Animal Crossing fans have complained for the past year about missing NPCs and gameplay enhancements and it turns out that Nintendo was listening.
Ever since Animal Crossing: New Horizons’ initial launch in April 2020, fans have compiled laundry lists of the features, furniture and furry friends they wanted to see in future updates to the (what some argued was a rather bare) base game. Some of these requests, like the return of Redd and art collecting, found their way into the game in earlier free updates. But this direct finally delivers on (most of) the rest.
Many of the NPCs of titles past make their return. Brewster finally opens The Roost, inside the museum just as it was in Animal Crossing: Wild World. Kapp’n docks his boat on the boardwalk, taking players to random mystery islands with new or out-of-season flora, fruit and fish. And Harv’s island expands to welcome fortune-teller Katrina, hairstylist Harriet and former mayor Tortimer.
Players can now add hanging items like shelves and ceiling lights and accent walls to their home and place new fences, permanent ladders and additional bridges outdoors. New furniture is also being added, including the beloved and highly memeable Froggy Chair. Nintendo, thankful, expanded storage in preparation for this as well. There are also additional gameplay features — like a morning workout session, “growing” gyroids and farming and cooking mechanics.
Some of the features highlighted in the Animal Crossing direct have percolated in the community since launch. Dataminer @ninji found many hints to the farming mechanic, The Roost and Kapp’n in the game files last year that resulted in widespread speculation across the fandom. Some of the requests for additional Nook store updates and buildings on the main island, however, did not come to fruition in this last update.
The second half of the direct focuses on the Animal Crossing: Happy Home Paradise DLC. Similar to previous Happy Home games in the franchise, the DLC focuses specifically on the game’s design mechanics. The DLC provides players with a new archipelago of islanders looking for their dream vacation home and community structures like a school or hospital building. It also allows players to use different furniture and decorations, like partition walls, to their main island as well.
Nintendo advertised two methods for purchasing the new Animal Crossing: Happy Home Paradise DLC: outright for $24.99 or as a part of the Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack Tier for $49.99 for a single annual subscription or $79.99 for a family annual plan.
It may make more sense to simply purchase the DLC outright. Eurogamer confirmed with Nintendo that, while many features from the DLC available in the main gameplay, like partition walls and counters, will still be accessible, players will either need to renew their subscription or purchase the DLC directly to maintain access to the archipelago. The subscription does not come with the base game of Animal Crossing New Horizons either.
It’s been a long time since I’ve visited my island. This update is drawing me back in after all of this time, particularly because the game will finally have many of the features I longed for when I first started playing. But it feels a little too late, especially knowing that this is pretty much as good as it will get with no more major updates. Fans held out for so long with hopes that additional content would steadily roll in after the initial launch. But Nintendo failed to deliver as players tapered off in the interim. Perhaps it was a futile effort because of the way the game was improperly consumed in those first long months of pandemic lockdown at launch. But Animal Crossing titles are often a long-term commitment for players, so it’s disheartening to see Nintendo giving up on it after only about two years when games like Splatoon 2, which was released in 2017, are still receiving updates even when they have a follow-up title on their new horizon.
But who am I to judge? I gave up on Animal Crossing New Horizons a long time ago, too.