I’ll be honest: I hadn’t played the game in months. My island was overrun with weeds, covered with abandoned terraforming projects. Tom Nook was ready to repossess my cockroach-ridden home. I was unsure whether the newest update would be enough to draw me back into the game. For those that may be unfamiliar with New Horizons, you are the only human character on a deserted island. As you improve your island, more animal inhabitants start life on the island getaway, and more characters and activities are unlocked.
Nintendo released an official announcement on October 15th, detailing the major additions of the update, but kept some for players to discover themselves. The update witnessed the return of beloved old characters from the Animal Crossing series and the introduction of exciting new features. I wanted to find out whether this large update could reignite my interest in the game. The following is a list of the key differences in New Horizons 2.0, followed by a one-word summary of each feature.
This article contains in-game spoilers and does not cover content from the Happy Home Paradise DLC.
Kapp’n’s Boat Tours
The first familiar face we see is Kapp’n, the seafaring kappa (a Japanese turtle-like mythical creature), docked on the pier of your island. Using your Nook Phone to transfer payment, you can take Kapp’n’s boat to a mystery island for 1,000 Nook Miles.
These islands are different to the ones we encounter on the Dodo Airlines tours. Some are set in different seasons to your home island, allowing you to collect cherry blossoms, snowflakes, acorns and mushrooms year-round. If you are lucky, you may randomly arrive at a destination where you can unlock new plants for your island; glowing moss, vines that allow you to climb up cliff faces, or crop islands, where you can gather wheat, tomatoes, or carrots to use in recipes. Delightfully, I came across a shooting star island located under a meteor shower. I could obtain star fragments by hitting rocks, which was a welcome quirk as I was never any good at collecting zodiac fragments. You can also find gyroid fragments buried underground. If you rebury and water these fragments, the next day, they will have grown into wiggling gyroids that will dance or sing when music is playing nearby. It does not hurt that they are much cuter than their New Leaf predecessors.
In one word: Useful
Another welcome return is that of the museum café. After taking one of Kapp’n’s boat tours, you may encounter the soft-spoken pigeon Brewster, and request his presence on your island. If you are familiar with the previous Animal Crossing games, The Roost is a heart-warmingly nostalgic addition to your island. Villagers and special characters can be found enjoying a cup of coffee, and specific animals can be summoned to the café using amiibo cards or figures. I bumped into once-terrifying Resetti, who, save for a momentary outburst, seems to have calmed down in his old age. The initially shy Brewster will warm to you over time, offering takeaway drinks, coffee beans and recipes, or the appetising offer of adding ‘pigeon milk’ to your drink.
In one word: Comforting
Undoubtedly one of the best features of the update. In all honesty, I never made use of Harv’s photo studio. The update has completely transformed Harv’s island, meaning that I return to the game nearly every day to pay his co-operative a visit. Hippy Harv and hairdresser Harriet inform you of their wish to set up a collective in the new island plaza. As opposed to waiting for vendors to show up on your island, you will be able to access NPC shops every day and reintroduce some old faces by donating to their cause. To unlock everything, you will need 700,000 bells in total, as a donation of 100,000 is required for each storefront. You could rely on village donations, but these tend to be slow and stingy, as with bridges and inclines. Over time, you can expand Harv’s collective to include:
- A hairdressing salon
- A fortune-telling shop
- A carpet and wallpaper vendor
- An old-timer that grants you access to your home storage
- A furniture customisation workshop
- A garden shop
- A legitimate art dealership
- And a footwear and accessories store
In one word: Galvanising
As previously mentioned, you can obtain vegetable starts for growing crops from one of Kapp’n’s islands or from Leif’s shop. You can farm ingredients for new food and drink recipes. Fish, fruit, and weeds can also be gathered as ingredients. You’ll need a stove or kitchen to cook and eat the food for in-game stamina or use as décor. If I’m honest, I wasn’t overly excited by this new feature, but it is cute to watch the animals walking around, clasping a peach smoothie. Upon publication of this article, Turkey Day will have been and gone, and hopefully, Nintendo will have incorporated the extended cooking features into the event.
In one word: Novelty
New Horizons 2.0 heralds the return of town ordinances that can slightly alter gameplay. The Early Bird ordinance shifts the busier period of the day to an hour earlier, so your villagers will be awake more in the morning, and the shops open their doors an hour earlier. The Night Owl setting is, as you’d expect, the same idea, except everything is open an hour later. These changes feel lacklustre for those on a particularly extreme schedule, as a one-hour time difference may not be enough. The Beautiful Island ordinance felt redundant as flowers do not wilt in New Horizons, and weeds are useful for crafting DIY recipes. I settled on the Bell Boom ordinance where you can earn more money, but everything you buy becomes more expensive, so basically like moving to London.
In one word: Lacking
A subtle yet highly appreciated change is the development of islander interactions. The repetitive nature of their conservation made the characters feel a bit flat and was the biggest disappointment when I first played New Horizons. The update introduced some new dialogue, and home visits are finally a thing again! You can invite animals over, or they may show up unannounced and play a little card game with you. They may even be kind enough to let you come over and buy some of their furniture. You may be able to get a piece of furniture you have always wanted or to get rid of a particularly hated part of their decor.
If you head to the tape deck outside the town hall, you can partake in a group stretching session with the islanders. You can use the buttons to participate, but it’s more immersive to use the motion of your Joy-Cons to join in with the stretches. I sometimes found the motion of the Joy-Con to be a little inaccurate, but luckily, you are not penalised in the game for not being perfect. You can also win prizes for partaking in the group stretches for several days in a row!
In one word: Enhancing
The introduction of new décor and return of the froggy chair has been long-awaited by many Animal Crossing players. By obtaining the Pro Decorating Licence from the Nook Stop, you are now able to use accent walls and hang items from the ceiling in your character’s home. There is an expanded catalogue of ready-made furniture, increased customisation options through Harv’s island, and more DIY recipes to collect from bottles and characters like Celeste. You can even scoot between furniture that is close together when previously your character could not move around. Home storage can also be increased to hold up to 5,000 items. All this allows for greater creativity within the game and incentivises players to spend time collecting rarer pieces.
In one word: Gratifying
Nearly three weeks on, did the Horizons update give me a renewed interest in the game? Without a doubt. Harv’s island collective is a real highlight for me, as is the reintroduction of Brewster and some added quality-of-life details. As always, the real-time movement of the game ensures that players return on a regular basis (unless you indulge in a bit of time travel), and the newfound ability to gradually unlock more NPCs builds upon this. Having more to work towards certainly reinvigorates gameplay, and once I feel as though I’ve exhausted many of the new features, I may buy the Happy Home Paradise DLC. Nintendo has confirmed that this will be the last major update in New Horizon’s lifetime, but it would’ve been nice to see an upgraded Nook Shop and some single or multi-player minigames, like in New Leaf. Though I will never have one of the insanely creative islands we see across the internet or through dream addresses, the game is thankfully no longer collecting dust.