Feature Article

Animal Crossing: New Horizons - New Features, Characters, Save Data Restrictions, And Everything We Know So Far

Setting sail for new horizons.

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Nintendo is still keeping its 2020 lineup close to its vest, but the company has given us a tantalizing peek at a handful of games on the way to Switch over the next few months. The biggest of these is undoubtedly Animal Crossing: New Horizons, the long-awaited new installment in the beloved life sim series.

New Horizons arrives nearly eight years after the last proper Animal Crossing game, New Leaf, released on 3DS, making it one of the year's most hotly anticipated titles. We got our first real look at the game during Nintendo's E3 2019 presentation, and since then, the company has gradually divulged new tidbits about it in the lead up to its March 2020 launch.

To help catch you up on all the details that have been revealed so far, we've rounded up everything we know about Animal Crossing: New Horizons below. We'll continue to update this list as more information is revealed, so check back often for the latest on Nintendo's new Animal Crossing game.

There are a ton of other great-looking titles lined up for this year. You can see some of the ones the GameSpot staff are most excited for in our Most Anticipated of 2020 hub. You can also catch up on our other end-of-year coverage in our Best of 2019 hub.

Announcement And Reveal Trailer

While it was long speculated that Nintendo was secretly working on a new Animal Crossing game, the next entry in the series wouldn't be officially announced until the company's September 2018 Nintendo Direct presentation. After revealing that Animal Crossing's Isabelle was joining Super Smash Bros. Ultimate as a playable fighter, Nintendo confirmed that a new Animal Crossing game was in development for Switch, although it shared no other details at the time beyond a vague 2019 release window.

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It would be another nine months before we heard more about the title. Nintendo waited until E3 2019 to finally share the first trailer for its new Animal Crossing game--now officially christened Animal Crossing: New Horizons. The video, which you can watch above, offered our first glimpse at how Animal Crossing's familiar, laid-back gameplay would be translated to Switch. More interestingly, it also revealed this entry's unique premise: rather than starting your domestic adventure by moving into a pre-existing town, as in every previous Animal Crossing game, New Horizons drops you on a deserted island and lets you build your own village from the ground up.

Release Date

Animal Crossing: New Horizons was originally slated to release for Switch in 2019; however, at E3 2019, Nintendo confirmed that the game had been delayed by a few months and would now launch worldwide on March 20, 2020. According to the company, the reason for this delay was in part to ensure the development team maintains a healthy work-life balance--an important issue in the industry today, as many other studios have recently come under scrutiny for their excessive "crunch" practices.

"For us, one of our key tenets is that we bring smiles to people's faces, and we talk about that all the time. It's our vision. Or our mission, I should say. For us, that applies to our own employees," Nintendo of America president Doug Bowser told IGN. "We need to make sure that our employees have good work-life balance. One of those examples is, we will not bring a game to market before it's ready. We just talked about one example [New Horizons' delay]. It's really important that we have that balance in our world."

What's New In New Horizons?

At its core, New Horizons is very much a traditional Animal Crossing game, so your day-to-day experience will primarily revolve around interacting with neighbors and performing other familiar activities like fishing, catching insects, discovering fossils, and decorating your home. However, the game builds upon this foundation by incorporating some elements from the series' mobile spin-off, Pocket Camp. In particular, you can now collect different materials like tree branches and stones and fashion those into tools and furniture at Tom Nook's workbench. One new type of tool you can craft is a pole, which allows you to vault over the river and reach the other side more quickly.

New Horizons introduces a few other new elements to the series as well, many of which are facilitated by the NookPhone, a smartphone-like device that you receive shortly after settling down on your island. With the NookPhone, you can look up crafting recipes, invite a friend to play alongside you, access the game's photo mode, and track your Nook Miles--points you accrue by completing certain tasks, such as picking weeds, learning new recipes, and more. These Nook Miles can be used toward paying off your house loan or redeemed for special recipes and other in-game items.

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New Horizons also makes a swathe of quality-of-life improvements. While furniture could previously only be placed inside your house, you can now lay it down outdoors as well, letting you decorate your town as you please. The game, blessedly, also gives you the ability to dictate where your animal neighbors live. According to game director Aya Kyogoku, before a new villager moves in, they'll first check with you about the spot they've chosen; if you disapprove, you can select a new spot for their house.

Other welcome tweaks that Nintendo has confirmed: you can shovel up an entire tree and replant it elsewhere rather than having to chop it down; you'll be able to freely select your character's skin tone, hairstyle, and facial features, and can swap between the different options at any point in the game; and you can move furniture in half-units, as you can in Happy Home Designer. The game also gives you the ability to terraform your island--a first for the series. After you unlock the Island Designer app for your NookPhone, you can manually edit your island's terrain.

Which Characters Will Return?

New Horizons will feature a handful of new and returning characters. Naturally, Tom Nook and his nephews, Timmy and Tommy, will appear in the game, and they'll play a more pivotal role here than they did in New Leaf. This time, the Nooks will run your island's resident services building, providing a place for you to purchase and craft furniture, tools, and other island necessities.

Despite some initial uncertainty, fan-favorite Isabelle will return in New Horizons as well. Once you upgrade your island's resident services building into a proper town hall, Isabelle will move in and take over its operation, just as she did in New Leaf. Other familiar Animal Crossing characters who have been confirmed include the Able Sisters; museum curator Blathers and his sister, Celeste; Harvey, the groundskeeper of New Leaf's RV park; the skunk shoe seller Kicks; the traveling carpet vendor Saharah; the shy ghost Wisp; and the seagull sailor Gulliver.

In addition to the returning characters, New Horizons will introduce a few new faces to the series, such as Daisy Mae, who takes over for Joan visiting your island and selling turnips. We've also seen a new beaver named CJ and a lizard named Flick, who appear to run the fishing tourney and Bug-Off, respectively. Finally, there are two new dodos named Orville and Wilbur, who operate your island's airport and pilot its private plane.

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Another character who has been mentioned is the ever-irritable Mr. Resetti. In previous games, Mr. Resetti would pop up and berate players if they shut off the game without saving, but as New Horizons takes advantage of Switch's auto-save feature, Resetti's role has been made redundant. However, it appears he'll return in a different capacity; during February's Animal Crossing Direct, Mr. Resetti's theme could be heard playing when the player character summons the Rescue Service, who will quickly transport you home (for a price).

Will New Horizons Support Cloud Saves?

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is one of the few Switch games that does not support cloud saves. At E3 2019, producer Hisashi Nogami explained that the reason for this is to prevent players from manipulating time within the game and cheating (via US Gamer). Previous entries in the series have similarly disallowed players from backing up their save files, so this isn't entirely surprising, and it is hardly the only Switch title with this restriction.

That said, while New Horizons will not support the cloud save backup feature offered by Nintendo Switch Online, Nintendo will give players some way to restore their save data should something happen to their Switch. However, this feature will not be available at launch, and it will only be offered to Switch Online subscribers. As Nintendo's UK website states:

"This game does not support the Save Data Cloud functionality of Nintendo Switch Online. However, the ability to recover Animal Crossing: New Horizons save data from the server in the event of console failure, loss or theft will be available to Nintendo Switch Online members sometime in the future."

This save restore function comes with one other notable caveat: As Nintendo confirmed during February's Animal Crossing Direct, you will only be able to recover your New Horizons save data one time.

How Many Islands Can You Have?

Nintendo of Australia's website confirms that only one Animal Crossing: New Horizons island can exist per Switch console. Up to eight players can live together on this island; however, if a player who shares your system would like to create their own island, they'll need to have their own Switch and copy of the game to do so.

Moreover, you will not initially be able to transfer your New Horizons save data from one Switch console to another. However, according to Nintendo UK's website, that functionality will be implemented in the future: "This game does not currently support the ability to transfer your save file from one Nintendo Switch console to another. However, a function specific to Animal Crossing: New Horizons to move users and save data to another console is planned for later this year."

Multiplayer

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Like previous Animal Crossing games, New Horizons allows you to invite other players to visit your town. One island can host up to four players locally and up to eight in online sessions. However, you'll need to have a Nintendo Switch Online subscription to take advantage of these online features. Memberships for the service run for $4 USD for one month, $8 USD for three months, $20 USD for 12 months, and $35 USD for an annual family plan.

In addition to local and online multiplayer, New Horizons also supports couch co-op. Using the Call Islander option in your NookPhone, you can summon another player who has a house on your island and play together by passing them one of your Joy-Cons. Director Aya Kyogoku demonstrated this feature during Nintendo's E3 2019 Treehouse livestream (above) by playing alongside producer Hisashi Nogami. During these co-op sessions, the lead player is denoted by a flag over their head. The camera will only follow this player, but you can swap who the leader is at any time while playing.

Amiibo Support

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New Horizons is compatible with both the Animal Crossing Amiibo figures and Amiibo cards. By scanning an Amiibo in the game, you can invite a villager to your island's campground. You can also meet the characters at a new in-game island called Photopia, where you can arrange photoshoots with them. If you're interested in picking a few up before New Horizons launches, many Animal Crossing Amiibo figures are still dirt cheap at certain retailers.

Nintendo Switch Online App

New Horizons will also support the seldom-used Nintendo Switch Online smartphone app. Shortly after the game launches, Nintendo will roll out a companion service called NookLink. Among other things, NookLink allows you to scan QR codes of patterns designed in the series' 3DS games--New Leaf and Happy Home Designer--and import those into New Horizons. Through NookLink, you can also voice and text chat with other players while playing online. Messages you type out in the app will be displayed in-game as a speech bubble above your character's head.

Special Edition Nintendo Switch

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On March 13, one week before Animal Crossing: New Horizons launches, Nintendo will release a special edition Switch inspired by the game. This system comes with pastel green and blue Joy-Cons as well as a white dock featuring Tom Nook and his nephews on an island, while the back of Switch itself is emblazoned with an Animal Crossing pattern. The New Horizons Switch costs the same as the standard model--$300 USD--but is currently sold out at all major retailers.

Nintendo will also be selling the New Horizons-themed Joy-Cons and dock separately through its online store in Japan. However, it's currently unclear if the controllers and dock will be available for purchase in other regions.

Pre-Order

There are no universal pre-order bonuses for Animal Crossing: New Horizons, but several retailers are offering their own unique perks for reserving the title. If you pre-order New Horizons at Best Buy, you'll receive Tom Nook "Phone & Tech Badges," along with $10 reward credit if you're a My Best Buy member. Target, meanwhile, offered a New Horizons-themed journal as a pre-order bonus, but that has since sold out--although plenty of other New Horizons-themed accessories are still available. You can learn more in our New Horizons pre-order guide.

If you're interested in picking the game up digitally, you can now pre-purchase Animal Crossing: New Horizons on the Switch Eshop. You'll receive up to 300 My Nintendo Gold points for buying the digital version, which can in turn be used as credit for the Eshop. New Horizons is also eligible for the Switch Voucher program; if you still have any remaining Switch Vouchers, you can redeem one for the digital version of New Horizons.

The products discussed here were independently chosen by our editors. GameSpot may get a share of the revenue if you buy anything featured on our site.

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kevknez

Kevin Knezevic

Associate news editor, Star Fox Adventures apologist.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

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