When Animal Crossing launched last year, it was just what everyone needed: A relaxing game that enabled players to just hang out with friends.
At first, players were spoilt with lots of content. There was Bunny Day, May Day, the Museum upgrade, Summer Festival and diving, all between the game’s release in March and July 2020.
Eventually that content slowed to a crawl — and some of the existing updates left players frustrated. The Museum update, for instance, added Redd and Lief to the rotation of visiting villagers, with 8 visiting villagers that could appear over 5 days. But that meant some players would miss out on NPCs, and sometimes Redd’s wares would all be fake on a visit.
Not long after release, data miners discovered Brewster and Gyroids in Animal Crossing‘s code. Cooking and farming were discovered later in October 2020, leaving fans hopeful that something might finally be added. But by December, nothing had been implemented, and the Christmas and New Year’s Day events left players wanting. Only the dedicated still remained — until the Animal Crossing Direct was announced in September.
That left one of two reactions from players: “Yes finally!” or “So what.”
The Animal Crossing Happy Home Paradise expansion — and the free patch that base New Horizons players will receive along with it — is enormous, but it didn’t need to be. The offerings could have all been added bit by bit, like the previous updates. COVID has undoubtedly caused some trouble, but parts of Happy Home Paradise should have been added sooner to rectify players’ frustrations.
Take Brewster: we’ve known about him being in the game for 16 months. The cafe lets players have a coffee, invite friends from other islands for coffee, or invite characters through Amiibo. The Amiibo characters can bring other people, too, which isn’t anything especially ground breaking.
In older Animal Crossing games, The Roost was where K.K. would play his concert. It’d be good if that was still the case: K.K. currently plays in the plaza, which can get in the way of things.
Kapp’n uses the pier that’s been in New Horizons since launch. Beforehand, players would use the pier for diving and fishing, but it’s entirely possible that Nintendo set the pier knowing Kapp’n would be added later.
In Happy Home Paradise, Kapp’n will take the player to new islands that can have a different season, or different plants. It’s a basically the same as a mystery island ticket — those things you’ve been able to buy since New Horizons launched — except the time of day, or year is different. Given players have had over a year to collect everything they needed, it’s a little defunct.
Harvey’s Island, meanwhile, is being turned into a shop for all your Island visitors, as well as Reese and Cyril. It’s a good addition, but one that was needed last year since it would have relieved the frustration players had waiting for Redd or other NPCs.
Gyroids could have been patched in earlier, too. Three months after New Horizons‘ release, every player I knew already had all the fossils. People began selling them, but once players knew they had enough bells, they simply left the fossils in the ground — what was the point of digging them up? So having to grow Gyroids now is more busywork that forces players to wait an extra day. You can at least customise Gyroids now to match a room, which is a nice touch at least.
Farming and cooking were discovered by data minters in October last year, and as per the update, cooking doesn’t provide any benefits aside from what you’d gain from eating fruit. You can use them as gifts, but most players are already great friends with their villagers. A better move would be to make cooked items provide different effects, like making it easier to lure rarer fish, or making fish easier to catch.
There’s also a Happy Home Designer element to the new update, where players design holiday homes on an archipelago, designing the interior, exterior and yard with an island style and type to best suit the customer. To make this all work, there’s a ton of new designer tools: the ability to add partitions, pillars, two different height counters, adjusting colours and the level of lighting, and more. Villagers on your island can also be added to the Archipelago, and if the NPC is happy with your work, you can offer to renovate the home on their original island, too. (Base players, however, will get access to a lot more furniture, fencing with different heights, hanging lights, as well as more recipes and hairstyles in the free update.)
They’re great inclusions, although the structure of the DLC means some of the new home designer tools are locked behind a paywall when they should be available to base New Horizons players too. The expansion in general adds a lot of content that’s been missing from Animal Crossing, but at $37.50 by itself or for “free” with the premium Nintendo Expansion Subscription Service (which costs $59.95/year), that’s a lot to pay for the last 17 months of pain.
For Animal Crossing fans, it’s great that so much content is finally being added all at once. But with so much of the player base having fallen off due to a lack of content, it will take a lot more than this to bring dedicated Animal Crossing fans back to the island. For many, it’s a case of too little, too late.