5 Things I Don’t Like About Animal Crossing: New Horizons (and How to Make Them Better)
A little over a week into Animal Crossing: New Horizons, my brother and I have shared an island, and I’m enjoying my playthrough so far. Building up the island and gradually expanding my in-game house has been therapeutic, and my daily playthroughs have been akin to meditation sessions. Whether it’s hunting for a fish or bug that I’m missing from the museum, crafting a new item to decorate the island, or virtually connecting with my friends by visiting their islands through online play, I have a lot of good things to say about the latest edition of my favorite debt-payment simulator.
However, as much as I’ve enjoyed the game, I do have a few issues with the game’s user experience. Here are five things I don’t like about Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and how they can be fixed.
Why I don’t like this: After dealing with my swords breaking in Breath of the Wild, I would’ve never thought that weapon durability would be present in Animal Crossing, but here we are. When the adjective before your first set of tools is “Flimsy,” you’re probably not going to hang onto them for too long.
It’s happened much too often for my liking, but while I’m fishing or hunting for bugs, my fishing rod or my net will break after a certain amount of uses, and I’ll have to find another workbench to craft another one. In my case, I have to trek to either my workbench next to my house or my brother’s bench on the beach. Both of these happen to be located on the south side of our island, so if I’m anywhere else, it’s a journey to make another watering can or slingshot.
While players can save a little time by keeping a workbench in their inventory or placing multiple workbenches across the island, the fact that we have to go through this process at all for our tools is a little tedious.
How to make this better: Honestly, I don’t see Nintendo changing the durability aspect of the tools, but in Breath of the Wild, the game would tell you if your weapon was about to break and it would flash red to let you know it's on its last legs.
Adopting a similar mechanic, meter, or indicator for Animal Crossing’s tools would at least let me know when to start looking for a workbench.
Inability to Craft Multiple Items at Once
Why I don’t like this: Sticking with issues regarding crafting, you can’t craft more than one of the same item. One of the items I craft the most is fishing bait, which you can make from manila clams you find and dig up on your island’s beach. On a single walk down my island’s sandy shores, it’s not uncommon to find five or more of these buried treasures, and each fishing bait only requires a single clam.
Fishing bait spawns a fish in whatever body of water you’re facing, so if you’re hunting for a specific fish, keeping a lot of bait on you isn’t a bad idea. However, when I go to turn these clams into bait, I’m forced to do so one by one.
While it’s not the biggest issue, it’s a design choice that makes the crafting process a little more time-consuming and tedious.
How to make this better: Give us the option to craft more than one of the same items if I have enough materials to do so. An option to select how much of the item to make would streamline the crafting process, and bring me one step closer to my dream of owning ten identical pieces of furniture in my house.
Secondary Players On the Same Switch Are Restricted
Why I don’t like this: New Horizons forces players on the same Switch to share an island, and while I’m free to do whatever I want, my brother’s forced to progress at the same pace or slower. While this hasn’t been too big of an issue on our playthrough, it can pose a problem for other secondary residents who might’ve put more time into the game than the first player, as they’re unable to expand the island on their own.
Additionally, you can’t craft most of the game’s items until you receive their “DIY recipe,” and there are certain DIY recipes that secondary players don’t get. Minor spoiler, but within the first week, Tom Nook, the head of the island, asks the island creator to find three areas of land for three incoming residents, and includes a few DIY recipes to craft items that will go along with these new houses.
My brother attempted to contribute to these new residences but was told that I was taking care of it. Anyone other than the first player does not receive these recipes and must receive this information randomly, by either popping a balloon floating through the sky with a slingshot or talking to another villager who happens to be making that item.
How to make this better: This issue is a bit more nuanced than the first two, but giving the option to either share the island or create a personal island for each account could alleviate this, as everyone could then pick which island experience they want. Animal Crossing could borrow from Stardew Valley, which lets users on the same console have separate farms that they could fully develop on their own.
Additionally, if people want to share an island together, letting secondary residents expand and develop the island would also remove some of the restrictions that they currently have.
As for the DIY recipes, allowing players on the same Switch to share recipes could resolve this part of the problem, while also preventing the progression from getting too out of hand. Animal Crossing inherently forces players to be patient if they don’t fiddle with the system clock and time travel, and slowly gathering recipes and furniture is essential to this experience.
Unskippable Cutscenes When Any Online Players Enter (or Exit) Your Town
Why I don’t like this: Who would’ve thought that Animal Crossing would be the Nintendo title with the most robust messaging system on the switch? (I’m looking at you, Smash, Mario Kart, and Splatoon). For the most part, I’m impressed with how Animal Crossing handles their online, and virtually connecting with other friends and players by visiting each other’s islands is a fun way to pass the time. New Horizons even lets players regulate what visitors can do on their island, as only mutually-accepted Best Friends can use their shovels and axes on other islands, while other visitors and potential trolls are unable to chop down trees or dig up any planted flowers. However, my main issue with New Horizons’ online is how it handles approaching and outgoing players.
Any time another player visits your island, a cutscene will play, showing an arrival board with the incoming player’s name, title, and the name of their island, before showing them exiting your airport gates. While this isn’t too bad if you have one, two or three people visiting, New Horizons allows up to eight players to be on the same island at once. If you’re having a full party on your island, you’re going to see the entrance cutscene seven times if you don’t run into any issues, and you’re unable to skip any of these. This same issue arises when these players leave, as another unskippable cutscene shows them entering the airport gates to return to their island.
How to make this better: Either give players the option to skip or disable these cutscenes, or get them into the game without a cutscene. While I like seeing what my friends name their town or what they’ve titled themselves, having to see every entrance and egress can be time-consuming.
Nintendo could also have visitors appear on your island or just show them exiting the airport without a drawn-out cutscene. They could pull from a fighting game of theirs, ARMS, which can seamlessly move players from the main menu, an online lobby, and straight into a match without a single cutscene.
A lobby might not work in Animal Crossing, but the concept of getting players into their friends’ islands as quickly and as smoothly as possible should be Nintendo’s goal here.
Lack of a Cloud Save System (Yet)
Why I don’t like this: A majority of the Nintendo games on the Switch allow you to utilize cloud saves in case something happens to your system. Animal Crossing is one of the few first-party titles that don’t. Granted, the default cloud save system is on a profile-by-profile basis, so my cloud saves aren’t tied to my brother’s, and since the island can be shared amongst multiple profiles, it makes sense as to why it isn’t, but still causes unease for anyone worried about losing their save data.
How to make this better: While cloud saves for New Horizons aren’t currently supported, Nintendo announced in their Animal Crossing Direct on February 20, 2020, that a cloud save system for Animal Crossing would launch after the game’s release.
However, with how sporadic Nintendo releases information about its games, we’re in the dark on how the cloud storage works or what it entails until it releases. Let’s just hope my Switch holds up until then.