Animal Crossing: New Horizons Gameplay and Multiplayer Features Revealed

Animal Crossing: New Horizons looks to retain the heart of the series while introducing some fascinating changes.

The latest Nintendo Direct focused on Animal Crossing: New Horizons and revealed quite a few new details about the upcoming title. 

There’s a lot to cover here, but the gist of what we larned is that New Horizons is going to be a bit different from some of the series’ most notable titles of the past. It’s been described as more “structured” in some ways by other outlets. We’re not sure about that, but Nintendo’s preview did strongly suggest that New Horizons is going to focus on allowing you to really build your own world rather than exist in someone else’s.

For instance, when you first arrive on the island, it’s pretty much just going to be you, a tent, and Tom Nook (who is now a travel agent as well as a loan shark). You’ll not only be more responsible for building the island as you go, but you’ll also need to “recruit” new townsfolk as they wander into your part of the world. Along with helping to decide where they pitch their tents alongside yours, you’ll also play a large part in facilitating the growth of your area. 

Based on what we’ve seen thus far, that means not only doing things like gradually building homes and going to Tom Nook to buy tools and town facilities (you always end up owing Tom Nook at the end of the day) but actually reshaping the island as you go along. For instance, you’ll be able to change the terrain of certain areas by adding or removing cliffs as well as building bridges and other structures which make it easier to get around. Overall, it feels like the early goal of the game is to get to that point that you start at in other Animal Crossing titles where you have a town full of established residents. That certainly sounds like an intriguing early-game carrot. 

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You’ll also be able to visit other islands by going to the airport run by (you guessed it) Tom Nook. Not only do these islands feature unique items and other rewards but you can even earn frequent flier miles by visiting them. There also seems to be a light fast travel system in place that takes the form of something known as the Rescue Service. The extent of this system isn’t entirely clear, but it sounds like it will make it slightly easier to bounce around your island. 

Those of you who are interested in playing New Horizons with others will be excited to learn that you can not only share an island with up to 8 other players but you can invite others from outside of the island to come visit you just as you can go visit their islands. In a welcome twist, it will be possible to alter the landscape and layout of islands that outside players visit, but that feature will be limited to people who are listed as “best friends” on your account. This seems to be part of an effort to reduce trolling opportunities. 

There’s a lot more to talk about in terms of everything that was revealed, but we walked away from this presentation with the general vibe that Nintendo is trying to expand upon what is possible in Animal Crossing while also making the game oddly more accessible in some ways. It seems to be coming together, but we won’t know for sure until we’re able to get our hands on the full version of the game in March

Matthew Byrd is a staff writer for Den of Geek. He spends most of his days trying to pitch deep-dive analytical pieces about Killer Klowns From Outer Space to an increasingly perturbed series of editors. You can read more of his work here or find him on Twitter at @SilverTuna014