When it first launched in March, Animal Crossing: New Horizons was the game that reassured us that life under the shadow of the pandemic was going to be okay. Now,
two years three months later, we’re all well aware that life is not going to be okay, but Animal Crossing is still there, doing its best to help us forget.
Somewhere in June, I fell away from my daily habit of checking in with villagers, planting money trees, and scoping out my island’s north shore in search of Redd and his
illicit legally-obtained art. I know I’m not alone. Gradually stepping away from a new game after a few months of everyday play isn’t uncommon; it’s pretty normal, really. Letting go of Animal Crossing is kinda weird though. To me, this little daily diversion was sometimes less a game and more stabilizing shared social experience in a time of pretty extreme detachment.
But Animal Crossing is famously lauded as the video game embodiment of a marathon in an arena of sprints. Each month introduces new wildlife, and each season changes up the environment of the island completely. Booting the game up again to experience July’s selection of novel content, I had to remind myself more than once that summer is only the second season we’ve experienced on our island so far. The pandemic takes a toll.
New fish and bugs are nice, but what really brought me back were the wholly-new features introduced in the game’s July update, which adds swimming and diving for sea creatures to the Animal Crossing‘s retinue of island experiences.
These new additions aren’t particularly complex – swimming is as easy as donning a wetsuit and pressing “A” near the shore, and finding sea creatures as simple as swimming over a pillar of bubbles and pressing “Y” to dive, moving around until you run into its source. Still, these new features fit the theme of the game perfectly, and they offer enough content, in my opinion, to warrant a return.
What’s really neat about little updates like this is that they give me a reason to hop back into a world that I became closely familiar with back in March and April. New Horizons is simple and rote enough that completing its shopping list of daily activities every 24 hours is sure to wear out the average player eventually, but its charm and appeal are also strong enough that a return visit to the island after a week or two off feels rewarding, like I’m returning home again.
I’d worried when I first decided not to log onto Animal Crossing for a couple days that the game wasn’t the year-long experience I’d expected it to be. Had I finally grown tired of its cute, saccharine allure? Having reconnected following the July update, I feel assured that my stay on the island paradise of Elysium isn’t complete, even if my visits are no longer as frequent.