Animal Crossing: New Horizons – Gameplay, Series Changes, and More | IGN

Animal Crossing: New Horizons’ March release is just around the corner and, while plenty of questions remain, we’ve learned a lot from Nintendo’s presence at E3 2019, the hands-on Treehouse presentation, various interviews, the September Nintendo Direct, recent online listings, our hands-on preview, the February Direct, and much more.

Here’s everything we know about Animal Crossing: New Horizons so far.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons Release Date

Animal Crossing: New Horizons was delayed during E3 2019 from a 2019 launch window to March 20, 2020. It’s even getting its own special edition Nintendo Switch a week before the game is out.

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No Cloud Saves But a Bit of Hope

Animal Crossing: New Horizons does not support cloud saves but if your Nintendo Switch gets lost or stolen you may have a way to recover the data. There are no guarantees, though, so you’ll want to be careful.
The Animal Crossing: New Horizons store page on the official Nintendo UK website has two recently added disclaimers. They are:

  • 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.
  • Animal Crossing: New Horizons does not support the ability to transfer your save file from one Nintendo Switch console to another.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons Multiplayer

Animal Crossing: New Horizons multiplayer allows for both local and online play, but there are some limitations. Here’s what you can expect:

  • Up to 8 players can live on an island. You can only have one island per Nintendo Switch console. It does not matter how many copies of the game you have, as written on the Australian listing. This could pose a problem for you if you share a Nintendo Switch because, while you can still create your own character, you’ll have to share the island.
  • Up to 8 players can play together on one player’s island via online multiplayer or local wireless.
  • 4 players of the same island can play together, at the same time, on a single system. This couch co-op setup is known as Party Play.
  • There’s an application on the NookPhone (an in-game app), named Call Islander, that lets you do Party Play Multiplayer. This is exclusive to those who have multiple islanders living on their island (i.e you have to be sharing an island with another player).
  • There is no split-screen gameplay so the camera will default to whoever is “the leader” but you can quickly change the leader whenever you want, to whoever you want.
  • You need a Nintendo Switch Online membership to access any online multiplayer features.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons Amiibo and Amiibo Card Support

In their last Direct, Nintendo confirmed Amiibo and Amiibo Cards are supported but didn’t provide specifics. According to Nintendo Japan, as translated by GoNintendo, all Amiibo and Amiibo cards are supported but they have different functions and won’t all be available at launch.

You will be able to use all 16 Animal Crossing Series Amiibo and the Animal Crossing Super Smash Bros. Amiibo like the Villager and Isabelle Amiibo. In terms of Amiibo Cards, you can use Animal Crossing Amiibo Cards (Series 1-4), Animal Crossing Welcome Amiibo Cards, and Animal Crossing Welcome Amiibo Cards (Sanrio collaboration).

According to the translated table, it seems some Amiibo can be used to take pictures within Photopia, an area designated for photoshoots with them. Other Amiibo will allow you to invite a villager to a campground on your island, but campground details haven’t been revealed yet. You can check out the full breakdown of Amiibo and Amiibo Card Functionality here.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons Free Updates and Holiday Events

Like previous Animal Crossing games, New Horizons has Holiday Events. However, these will be rolled out in a series of free updates. The first update will add an April event called Bunny Day. This means you likely won’t be able to change your Nintendo Switch’s system clock to jump ahead to Christmas, and its unique items, if you’re in (real world) July.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons Gameplay

Animal Crossing: New Horizons seems to maintain a lot of its core pillars but this time there’s a heavy focus on crafting and an even bigger emphasis on customization – in terms of your character and your island.

Crafting and More With NookPhone Apps

NookPhone Apps can be accessed from the smartphone Tom Nook gives you at the beginning of Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Over the course of the game you’ll get new apps, similar to how the design feature worked in Animal Crossing: New Leaf.
So far, the following apps have been confirmed:

  • DIY Recipes: View crafting recipes for tools, furniture, nature-based accessories, and other items made completely from scratch. DIY recipes can be unlocked by taking DIY workshop lessons at resident services, finding new items, purchased with Nook Miles (an in-game currency), getting them directly from villagers, finding them via messages in bottles, and more. You can also further customize your items by taking customization workshops at resident services or using your own patterns via the Custom Designs app.
  • Custom Designs: Used to decorate and customize your furniture, clothing, and other items with your own unique designs and patterns.
  • Nook Miles: Nooks Miles are a new currency earned by completing challenges that appear in the Nook Miles app. These miles can be exchanged for items and activities, such as a Nook Inc. uniform, DIY recipes, and other services that are part of Nook’s rewards program.
  • Passport: An identification card that can be customized with titles you unlock by completing Nook Miles challenges.
  • Rescue Service: If you get stuck or lost on the island this will bail you out by transporting you back to your home.
  • Island Designer: Once the island is “fully decked out,” you’ll get a permit that lets you do construction work. Freely pave your own paths with the pattern of choice and unlock other permits to modify rivers and cliffs so that you can customize the terrain itself.
  • Camera: This opens a photo mode featuring filters. You can also select an emotion to express before snapping the photo.
  • Nook Shopping: Presumably an easy way to shop on the go.
  • Best-Friends List: Mark some friends as Best Friends to give them access to all tools when visiting your island. Other friends and players will be restricted so there’s no risk of them ruining your island.
  • Call Islander: Allows you to do co-op party play with those sharing your island.
  • Map: View the map.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons Characters

Isabelle joins your island once you reach a certain progression point. You can look forward to over 100 other new and returning characters in Animal Crossing: New Horizons. All previous animal types are confirmed to reappear in New Horizons and no new animal types have been revealed. You can see all confirmed characters on our wiki page or view them in the slideshow below.

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Animal Crossing: New Horizons Series Changes

Animal Crossing’s Switch debut comes with plenty of new features, big and small. Here’s everything we’ve spotted so far:

  • Life on the island – You’ve joined existing towns, been the mayor of your own town, and now you’re off to a deserted island.
  • Nook Inc featuring Resident Services – Similar to other jobs Tom Nook has had, Nook Inc. is the company responsible for getting you and your new friends to the deserted island in the first place. The Resident Services tent, which is run by Ton Nook, is equipped to help Islanders settle. It has a workbench where you can craft materials and take workshop lessons to unlock more crafting and customization options. Island facilities expand based on your progression. Resident Services will also have a
  • Shopping without shops – You can purchase items without visiting a physical Nook shop storefront. For example, in the Resident Services tent you can buy from Timmy directly. A menu will pop up showing that day’s items. This is in contrast to previous games where you’d walk up to the items you’d like to purchase.
  • Dodo Airlines Flight – You kick off the game via plane this time!
  • Character customization – Your character’s appearance is no longer done through cryptic quiz questions — you’ll get to directly customize it! It’s better for players but makes the plane ride less exciting. You can change these features at any time. You can take a look at those features in our character customization guide.
  • Character customization isn’t restricted by gender – There’s no longer a distinction between masculine and feminine customization features.
  • Choose home and building locations – Before residents choose a spot for their home they’ll check with you to see if it’s okay. If you don’t like where they settle down you can tell them you don’t want them to build in that particular spot and move their house location to wherever you see fit. The same goes for shops!
  • Residents start off just like you – Everyone on the island starts off in tents and are in debt to Tom Nook. How the mighty have fallen.
  • Residents will upgrade their homes over time – This does not seem to be affected by your own progression speed.
  • You only start with 2 other residents.
  • Furniture can go outside! – Put a sofa on the beach, put a campfire in your living room! Furniture can go anywhere. You don’t need Public Works Projects to do this.
  • Your house can be on the beach.
  • You can move furniture by half units – Just like in Happy Home Designer, furniture can be moved in half units. This allows for more flexibility.
  • Multiplayer allows up to 8 players – Increased from 4, multiplayer now supports up to 8 for local wireless or online play. Be sure to check out our How to Play Multiplayer page for all the details.
  • Wind blows through the trees – Is wind a new environmental concept in the Animal Crossing universe or could you just not see it before? Doesn’t matter! Because now you can see the wind shaking the leaves on the trees.
  • Real-life seasons are reflected in the game… even for players in the Southern Hemisphere! – Seasonal changes are a staple in the Animal Crossing series but before New Horizons this was limited to those playing in the Northern Hemisphere. Now even Southern Hemisphere players will get to enjoy this feature to its full capacity.
  • You can change your skin tone – This feature was introduced in Happy Home Designer but it’s new to the mainline series. No tanning required!
  • There will be new hair and facial features to choose from.
  • Crafting plays a huge role – You can still buy tools from shops but now you can also craft them. Check out our DIY Recipes page for more info.
  • You can use bait while fishing – You can craft bait! One type of bait comes in the form of clams that you can dig up on the beach. Just look for the water spouts in the sand.
  • Nook Miles are a new currency – It’s still all about the bells, but Nook Miles can be exchanged for items and activities, such as a Nook Inc. uniform, DIY recipes, and other services. So even something as simple as picking up weeds serves multiple purposes: it makes your island “prettier,” they can be sold for bells, you can use them to make a DIY recipe item, and picking a certain amount gives you Nook Miles via the Weed Eater challenge which brings us to another new feature.
  • Weeds can be collected, sold, or used for crafting.
  • NookPhone connects you to everything with various apps (as described above).
  • There are new ways to improve friendship with Island Residents (previously known as Villagers), such as gifting them crafted items.
  • You can cross rivers by vaulting over them – Bridges are still cool but they’re ultimately unnecessary when it comes to crossing rivers. Just use the Vaulting Pole to get over it.
  • Voice chat can be done through the Nintendo Switch Online app.
  • Trees are replantable.
  • Trees can be hit multiple times (for wood) without them becoming completely “chopped down.”
  • You can eat apples (and other foods, presumably) to make work go more quickly – Eat an apple and instantly dig up a tree… seriously!
  • You can make dirt paths using a trowel – This is an alternative to just putting a bunch of patterns on the ground.
  • You can adjust the camera from a centered to a more top-down view (revealed at Pax East via GameXplain) – This isn’t exactly new but it has been absent for a while and is returning in New Horizons.
  • Autosave is now a feature.

For more on Animal Crossing: New Horizons be sure to check out our wiki guide.
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