Animal Crossing: Why the Original is Better than New Horizons (to me)

Like many my age, I started playing Animal Crossing when I was a kid when it came out on the Gamecube. I remember really loving the cute little world it threw you into and I played it obsessively for quite some time. I even still own a copy. However, my love for the series dropped off after each new game in the series. I played a little bit of Wild World and City Folk, but never to the same extent as the first. When I got a 3DS, I bought New Leaf, and as a proud owner of a Switch, I got New Horizons as the pandemic hit and I wanted something cheerful to play.

With all of that being said, I’m here today to just share an opinion that I have since spending time in the newest entry. Personally, it feels devoid of soul and it just doesn’t hook me like the original did. Maybe I’m just old now, but let’s talk about why I’m not a big fan of New Horizons.

So, let’s begin with the the first Animal Crossing, which came out in 2001 and was originally made and released for the Nintendo 64 in Japan under the title Animal Forest. What we got in the west was an upgraded version of the one Japan got shortly before. The game starts you on a train, where you meet Rover, a cat that most people reading this should be familiar with. He asks you questions that allow you to choose your gender, name, and town name. Once the train hits the station, you’re greeted by Tom Nook, who gives you a home to call your own, but since you have no money, you’re now in debt to him and must work it off by working for him. From here on, the game properly begins.

Let’s start with the pros of the first entry.

The biggest pro I can think of immediately is the fact that every villager has their own personality and seems to have their own lives, making them seem like real people and sells the setting of the game. They can be friendly, more chill and laid back, or even mean to the player character. While plenty would consider that last one a bad thing, I find it quite charming and more realistic. Not everyone is going to be your friend and it’s reasonable to assume you won’t get along with everyone. Another pro also coincides with the villagers, as they give you a lot of tasks that give you mini goals and decent rewards upon completion: including furniture for your home.

Speaking of furniture, one of the most fun parts of the original for me was collecting the NES games and making a little arcade-type room in my basement. These can be found in-game or given by entering in specific codes. While I understand why this will never return, it was a novelty I really miss and it’s sad that the age of cheat codes is mostly dead.

While the events were fewer in the first game, I really liked them whenever they came up. It was a fun distraction from the usual collecting, digging, and errand-running that you’d usually do.

The big cons of the game are all customization based, as your player is going to look blocky, awkward, and every clothing option will look mostly the same, which is sad and I even thought that it was lacking back in the day. You also have no control of your village layout and villagers can come and go as they please, and while I find that to add to the believability of the world, I can see why other players don’t like that.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons came out on March 20, 2020, right when the pandemic was hitting us in the first wave. I was depressed and worried, so the game was a good distraction from the awful stuff happening in the world. I played a little bit each day and can say that it helped, but I also felt like it just didn’t fill the same void that the original did. So, why is that?

Before I hit the cons of this game, I’d rather give it proper credit and say what it does right.

First off, the customization that was missing from the original has been expanded upon a lot over the years and this game has a lot of it to go around. From hair, to fashion, to fans making outfits based on things they love and sharing them with other players. It’s a fun time and I really enjoy that aspect.

The village is also fully customizable for the player character. In fact, nothing changes unless you make it happen, which is both useful for customization, but annoying for some other reasons I’ll get into shortly. You get to place everyone’s homes, you build bridges and pick a spot for the store. You can even terraform to your will. The downside to this is that it really makes the game unable to immerse me in its world, because I cannot buy that things wouldn’t change without you. Even if I can suspend disbelief here (and I am capable of that), having you build everything on your own can cost a lot of bells, and unless you live and breathe this game and know how to play the stalk market, it’ll probably take you longer than is fun to get things done.

An addition to the game that I’d say is good early-game is Nook Miles, which gives you little rewards for mundane tasks, and while that can help a lot when you have basically nothing, it doesn’t help a lot later and becomes a checklist of sorts that you just mark off every day.

The biggest con this game has to me is the way the villagers interact with the players. They kind of don’t. They feel like ornaments that are there to look pretty that are devoid of pretty much any character, which is the stark opposite of the original. They can’t even leave the village without permission, so you can quite honestly hold them hostage, which feels kind of bad to me. I get why it exists, but it just feels so messed up. They feel like dolls to collect, rather than living, breathing people in your world.

A nitpick that isn’t really important per say would be that Gyroids no longer exist in the world, save for a single NPC. They were a series staple and to have them be entirely absent was a strange choice. Another nitpick is the Easter event in the first year. It was overwhelmingly annoying and halted progress. It was the thing that got me to step away, and as a result, I never got back into the game. It was very flawed and I know I’m far from the only one to think that.

So, why do I like the original over the newest entry? Well, the first game felt like a lived-in world with neighbors that come and go and were fun to interact with. It was easy to get immersed into and I still enjoy it greatly today. New Horizon’s feels like a dollhouse that you can customize to your heart’s content, but lacks the soul that made me love the original to begin with. This is just my opinion and I don’t expect everyone to agree with me, so whatever your opinion, thanks for coming to my discussion today.

A pop-journalist in her twenty-somethings that engulfs herself in nerd culture, such as anime, tabletop gaming, and video gaming.