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Animal Crossing: New Horizons Hands-On — From Nervous To Excited

If you’ve ever played Animal Crossing, you know that you really have to take everything a day at a time–and in the beginning of the game, you have to be especially patient as the basics of your town open up to you. I recently played the first half hour or so of Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and as I expected, not much technically happened in that time. But it was more than enough to set the tone for Tom Nook’s island getaway, and it also assuaged some of my concerns about changes to the series formula for its debut on Nintendo Switch.

From the very beginning, there’s already more freedom to customize than in any previous Animal Crossing game. This is the first main game in the series that lets you select a skin tone–in the past you had to “tan” by standing outside in the sun if you wanted to be anything besides pale–and on top of that, it’s also the first one that gives you a character creation menu instead of having you take a quiz to determine your appearance. You can pick out your hairstyle and color, eye shape and color, nose and mouth types, and even cheek color before you begin, and you can always change your look later, too. There are also more hairstyles and eye shapes than in previous games.

You arrive on your deserted island of choice with Tom Nook, Timmy, Tommy, and two villagers. After some introductions, you get to decide where to put your tent and then weigh in on where each villager places theirs–they actually welcome the interference and will let you totally take over if you want. Once that’s done, it’s time to prep for a party. This is where gathering resources for crafting comes in; you need to get some tree branches for a campfire and some fruit for a tropical drink, which requires just a quick walk around the island.

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