The core of Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the friendship players form with their villagers, but the game may have gotten lost in all of its items.
The heart of Animal Crossing: New Horizons lies in the relationships players make with their villagers – not collecting. As a game centered around establishing a warm and welcoming community, the conversations between villagers and players are integral to the Animal Crossing experience. They are what allow friendships to blossom and memories to form. But the Nintendo series’ most recent entry has strayed away from its regular formula, calling into question how the next game may shape up.
Indeed, Animal Crossing: New Horizons has placed a heavy emphasis on customization and collecting. There are thousands of items – ranging from furniture to sports equipment – that cannot only be used to customize one’s island and home but can also be customized themselves. As a consequence, Animal Crossing: New Horizons and its potential sequels are centered more around expanding customization options and item collection than past entries in the series. Design has become so central to the game that Animal Crossing: New Horizons developed aesthetic cores in its communities that fans would use to base their islands and homes around.
Despite this shift toward collecting and design, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is still more about villager interactions than it is about the thousands of items it contains. After all, its DLC Happy Home Paradise and last major update version 2.0 received more hype not because of the additional furniture added but because of the new villagers and interaction opportunities it provided. Certainly, the frog chair was great to see again, but what was even better was that Brewster’s Roost Café came back to allow players to enjoy coffee with their favorite villagers and the Happy Home Paradise job enabled players to build unique homes for their friends. To see how Animal Crossing can continue expanding on villager interactions like it did in Happy Home Paradise, the series needs to look back to its earlier games.
Animal Crossing Villager Interactions Were Even Better Before ACNH
In the original Animal Crossing game, villagers used to have more complex interactions than they do now. Certain villagers hated specific shirts, others detested specific personality types, and villagers were overall more savage. They often would only befriend players if they completed tasks for them, and in the case of cranky villagers, they may have always been rude. While having mean villagers may not be everyone’s cup of tea, what is undeniable is that this gave villagers more personality and incentivized players to build relationships. In Animal Crossing: New Horizons, villagers are mostly nice to the start, and their dialogue is limited to their unique catchphrases and the predetermined comments given to personality types. The result is that the only real thing setting villagers apart is their design, which makes villager interactions feel more shallow overall.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons‘ sequel should try to bring back the uniqueness of earlier villager interactions so that befriending the characters on one’s island feels more valuable. Doing so would keep the series from straying away from its core: the relationships one forms with one’s villagers. And while collecting and designing have been nice, it is time for the series to return to what it does best.
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