“What do you think?” the Cheerful Lady narrating October’s “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” Direct asks me. What do I think?
I close my laptop. I look at my Switch charging on my desk — there’s blue and yellow Joy-Cons, a gift from my brother and an ode to the University, and a thin layer of dust covering the console. The only time I play it these days is to hammer through “Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag.” What do I think?
My phone buzzes. A Twitch notification: My favorite streamer is playing “Animal Crossing” again for the first time since December. He’s flattening his island in preparation for the new update. What do I think? I get a text from a high school friend. She’s asking if I want to play “Animal Crossing” with her and reminds me that the free update releases on Nov. 5. What do I think? I’ll tell you what I think, Cheerful Lady.
I think the King is returning.
When I got my Nintendo Switch for Christmas in 2020, I only asked for one game to go with it: “Animal Crossing: New Horizons.” It was my first “Animal Crossing” game, and I was obsessed. For months I would play for hours on end, every day — renovating my island, swapping out villagers, bribing K.K. Slider to come play for us, the works. But, over time, my Switch library grew, and “Animal Crossing” began collecting dust. The game requires a commitment and a patience that I couldn’t sustain over a prolonged period of time without some sort of refresh. It seems that the key elements of the coming update — the Roost, Kapp’n and farming — are the revamps that myself and many others needed to dust off our “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” islands and start explaining to our villagers why we were gone for so long.
Like most other college students, I’m a big fan of coffee shops, so imagine my delight when the return of Brewster and Roost Coffee were announced. Brewster the pigeon was introduced in the second “Animal Crossing” installment, 2005’s “Animal Crossing: Wild World,” which was admittedly before my time (I was four years old). Nonetheless, he has appeared in every game since and will finally be enjoying island life when his coffee shop, the Roost, opens in the museum on November 5th. Villagers and players alike can visit the Roost for a cup of coffee and a chat, and, honestly, I’m just excited for the vibe.
After months of playing “Animal Crossing: New Horizons,” I grew bored with the limited amount of places I could visit. I enjoyed the museum’s academic atmosphere and visiting deserted islands was cool, but it all blended together after a while. With the addition of the Roost, I’m excited to have a new favorite location on my island and cultivate a new community — the kind of community I already love in real life, where friends can meet in a cozy atmosphere and share a cup of something warm after a hard day’s work.
The Roost is not the only improvement coming in November. Our hearts and minds were quickly recaptured by our favorite seafaring man Kapp’n. I simply couldn’t believe my eyes — a little green turtle was singing me sea shanties. Kapp’n, who first appeared in the original 2001 “Animal Crossing,” will be returning to shuttle players to remote, mysterious islands where they can find new plants, alternate seasons and times or other surprises not yet announced.
The introduction of Kapp’n and his island know-how is the remedy to the repetitive island-hopping that plagued the game up to this point. Even if I can’t meet villagers on the islands he takes me to, I’ll still be able to find new items for crafting recipes. And since these islands can exist in different seasons or times of day than my own island, I can reap the rewards of spring during winter or day during night. The mysterious islands Kapp’n introduces will make for much more dynamic and engaging gameplay as the “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” world expands. Oh, and the sea shanties. Did I mention the sea shanties? They’re the most important part.
The update also includes farming and cooking, so I can finally bring my incredible lack of cooking knowledge to the virtual world. Players are already getting creative as they build and decorate massive farming operations in preparation for the introduction of crops like potatoes, tomatoes, wheat and sugarcane. Along with the farming update comes various cooking recipes. These can be purchased from Resident Services and serve a number of purposes. Unlike most other foods in “Animal Crossing,” the fancy dishes you whip up can be used as decoration, because who wouldn’t want to make their house feel like a home if all it took was adding a cup of coffee to their nightstand?
They also serve similar purposes to traditional fruits in the game, like making you buff enough to tear trees out of the ground. The farming aspect, to me, is the more exciting of these two. For players who don’t get as much joy or utility out of planting flowers on their islands, farming offers a more useful agricultural outlet and will be incredibly powerful for “Animal Crossing.”
Successful farming games — “Harvest Moon,” “Stardew Valley,” “Minecraft” — all attest to how players respond to the ability to cultivate and put care into a farm. It keeps them coming back whether to water their crops, check their progress or finally collect a bountiful harvest from their toil. Farming offers more tangible rewards than the agriculture that already exists in “Animal Crossing,” and I just personally don’t care much for flowers when potatoes are far more useful.
“Animal Crossing: New Horizons” got me through the early days of 2020. It was the ultimate escapist game in a crippling reality — you come to a deserted island that can be molded only by your hand, decorated however you please and filled with ten of your best animal friends. The game released when we still believed that we would only be inside for a few weeks. Then, as the pandemic continued longer than we had imagined, the fantasy began to die. The outside world was bleak, and Tom Nook could only remedy so many of our sorrows before it was time to stage a political coup against him.
But now “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” is set to make the comeback it deserves. The November update is packed with far more content than I’ve addressed here. These updates are symbolic in a way. A new coffee shop opening, a new friend taking me to mysterious places and a chance at nurturing new growth on my island — after almost two years of being inside and static, these additions are providing us with the growth and change that so many of us have been craving for so long.
The real world is opening back up, and “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” is evolving to reflect that. The update takes us back to a time when experiencing new things wasn’t so scary, while still maintaining the “Animal Crossing” charm that carried so many of us through some of the darkest days of our lives. Soon, just like that Christmas of 2020, I’ll be happy to greet Isabelle every morning, collect fossils and become besties with my villagers. Because now I’ll also be able to visit the Roost, hear sea shanties and nurture my farm the same way I once nurtured my island.
Daily Arts Contributor Maddie Agne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.