It is simply so delightful: the breeze rising off of the ocean to tickle the palm leaves into dancing, the acoustic strings announcing evening in Animal Crossing: New Horizons. On a recent stroll through town, my friend Ava stopped me to give me a utility pole. “I heard you were decorating,” she said, “so I thought I’d give you this!” Did I expect my friend to give me a metal pole used for scaffolding electrical lines as a gift? No. It was a surprise and a delight. I will treasure it, both for its usefulness in building infrastructure on a deserted island and for its being a gift from a friend.
New Horizons, the latest installment in Nintendo’s ongoing commitment to replenishing my brain’s serotonin reserves, comes out this Friday. I am delighted to report that fans of the franchise are going to absolutely lose it over hundreds of minute little gameplay gestures. They are going to riot in the streets when they find out they can close the blinds in their own home. They will topple the Statue of Liberty upon discovering they can skooch sideways between two items placed close together, the way humans do when they are trying to access the middle seat of a crowded movie theatre row.
Just kidding. Fans will actually not do anything other than play Animal Crossing: New Horizons, which is so enchanting that it verges on an all-consuming experience. It is Olympically difficult, if not impossible, to tear away your focus, which is now grafted to the Animal Crossing universe. I think it is a good idea for every person on Earth to buy it and then please shut up for a while.
The same digital epoch that gave us Animal Crossing also gave us social media, and, in doing so, bred the impulse that it is normal and even rewardable behavior to not only have an opinion about everything, but to also scream it into the world. I am not talking about celebrities, whose opinions are usually enjoyable or at least newsworthy. The public consumption of celebrity opinions is a time-honored human ritual, like going to the movies (not now—stay home, please!), and it is worth preserving in order to keep society from collapsing into chaos. I am talking about the opinions of everybody else. How is it possible that people tweet daily about things that have happened to them? I urge you to reconsider the next time you feel the impulse. Now, I am going to continue talking about Animal Crossing, which I will continue to do until I die.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons departs from the franchise’s recurring plot framework by giving players their own, blank island from which to begin. It then zooms, via biplane, right back to the franchise’s recurring plot framework by revealing that you are in the raccoon mogul Tom Nook’s debt yet again. The procession from there will be familiar to anybody who has played AC, with each paid loan resulting in a home addition, and the cast of animal characters settling into and moving through your town.
With the addition of a customizable, cultivable world, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is even more playable than its predecessors, which were already highly-playable. For the first time, the layout of your town is completely up to you, with the options to shuffle the homes of your new neighbors and any other buildings, excepting the Resident Services tent and central plaza. Outdoor furniture, fences, paths can go almost anywhere you place them: Your islanders can have fenced off yards, or a community pool, or utility poles (thank you again, Ava!), or vending machines. In New Leaf, your character stepped into an existing town and was tasked with running it. In New Horizons, your character builds it from the ground up.
It is at this point I have to thank God that I am not a video game journalist, or else I would have to talk about task-based gameplay and development windows, like I know anything about either of them. I have only played the game since it was available on Nintendo GameCube in 2001, when I used to walk across the street to Evan’s house to see if maybe Evan was home? And if he, uh, wanted to play Animal Crossing? And I would not notice Evan’s eyes going glassy as I spent hours catching fish and selling them at the store for money.
I would not notice anything. I am so engrossed in the tasks of Animal Crossing that the world around me fades into a warm mist. Eight years have elapsed since the franchise’s last release—the longest of any gap between two games, it's worth noting, even though I know nothing about video game development—and New Horizons feels, accordingly, so satisfyingly dense. So many fish to catch and materials to collect and furniture to make from those materials. So many animals to visit and coax into moving to your town, so you can later befriend them. My body is filling with fire as I realize that I can’t play the game right now because I am writing this paragraph instead! (I want to scream out of my eyes!)
Wouldn’t it be nice, we have all thought (usually publicly), if fewer catastrophes were occurring? If perhaps we existed in some world resembling ours but with more stars to witness at night, more money for all, no imminent climate apocalypse, more animals to befriend and accept gifts from?
It would be very nice. Animal Crossing: New Horizons is available on March 20th, 2020.
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Originally Appeared on GQ