Like so many of us attempting to keep a tenuous grasp on reality during the doldrums of quarantine society, my wife and I have thrown ourselves wholeheartedly into Animal Crossing: New Horizons, the defining game of our times.
And when I say “wholeheartedly,” what I really mean is “obsessively.” Unlike most professional videogame writers who have a responsibility to play a wide variety of offerings so they can continue generating bylines, the bulk of my work at Paste typically revolves around film, beer and spirits. As a result, I’m under no specific mandate to keep playing new games, and that has resulted in Animal Crossing pretty much dominating my free time for the last month. In fact, between the two of us, my wife and I have probably sunk around 100 hours into this Nintendo Switch title already. And for two people who don’t usually play anything with that kind of single minded dedication, it’s a unique level of obsession.
Both of us have been thoroughly charmed by New Horizons, there’s no doubt about that. Coming in as a pair of newbies to the entire Animal Crossing franchise, we didn’t know quite what to expect, but both of us have found our own areas of interest as we strive for the perfect island. I spend my time chatting with villagers, building friendships and hunting every possible fish and bug. My partner is more interested in the urban planning of the island, laying out patterns of orchards, flower beds, furniture and paths to improve our surroundings. We make a solid team, when all is said and done.
The more you play New Horizons, though, the more obvious some of its shortcomings and annoyances become. There are some relatively minor tweaks to the UI and to certain core mechanics (especially crafting) that could take an already great experience and make it that much greater. In fact, it’s hard to believe some of these improvements aren’t already in the game, because they seem so profoundly obvious.
Here, then, are five things we’re really hoping to see in future Animal Crossing: New Horizons patches.
The big one. This is the single most obvious change that Nintendo could make to improve the experience of playing New Horizons, and it’s hard to imagine any player who WOULDN’T want access to the ability to craft multiple DIY projects at once. As we said above: Why would this option not have been available at launch, anyway? Who wants to gather 10 Manila Clams, and then have to fashion them into fish bait one at a time, when there should simply be an option to make 10 fish baits at once? Who wants to go through all of those extra Bunny Day eggs, crafting a dozen of the same item, when there should just be an option you can check to say “craft maximum amount”? This is the kind of quality-of-life improvement that every player should be able to agree on, so it would be shocking if Nintendo doesn’t get around to introducing it eventually.
I don’t care how it’s introduced, either. Stick a new “Master DIY Crafter” item in the Nook Stop with an exorbitant price, and I’ll buy it. 10,000 Nook Miles would be a small price to pay in exchange for not having to make the same DIY items over and over when you’re trying to use up some of your raw materials or craft items to sell at the shop. Hell, I’d pay real-life money for this ability. Make it happen, Nintendo.
Twitter users have illustrated quite clearly how simple this could look in practice.
While we’re already tangential to the topic of Manila Clams and fish bait, we might as well address a few more changes that could benefit this aspect of the game. First of all, the player’s quality of life would be improved dramatically simply by changing one thing: Allow Manila Clams to stack in your inventory.
That’s it! It makes perfect sense that other fish and bugs can’t be stacked in the player’s inventory, as this would no doubt result in players coming back from mystery islands carrying 500 tarantulas, but there’s every reason in the world to make a solo exception for Manila clams. Beyond the fact that it makes logical sense (they’re very small, and the similarly sized seashells already stack), it makes gathering the clams for fish bait a less punitive exercise because they don’t clog up a bunch of space in your inventory/pockets. That ultimately should let the player comb the beaches longer, gathering more clams … which you’d ideally be able to then bulk craft into fish bait, rather than doing it one at a time. You may have noticed that these improvements really work best in conjunction with one another.
It feels like half of my time in New Horizons is spent in pursuit of this substance.
Beyond that, however, why not take things one step further and make fish bait available to purchase in the shop? Sure, the gathering of Manila Clams adds to the richness of the DIY aspect of the game on some level, and it should certainly be an option, but why not also allow bulk buying of pre-made fish bait for players who are really trying to focus on catching unique fish for their museums? You could even make the bell price of each fish bait high enough—say, 1,000 bells per bait—that it’s not likely to be financially efficient to buy it, but I’d still buy it for the convenience and the fact that it would help me search for specific rare fish. If players don’t want to pay, they can still hunt clams. And if they’re flush with bells, the fish bait is there for them in the shop. Is that not a win-win?
I will concede that this is a significantly bigger thing to ask of Nintendo than “let me bulk craft” or “let me buy fish bait.” The fixed X-axis camera perspective of New Horizons in all outdoor locations means that there’s a single, “native” angle from which you can view your island, and it also means there doesn’t need to be rendered images of things like “what does my house look like from behind?” Adding in the ability to freely rotate the camera while outside would likely be a substantial amount of work, but it would be worth it to the player in the long haul.
You can still tilt the camera perspective up and down, but that’s little help in many outdoor exploration scenarios. Cliffs in particular are a pain to navigate on their back sides without the ability to rotate the camera, as you often have no idea where they end or what items might be sitting below your feet. It should likely go without saying that there probably shouldn’t be areas of the island you can access, but not be able to see yourself.
A simple alternative would also be allowing the player to see through cliffs when they’re partially or totally obscured by them. This could be accomplished by allowing the player to toggle a “see through cliffs” filter, or simply doing it automatically whenever the player is obscured by one. But ideally, the ability to rotate the camera freely on its X-axis would be much more satisfying, as it would open up many more vantage points of the island. This would ultimately make the player’s island feel like a bigger, more interesting, more beautiful place.
It would also be helpful if the player could toggle on a more overt grid system for the ground when doing certain tasks like waterscaping or planting, to allow for more control in creating gardens or path layouts. It’s not the kind of thing you’d want to see all the time—just give the player the option to see the inherent grid when doing a delicate task that requires precise spacing.
Getting to golden tools is an accomplishment that will take most players dozens or hundreds of hours in Animal Crossing: New Horizons. So why undercut the value of that accomplishment by making those golden tools only a minor upgrade over the standard tools you’ve been using this whole time? How is the player supposed to be motivated to attain golden tools, when they know they’ll just end up breaking like so many flimsy nets and fishing rods?
Also, this one should include a working SEGA Genesis port of Golden Axe II.
I’m not against the durability system of tools overall. The fact that they wear out and break is an encouragement to keep using the crafting system, even if it’s often annoying. But the durability system should also be an incentive to keep working toward getting those golden tools, with the knowledge that they represent an endgame where you won’t have to re-craft new tools every day. They should be the carrot motivating you to keep playing, but instead they’re mostly just a cosmetic upgrade. The fact that they take gold to craft—rare gold nuggets worth 10,000 bells each—just feels like a slap in the face, given that they’ll still eventually break.
With all of the time and effort that it takes to eventually attain golden tools, the payoff should be more satisfying and substantial for the player than it currently is. For the time commitment alone, these tools should be unbreakable and permanent.
This is a small quibble, but one that I’ve found odd while playing New Horizons: Why are so few of the items you purchase customizable? Why introduce the customization kits when they can be used in conjunction with seemingly so few of the items you buy or craft?
Sure, most of the DIY furniture you can build can have its color swapped or customized, but what about all of the clothing? Does no one else find it annoying when a shop is selling a cool hat, but it’s only available in lime green? Why shouldn’t we be able to use our customization kits to change the hue of those basic clothing items? It seems to be exactly what those kits would have been designed for.
And yeah, you can design your own clothing if you really desire, but for those of us who don’t want to spend the time starting from scratch and would like to simply tweak the color of an existing piece of clothing, what would be the harm in allowing us to do so?
That’s what I ultimately come back to: What would the downside be of allowing any of these changes? Ultimately, they’d all improve the experience of playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons for the average player, so I hope we see them all introduced in future patches.