Animal Crossing: New Horizons Includes Couch Co-Op, Isabelle, and More

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The internet was rife with excitement following many of the announcements during Nintendo’s E3 digital event on Tuesday, with collective meltdowns happening over the reveals for Banjo Kazoozie as a Super Smash Brothers Ultimate fighter, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2and (most importantly) Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Here’s everything we know about the newest entry into one of my favorite series.

Nintendo took the time after their E3 direct to detail some of the gameplay during the Nintendo Treehouse and in subsequent interviews.

You can view the full 30 minutes Nintendo Treehouse here:

They announced during the direct that the game has been delayed from late 2019 for March 20, 2020, and this was entirely done to avoid “crunch” for Nintendo employees and to help maintain a good work-life balance, according to Nintendo of America President Doug Bowser.

The announced delay caused a reported $1 billion drop on the company’s stock market value, CNET reported.

Crunch is a long-known happening in the video game industry where developers work insane hours to deliver big promises, typically taking place in the months just before a new game is launching.

“The crunch point is an interesting one,” Bowser said in an interview with IGN following the direct. “For us, one of our key tenets is that we bring smiles to people’s faces, and we talk about that all the time. It’s our vision. Or our mission, I should say. For us, that applies to our own employees. We need to make sure that our employees have good work-life balance.”

I appreciate that Nintendo is taking measures to avoid crunch, which has been a part of the industry for decades and has become a point of contention just prior to many major releases in recent memory, such as Rockstar Games’ Red Dead Redemption 2‘s successful but controversial launch following an expose about the company’s working conditions.

In an episode of KakeBytes, I interviewed an developer that describes crunch conditions in the 90’s if you’re curious about how pervasive the trend has been in the industry.

So, all-in-all, I have no issues with a short delay.

New Horizons will also feature up to 8-player multiplayer, which was hinted at in a closing scene of the trailer.

We learned during the Treehouse that up to four players can play in the local couch cooperative mode (!!!). And, according to IGN, Nintendo confirmed that the local coop mode is single screen and not split screen. Online cooperative allows up to eight islanders visiting at a time.

“And though there is a travel theme to New Horizons, Kyogoku confirmed you can’t set up a tent on a friend’s island,” Miranda Sanchez, an executive editor with IGN, reported. “However, Kyogoku told IGN you can make up to eight playable accounts on one Nintendo Switch and they will be able to live on the same island. You cannot have multiple islands, however.”

Cooperative play is initiated via your cell phone using the “Call an Islander” app, allowing up to eight players to join you on your island to craft, clean up, or chill.

Sanchez said that Nintendo confirmed that the Nintendo Switch Online app and voice chat “should be compatible” with New Horizons. Fingers crossed that remains so.

That same final shot from the Nintendo Direct also hints at another first for the main series of the franchise — choosing skin tones during character creations. This was previously seen in spinoffs Happy Home Designer and Pocket Camp (titles meant to assuage our pain between New Leaf and New Horizons) Other gameplay pulled from the spin-offs is the ability to decorate worldwide.

The biggest and most exciting change, in my opinion, is the addition of the crafting table. In the Nintendo Treehouse following the presentation, Nintendo showcased how Tom Nook’s crafting table works in building the décor you will use to make your deserted island feel more like home.

IGN also reported that Isabelle will be in New Horizons, but that her arrival on your island is determined by how much you’ve upgraded your island, Sanchez reported.

“If the player chooses to stay in the tent, Tom Nook may say ‘Hey, actually, that guy likes living more of an outdoorsy, wild life,’” Kyogoku told Sanchez in an interview. “So he may not see the necessity of adding new resident support services. But then if you do upgrade to a house, he may see a need for some sort of new facility.”

Another major shift is addition of Nook Miles as a form of currency in addition to the sweet Bells you hand over to pay your debts. You can earn Nook Miles through (it seems) all actions once you get to your deserted island, er, paradise — including tasks such as picking weeds and crafting — which you can exchange for items or access to activities.

Low-key, I’m incredibly excited about two other aspects that were revealed earlier this week.

In the Direct announcement, Nintendo revealed that players will have the chance to place paths on the island which has typically been a labor of love. In New Leaf, placing paths was a complicated and frustrating mess of uploading QR patterns for your desired path look and there was always a risk that a new villager would invariably decide to put their home right in the middle of a path and destroying your work.

The ability to dig your own paths is complimented beautifully by the recently confirmed ability to confirm an islander’s home location.

“Back in New Leaf when a player moves to a new village, there are already pre-existing villagers that were there. They were kind of teaching you how things worked in the village, so you were kind of a newbie in a village,” Kyogoku said in a different interview with IGN. “With [New Horizons], because you’re moving to a deserted island with other animals, the relationship that you have with these two first couple of animals is you’re kind of on the same starting ground. It’s a very new type of a relationship.

New Horizons is officially my most anticipated title for the Nintendo Switch, but that’s been the case since they confirmed it was in development. The changes to the core gameplay are poised to make it even more addicting than previous titles and I’m looking forward to everything that Nintendo has planned for the newest entry into the Animal Crossing series.