsaken fish-eye lens;” either way, my camera is getting a lot more usage.

A structure change that can be made to your island comes in the form of ordinances, which are rules to change your gameplay up. By talking to Isabelle, you can implement one of four different ordinances for 20,000 bells. I chose the β€œBeautiful Island” ordinance, to which Isabelle said, β€œWe’d ask folks to pitch in with weeding, watering flowers, and clearing trash from our waters.” I can’t say I’ve noticed much of a difference when it comes to the weeding and clearing trash, because those are very minor inconveniences, but the increase in watering flowers is really helpful while I’m trying to grow more hybrid flowers. Every morning, there’s an influx of flower buds around my island, as if it just rained the previous day in-game. Even if I don’t need all of the flowers, I can gain a little extra cash by selling the buds every day.

There were also a number of new villagers added to the game in the update, making their first appearances in the franchise. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I did get one of these new villagers when looking to fill one of my vacant lots. I can’t say how I feel about any of the other villagers because I don’t know anything about them, but I’m very happy with my pick of Shino, the deer.

A rather wholesome addition is the group yoga feature. In your plaza, a tape deck sits right next to your town hall. If you choose to, you can participate in a group stretching activity, through button-clicking or actually stretching along. The Animal Crossing franchise has always been a mental and emotional health-positive one, and I imagine the implementation of this is the developers’ way of looking out for everyone and making sure they get up and take care of themselves at least a little.

On Nov. 18, version 2.0.2 was released with bug fixes that came up after the original 2.0 version was released. Everything previously mentioned should now be fully functional.

Although it’s disappointing that this is the last free update to the game, it’s awfully fun to mess around with. I’ll stress again that the update is free to download, so if you have the game, you have access to all of this new content. I didn’t even get to everything that was changed or added in the 2.0 updateβ€”that’s how large of an update it is. I’ve put in 325 hours into the game so far, so paying $60 for the cartridge is absolutely worth it. If you don’t have Animal Crossing: New Horizons, I cannot recommend it enough!

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