Review

Animal Crossing: New Horizons Review - Island Getaway

  • First Released Mar 20, 2020
    released
  • NS

Animal Crossing: New Horizons gives you more creative freedom and more to do on any given day while preserving what makes the series special.

A lot has changed in real life since I first started playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons at the end of February, and even since I wrote my review in progress in the middle of March. Having such a wholesome game during an objectively bad time has been something of a blessing for a lot of people, myself included, and I'd be lying if I said it hasn't affected how I play New Horizons. I find myself turning to the game at night when I can't sleep, or during the day when I'm stressed and I need a break. More often than not, an adorable villager or even just a sense of accomplishment from finishing my chores will cheer me up.

But that alone is not what defines New Horizons. The times I go to the game when I'm in a good mood are just as important as the times I'm seeking comfort. Even if I end the day anxious, I wake up excited to see what's new on my island. I can't wait to see who's visiting for the day, to check out the bridge I just built or the new flowers that might be growing or how my new decor looks in the daytime. And I look forward to playing with my friends, trading items and design ideas and hitting each other with nets. New Horizons inspires creative self-expression and embraces kindness and friendship, and that is really what makes it such a joy.

Unlike in previous games, you're not moving to a lived-in town in New Horizons; the island is completely deserted when you and two animals arrive as part of Tom Nook's "getaway package," save for the tiny airport. There's no store or museum, all three of you live in tents, and Tom Nook himself operates out of a tent that he shares with his adorable nephews, Timmy and Tommy. Tom Nook clearly expected this whole thing to be a bit more glamorous (or at least popular), and in typical Tom Nook fashion, one of his first actions is to put you to work collecting tree branches and fruit to make a fire pit and drinks for a welcome party.

The party serves as an introduction to the resource-gathering aspect of New Horizons' new crafting system, but it's also the first of many endearing moments with the animals. In their high-pitched, sped-up way of talking, they chat about friendship and helping one another on the island. It feels like a proper community from the start, despite the small population size and total lack of amenities on the island.

The first few days are all about establishing the basics of any other Animal Crossing town, like the museum and Timmy and Tommy's store, and this sets the stage for crafting. In addition to catching fish and bugs and picking fruit to make money, you also have to spend a good chunk of time at the start gathering resources to craft the furniture requested of you (and, in one case, to build a whole building). Because I wanted to unlock and upgrade things as quickly as possible, I spent hours each day for the first three or four days running around picking weeds, chopping trees for wood, shaking the same trees for branches, hitting rocks for clay, stone, and iron, and selling whatever I couldn't use to craft for some extra bells.

It was a bit overwhelming to do all that in the name of fast-tracking my island progression, but generally, crafting fits neatly into Animal Crossing's established daily chores loop. The act of gathering resources happens simultaneously with the other things I want to do each day--I shake my trees because two of them per day drop furniture instead of fruit or branches, and the branches I do get are a bonus in my search--and actually makes those tasks more lucrative than they were in previous games. Because of this, I don't really have to go out of my way to get the resources I need to craft the furniture, tools, and other items I want.

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You start out with an assortment of crafting recipes, and you can get new ones in a variety of ways that, like resource-gathering, are a natural extension of the existing Animal Crossing formula. You can buy some of them, find new ones most days washed up on the beach (in message bottles with letters attached, of course), or get them from your neighbors, among other methods. Finding a new recipe is an exciting reward for going about your day, because crafting goes beyond furniture and tools--I've found some surprising and creative recipes using ingredients I didn't expect, like a giant teddy bear you can craft using regular teddy bears you might buy from Timmy and Tommy.

Complementing all of this is the Nook Miles program, which is based off of real-life travel rewards points. Nook Miles are a separate currency you can use to buy special items and abilities, like new hairstyles and colors you can switch to at a mirror--you can even use Nook Miles to pay off your first loan and get a real house. You get Nook Miles for doing all sorts of things, from getting stung by a wasp to catching 100 fish in a row without failing once. You can also get Nook Miles for shaking furniture from trees, which, if you're counting, is the second extra reward you can get from doing that.

The Nook Miles system adds just enough direction if you aren't sure what to do. I've only felt the need to chase the particularly difficult Nook Miles achievements just for completion's sake; I've gotten most of my Nook Miles just by doing Animal Crossing things and having a nice time, and even though I spend some every day, I still have tons to spare.

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While the day-to-day is rich with things to do, overall progression is a bit slow. It took a frustrating 33 days for Nook's Cranny to upgrade where in previous games it would take around 10. The exact requirements for the upgrade aren't totally clear to me, but it feels unnecessarily time-gated, and the unclear prerequisites exacerbated my impatience. There are also buildings and characters, like Brewster and The Roost, that are totally MIA right now. This may be due, at least in part, to Nintendo's live-service approach to New Horizons, in which certain events and characters come to the game via free updates throughout the year. There's definitely potential for more of the series' cast of characters to appear over time, but currently, it's disappointing that so many of them are absent. It's of course fine to cut characters over time as a franchise evolves, but not having much in the way of grander infrastructure to work towards (whether new or returning) puts a damper on the feeling of building up a town from scratch.

In the meantime, it's all too easy to absorb yourself in customization and self-expression. This starts with your character. You can actually choose your appearance for the first time in the series, including skin color, and none of the options are locked to gender. In fact, villagers will exclusively refer to players with gender-neutral pronouns--so when a friend visits, your villagers will talk about them instead of him or her. All hairstyles and clothing options are available to anyone, and you can change your face and hair at any time. Dressing up is further improved by a dedicated outfit menu that lets you preview a full outfit rather than switching in and out of clothes until you find something you like. It has never been easier or more enjoyable to express yourself through your character's appearance in an Animal Crossing game, and I've been having a ton of fun trying on goofy outfits and changing my hair to match just because.

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Crafting is, naturally, a big part of customization. You can't craft everything--some kinds of furniture are only available in the shop or found randomly--but there are entire sets of furniture that can only be crafted, and those are largely the pieces that you can further customize with different colors and finishes. At first, I crafted whatever pieces I needed but hadn't been able to buy, like a mirror, but I ended up styling an entire room around furniture I'd crafted and customized. It's that extra bit of flexibility in design that helps inspire creativity and makes each person's home feel unique to them.

More importantly, you can now place furniture pretty much anywhere outside. I found a sand castle in a tree and put it along my beach; later on I got a beach chair and a beach ball and created a whole scene on one part of the shore. I even crafted a cabin-inspired chair I would never put in my house because it fit the woodsy feel I wanted for the hills on my island, which made me realize how much use I could get out of furniture that isn't necessarily my style.

And then there's Island Designer, New Horizons' brand-new terraforming feature. With it, you completely redesign the water features and hills of your island, which lends you an almost intimidating level of creative freedom in your island layout. The tools for waterscaping and cliff construction are a bit tricky to use and master, since it can be hard to gauge where exactly your tool will hit, but it's a powerful creative tool overall. You can also create paths, plazas, flower beds, and more--and it's a huge improvement on the equivalent in past Animal Crossing games, since paths are easy to place and impossible to remove on accident.

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Animals will even stick to any paths you put down when walking around, which is just one of the little details that makes them more lively and endearing. I often stop what I'm doing to watch a villager do their thing. Animals will drink tea or stargaze or try to catch bugs, and some of them will put on reading glasses to read books at home. You can even run into them at the museum, where they'll comment on the exhibits. Each of these details gives dimension to villagers; I wasn't sure if I liked Stu, for example, until I stumbled upon him singing an adorable song to himself in the middle of town. I watched him for a very long time, and Flurry even walked up and watched him with me. Now they're my two favorites.

Outside of how cute villagers can be, New Horizons is just beautiful to look at. The museum in particular blew me away; the exhibits are incredibly detailed, and walking through each of them genuinely feels like walking through a real museum. The fossil wing, for example, has lines along the floor that seem to chart evolutionary lines for different animals. Following the lines takes you from one display to the next, and at some points, the camera will even pan to get you a better view of whatever's on display.

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The cherry on top is sharing all this with friends. My friends and I trade items and tips and give each other spare crafting recipes. I went on a museum date just like one we'd been on in real life a year ago. It's a joy to visit friends' towns and see how they've decorated their islands--each time I visit someone, I leave with a new idea for my own island. And we all send each other letters and gifts in the game because, right now at least, we can't see each other in real life.

New Horizons has a slower pace even than other Animal Crossing games, and at times, that can feel unnecessarily restrictive. But there's still plenty to do, and each of those activities feeds into the next brilliantly for a rewarding and relentlessly cheerful experience. New Horizons certainly came at the right time, and its strengths are particularly comforting right now. I'm as excited to see what random events await me each morning as I am glad to have it during hard times, and that's sure to keep me coming back for the foreseeable future.

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Now Playing: Animal Crossing: New Horizons Review

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The Good

  • Resource-gathering for crafting is a natural extension of Animal Crossing's existing daily tasks loop
  • Nook Miles system adds a layer of reward just for playing the way you want while providing some structure if you're lost
  • Customizing your character, your outfit, and your decor is easy and encourages creativity and self-expression
  • Villagers are expressive even in their idle moments, which makes them all the more endearing

The Bad

  • Slow overall progression can be frustrating and feel unnecessarily restrictive

About the Author

Kallie has been playing New Horizons for over two weeks now, which amounts to 80-plus hours of playtime. She still has a lot to do. Review code was provided by Nintendo.
121 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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5tu88sy

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Edited By 5tu88sy

nO nEgAtIvEs AnD oNLy aN 8! sHoUld bE a 10!!!!!!!1111

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G-Corleone

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@5tu88sy: it was fun to see the controversy on that Nioh 2 review :) ...but it was a very bad decision to do that. No other game has been scored like that. Im extremely happy with the 8 (i honestly didnt get why people were „offended“) but no cons? That is just cheap clickbait-ism XD

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xantufrog

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xantufrog  Moderator

@5tu88sy: lol, yeah....

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RaveNRolla

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i don't quite get why everybody's so hyped about this game, but i heard so much about it lately i had to check out a review. to me it looks like a less interesting and less visually appealing version of don't starve, that on top of that seems to have tedious mechanics don't starve doesn't have (and don't get me wrong here, don't starve is all about being tedious, but in a good way). is it supposed to be a Sims-like?

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Externalpower43

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@RaveNRolla: I dont get it either. I guess you have to want to dress up your little dolly in new cloths with bad graphics.

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G-Corleone

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@externalpower43: i also dont get it. i am curious though, but I still dont get it.

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DanielDude97

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I believe this game deserves a 9 if you are the only one that uses the switch. BUT the experience really sucks for other accounts in the switch that want to play it. The first player gets to progress through the game, but any other players after that are very limited.

For example, I started playing after my girlfriend started the game, and I was not able to provide Nook with creatures to get Blathers and I was not able to get the prompt to get the shop. Luckily my gf plays it a lot so she can unlock them for me, but it still sucks to be reliant on the first player to progress in the first week.

Also, local multiplayer is pretty bad. I'm not a fan of the leader and followers mechanic because you have to keep switching leaders every time someone wants to access their inventory or not have items automatically sent to the recycling box.

Idk, I would give it a 7 or 8 because I feel like it kinda forces people to buy more switch consoles if you want the full experience.

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swimbearuk

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I've played some other Animal Crossing games, so I understand their charm, but I just can't bring myself to start all over again. It always goes the same way for me. I am dedicated for a while and keep logging in and doing my chores, then I get tired of all the weeding, gathering etc., and then I stop logging in. If I ever go back to the game, there's weeds everywhere and all the other residents are either angry or have moved out. Do I really want to play a game that gives me daily chores to do, when I don't even want to do the chores I have in real life?

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halo1399

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With all due respect, didn’t Kallie give Call of Duty: Modern Warfare a 7/10 because there was too much violence?

Anyway, I don’t understand an 8/10 for Animal Crossing when there is nothing “negative” about it.

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dzimm

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@halo1399: It deserves better than 8. This is based on the Roger Ebert rubric of answering a very simple question: Does it deliver what the target audience is expecting? In this case, absolutely. By all accounts, it is the best game in the series, keeping the same basic foundation while expanding on it in meaningful ways. Speaking as someone who spent many, many hours in New Leaf, New Horizons feels familiar but also fresh and exciting.

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5tu88sy

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@dzimm: You might love this stupid game but not everybody else does and that's why it doesn't score higher than an 8

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hosedandhappy

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Edited By hosedandhappy

@dzimm: You're right, it makes a ton of sense to use a rubric created for a two-point scale when you're using a ten-point scale.

It may be the best Animal Crossing game, but it still has some significant issues. 8 feels about right.

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dzimm

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Edited By dzimm

@hosedandhappy: Two-point scale, 10-point scale, 100-point scale... it doesn't matter. If it delivers what the target audience is expecting then it should get a score that reflects that, especially when the reviewer fails to mention any significant flaws to justify deducting two-points (and for the record, Roger Ebert's written reviews had a rating system of four stars).

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hosedandhappy

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@dzimm: Look at the user reviews. It hasn't exactly delivered what the target audience is expecting. An 8 means she thought the game was great. I don't see how you could have a problem with it.

It's also still in progress.

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dzimm

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Edited By dzimm

@hosedandhappy said:

@dzimm: Look at the user reviews. It hasn't exactly delivered what the target audience is expecting. An 8 means she thought the game was great. I don't see how you could have a problem with it.

It's also still in progress.

An 8 means "Good but with notable flaws"... except there are no notable flaws stated in the summary which only lists positive things.

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hosedandhappy

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@dzimm: Well, now it's clear you're just a troll. They explain their rubric. They say that 8 means great. You can't just say 8 means whatever you want.

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dzimm

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Edited By dzimm

@hosedandhappy: Well, their rubric is nonsense, to be honest. What's the meaningful difference between Essential, Superb, and Great? Why is a game with no notable flaws merely "great" rather than "superb" or "essential"? It makes no sense.

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hosedandhappy

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@dzimm: All review rubric's are nonsense because they're based on someone's opinion. Ebert's rubric is nonsense because the target audience isn't a single person. I'm the target audience for Animal Crossing. Does it meet my expectations for what I want from an Animal Crossing game in 2020? It does not. Is it a great game? It is. So how does any number I'd assign to it make sense?

A 7 or 8 and saying the game is great makes sense to me.

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RaveNRolla

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Edited By RaveNRolla

@dzimm: and it did get a score to reflect that. so be happy!

Edit: also from what i read in the comments, the game punishes you for not logging on every day. for me personally that's a clearcut "unplayable", because no game should ever do that. MTGarena is the best implementation of MTG as a video game, yet it has that same vibe of you needing to do daily quests. the point where i was figuring out during which weekdays i should do my daily quests is when i stopped playing the game completely (about a year ago). games should not ever ask that. it takes out all the fun and exchanges it for "work". and to not be a hypocrit here i do play Nioh 2 at the moment and yes there will undoubtedly come a point when i will grind for armour and weapons, but i'll do that whenever i decide.

sorry ranting longer than i planned, but this is close to my heart. games really should not reward you for playing it daily. take uncharted 4 MP for example, it rewards you for NOT playing the game a few days. now that makes much more sense doesn't it?

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dzimm

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@RaveNRolla: I'm not sure what you refer to as "punishment", but every Animal Crossing game for the past 20-years has been designed with the expectation that the player will visit his town at least once a day, and, yes, if you don't actively maintain your village paradise then certain mildly undesirable things can happen (mainly weeds springing up, flowers possibly dying, favorite villagers possibly moving out, etc.), but it's hardly punishing and in no way renders the game unplayable. Even skipping a few days in a row won't negatively affect your experience. And you can play as much or as little as you want each day. If you want to pop in for a few minutes just to water the flowers, or hunt for fossils, you can. There's no pressing need to play for hours a day (although some people still choose to). Animal Crossing is very much a player-driven game. The experience is what you make of it.

This is what I mean when I say, "Does the game deliver what the target audience is expecting?" and any Animal Crossing veteran will not only expect this, they might even be upset if the formula was changed.

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xantufrog

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@halo1399: it means the reviewer thought the game is "great". That's all. Every review this come up. Games don't start at 10 and lose points based on a formula. 8 just means "feels great to me". Don't over complicate things :-)

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fkguy300

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this games fine if you're under 10

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phili878

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@fkguy300: says guy with very “special” name.

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hosedandhappy

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Edited By hosedandhappy

The fact that you were able to put in 80 hours in two weeks is kind of a bummer. I really enjoyed that in previous games, you'd log in every day, give it 30 minutes to an hour, and you were pretty much done for the day.

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Darkangel1276

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@hosedandhappy: I've been playing quite a bit, and it's still quite like that, you can play for hours to get more stuff of course, but the big gain comes from the first few hours, after that, it's really only like getting scraps, till the next day, so, i play a few hours, do what i gotta do, then go do something else, really love how it's not a game i need to invest 10 hours a day, really fun to pick up and put down.

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cejay0813

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@darkangel1276: yeah that's one of the things I'm digging also. I still play big titles like COD, Gears, R6 etc. This game is good for the downtime while waiting on the party to get it's shit together so matches can start. I probably put about 1.5 hrs in a day depending on what needs to be done.

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silv3rst0rm

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Have you ever noticed how Gamespot seems to love the 8/10 rating?

It seems to be their "Go-to" note!

After all, it's a safe bet!

Those who actually enjoy the game will say : "Yeah, that makes sense..."
While those who don't will say : "Meh, I guess it MIGHT be a 8 for some..."

Seems like about 80% of the AAA release lately get a 8/10.
(Hey, 80%... that's 8/10... haha!)

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RaveNRolla

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@silv3rst0rm: except that no one seems to be happy with any score given ever on this site. an 8/10 is fantastic, yet the people say "how is it not a 10?!".

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xavroche

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@silv3rst0rm: 9/10 is superb and essential while 8 is great. 9/10 tends to be reserved for games that can be recommended to anyone and that everyone should play. It implies : "if you have the hardware, buy this game without a second thought".

While I love Animal Crossing and have enjoyed playing this game since release, I can understand that it isn't for everyone. It's a cute, fun, and relaxing game but there is nothing in it that is mind blowing.

People on here tend to think that reviews should be about explaining why you didn't give a game a 10. In reality, grades like 9/10 are earned and maybe there just isn't enough in this case to justify going higher.

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ZmanBarzel

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@silv3rst0rm: 8 represents "Great" on the Gamespot review scale, and 9 and 10 are for Superb and Essential, respectively. Just by the bell curve of creativity, there are far fewer Superb and Essential games than those that are merely Great, so the 8 being much more common than 9 and 10 makes sense.

If you're wondering why you see 8s more than scores lower: the games that Gamespot usually reviews almost all have some level of budget and professional competence. They're not reviewing Digital Homicide dreck on Steam. These "luxuries" mean that games will almost by default turn out to reach certain goals in graphics and production values.

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Mogan

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Mogan  Moderator

@silv3rst0rm: It's kind of like the old 8.6 score from back when they had their formula scoring system. Like 33% of the time, the math came out to 8.6 because of how the categories were described and weighted.

Now, I think they probably go with a lot of 8s because gamers have decided that 7 means mediocre, and less than 7 means terrible. : \

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dzimm

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Edited By dzimm

@mogan: The 10-point/100-point scale has always been a bit silly since the perception has always been that anything below an 8 (or 80%) sucks. Steam has the right idea with a simple thumbs up/thumbs down. Anything else is superfluous.

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xavroche

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@dzimm: I agree with you that a point scale is meaningless but I think a simple thumbs up and down is restrictive.

I think a better system might be to differentiate between fans of the genre, curious about the genre, and indifferent about it.

So for Animal Crossing the rating might be "1)Essential for Animal Crossing lovers, 2)A good place to start if you're curious about the genre, 3)Too niche for others".

Obviously people like simplicity and giving a score out of 10 is easier...

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5tu88sy

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@xavroche: There are a lot of dumb-ass people around so we've got to keep the scoring as simple as possible. I'm surprised we're not just using binary scoring: 0 or 1.

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jontr0n

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@silv3rst0rm: Is it possible that those games actually deserved that score? That's insane right? Its gotta be payola from the companies, no other way.

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phili878

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When Kallie grades a great Nintendo game a 9 or 10, all here complain. Now she grades it an 8, yet all complain again...

My God....

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xavroche

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@phili878: The internet has always been about people pushing their subjective views and hating on other people's subjective views (worse the internet is also a place where people go to deny facts, but that's a different story).

A review is by definition a subjective endeavor, hence there will always be some people who grab pitchforks.

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DeadlyMustard

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Edited By DeadlyMustard

Are all of the tools represented as a toolbox? When she crafts a flimsy watering can, its just a toolbox. Imagine if zelda did that... you found the hookshot! *shows triforce emblem*

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dzimm

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@DeadlyMustard: Yes. As in past Animal Crossing games, many items are represented with a generic icon or 3D object. All tools look like a toolbox, all umbrellas look like a folded red umbrella, all furniture looks like a leaf, etc.

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DonBongo

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I've never played an Animal Crossing before. How does this compare to something like Stardew Valley? After reading the review I'm just not really sure what you actually do in the game other than collect things and customize your character. Are you building a bigger place to live, upgrading the town, or something like that?

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xavroche

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@donbongo: I've enjoyed both SV and AC but they are markedly different. The mechanics are simplified in AC, and it is a lot more relaxed. You don't have the time constraint and don't feel rushed. Upgrading, building things, etc is a lot more focused on "useless things" (decorations etc) while in SV it's a lot more about optimization.

To give you a concrete example of the more relaxed nature of things, in AC you can put the control down for 30 minutes and leave the game running and not really miss out on anything, while in SV you are rushing to get things accomplished in a "day". Also there is no real fighting or possibility to lose progress.

It's about unlocking cool outfits, furniture, expanding you town, but more for the aesthetic accomplishment than anything else.

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awesomeandstuff

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Edited By awesomeandstuff

@donbongo: You collect stuff, sell them, pay of your loan on your house. Then get a new loan to build a bigger house. Get new furniture. And in the latest 3DS game did you decide for new projects in your town. Like building bridges, monuments and much more. And you can plant trees and flowers in your city.

*edit* I haven't played Stardew Valley so can't say how it compares to it. But I been interested to try it because it reminds me of Animal Crossing.

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dzimm

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Edited By dzimm

@awesomeandstuff: Stardew Valley has very little in common with Animal Crossing. It's a fun game, but the experience is markedly difference. The focus is on renovating and expanding your farm, growing crops and raising livestock to sell for profit, completing explicitly defined goals, and advancing the story. It's very similar to Harvest Moon and Rune Factory.

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DonBongo

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@awesomeandstuff:

Thanks for the reply. Stardew Valley is great! I recommend it. It's much more economy focused then Animal Crossing sounds though. You build a farm (upgrading by collecting), sell crops you grow, and make friends and romances with the townsfolk.

I think I'll have to wait and watch a gameplay video once Animal Crossing comes out though!

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sakaiXx

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It has no flaws but its not special enough to get a 9 or a 10. Its that easy.

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DancingCactus

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@sakaixx: It has no flaws, except for this flaw. It's that easy.

It might sound petty, but if a game simply lacks that "wow" factor, that is a flaw.

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sakaiXx

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@dancingcactus: Yeah but I don't think aesthetic value is worth mentioning as cons due to its a personal view of reviewer.

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DancingCactus

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Edited By DancingCactus

@sakaixx: Which is fair.

Still, I think it's important if they're going to be using the pros/cons list at the end, to include things in both columns as a way to help distinguish the plethora of games that all receive the same score.

Because Gamespot seems to actually be incapable of providing any score other than an 8, they need to do better at using other methods to help distinguish games and review them to provide actually usable information to their audience.

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sakaiXx

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@dancingcactus: I disagree on gamespot part. They literally gave Dreams a 9/10 two weeks ago.

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Animal Crossing: New Horizons

First Released Mar 20, 2020
released
  • Nintendo Switch

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

9
Superb

Average Rating

54 Rating(s)

6.8

Developed by:

Published by:

Genre(s):

Content is generally suitable for all ages. May contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.
Everyone
Comic Mischief