The first game-specific Nintendo Direct since January’s Pokémon Direct aired this morning, and it was all about Animal Crossing: New Horizons. The Animal Crossing Direct showcased island life gameplay, including seasons and multiplayer visitation, as well as teasing post-launch support and updates.
The 25-minute presentation introduces series figurehead Tom Nook and his Deserted Island Getaway Package. In New Horizons, the island holds your home (initially a tent), farm, the airport, and several activities such as harvesting resources, crafting furniture, catching bugs, and fishing. The entire island can be customized, including land development with bridges and paths, and even changing the course of rivers.
New facilities can also be constructed on the island, such as a living museum, a tailor for clothes shopping, and a campsite where you can hang out with friends.
The Getaway Package costs a substantial amount of money, and you’ll need to earn money to pay it back. Woo capitalism! Earn Nook Miles by completing goals towards paying off your debt, and for gaining new rewards and items.
The island features a real-time clock as well as all four seasons. When you start the game you can choose between the Northern and Southern hemispheres, which dictate which seasons you’ll experience at certain times. Choosing the Northern hemisphere, for example, will have you starting in the Spring season if you pick the game up on launch day.
New residents can visit the island and move in, and new islands can be explored via the airport’s mystery island tours to gather new materials and find new creatures.
For family sharing, up to eight different accounts can live on the same island on a single game, and up to four of those accounts can play together on the same island at the same time (additional controllers required). With more game systems, the multiplayer expands up to eight players via local wireless or online.
Players can also visit each other’s islands online or locally, either on their friends list or via codes (parental controls are available). Tools than can modify an island, such as axes, are unusable while visiting other islands, unless registered as Best Friends.
Online play requires a Nintendo Switch Online membership. Oddly, Animal Crossing: New Horizons does not support cloud save backups that normally come with the membership. Nintendo instead mentioned “a service that will allow you to recover backed up save data from the server,” in the case of console damage or loss.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons will also support the Nintendo Switch Online app with a new section called NookLink. NookLink lets you scan QR Codes from previous Animal Crossing games to download them to New Horizons. NookLink will launch in March sometime after the launch of New Horizons.
The Animal Crossing Direct also promised to deliver free updates and post-game events after launch. The first event will be Bunny Day, beginning on launch day. Players of mobile spin-off Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp can also receive special items in each game sometime after launch.
“The Animal Crossing games offer players a unique and relaxing escape from the stresses of everyday life, and Animal Crossing: New Horizons builds on that by letting players build their own island utopia from scratch,” said Nick Chavez, Nintendo of America Senior VP. “When Nintendo Switch owners pack their virtual bags and move into their new island home, they will experience more ways to customize their Animal Crossing life than ever before. Just like Nintendo Switch itself, the game lets you play the way you want to play.”
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is launching March 20 exclusively on Nintendo Switch. It’s rated E for Everyone.