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It’s been an entire year since Animal Crossing: New Horizons launched on Nintendo Switch, and still many of us on the Nintendo Wire team are regularly revisiting our islands. This is in no small part due to Nintendo consistently providing free updates to the game, injecting new content to keep us from ever leaving our tropical getaway. While I’m surprised at how fast the time has gone, and grateful to Nintendo for keeping us engaged throughout what has been a trying 12 months, it has to be said that the game still feels somewhat incomplete if you’re a veteran fan of Animal Crossing.


There are still a ton of elements from previous entries I’m still waiting to see return in the game, and it’s surprising that Nintendo hasn’t already implemented them into the game already. It’s far from too late, of course, given the game’s ongoing popularity and impressive player attach rate, and there are plenty of ideas that Nintendo can resurrect from past iterations of its beloved animal life sim series that would simultaneously reward longtime fans and surprise newcomers.

12) Constellations

Before Celeste wandered into players’ islands on random days in New Horizons, she used to run the observatory in Wild World and City Folk. Here, players could gaze at the stars through Celeste’s giant telescope, and connect them with lines to create constellations. After creating your astronomical artwork and giving it a name, you could later see it appear in the night sky. It was a fun way to further personify your town beyond the bounds of land, and provided yet another enjoyable outlet for creative players. I’d love for the feature to return, if only to see what the community could come up with and share online.


11) Kickable balls

Way back when the Animal Crossing series debuted internationally on the GameCube, sports balls made occasional appearances throughout players’ towns. In truth, there was barely any point to them, unless a villager specifically requested the player bring them one in exchange for a reward. Aside from that, they were just balls. You could kick them. If you ran, you could kick them further. Beyond becoming a distantly familiar diversion, the very nature of New Horizons could increase the recreational utility of kickable balls tenfold with its emphasis on multiplayer, which its original predecessor lacked. Having a kick about with friends could be fun, with players indulging in makeshift bouts of soccer, dodgeball, or whatever creative new pastimes the Animal Crossing community could cook up. After all, there’s only so much item trading players can do before multiplayer sessions get old, and a new interactive as straightforward as sports balls could help keep play sessions social.


10) Monthly lottery

In another feature exclusive to the original game, it used to be that the Nook store would give the player a free raffle ticket with each purchase. On the last day of each month, Tom Nook would hold a lottery in his store, and if you handed over five raffle tickets, he would spin colored balls in a container, and the result would net the player a prize. This would be a great addition to Nook’s Cranny in New Horizons, incentivizing players to make more trips to the store and collect more items on sale, as well as giving them something to look forward to at the end of each month.


9) More fruit variety

A year on, and we still only have the six types of fruit that are standard within every Animal Crossing game. This is especially odd considering that New Leaf introduced an additional six types of exotic fruit, including bananas, durians, lemons, lychees, mangoes, and persimmons. Even the mobile spin-off Pocket Camp has outshone New Horizons in this regard, with grapes being exclusive to the title! Let’s not also forget how New Leaf introduced Perfect and Rotten fruit, adding even more variety to players’ pickings. It’s truly baffling why Nintendo has not returned to this more complex and interesting economy of produce, especially considering New Horizons’ emphasis on island life and agriculture. Along with bringing new discoveries to the player, new fruit could also pave the way for DIY recipes.


8) Ordinances

New Leaf introduced Ordinances into the series, which affected the way in which the town operated. A Beautiful Ordinance kept towns prim and proper; a Wealthy Ordinance boosted the buy and sell value of items; and the Early Bird and Night Owl Ordinances changed shops’ opening hours and villagers’ bedtimes. Since the player’s role of “Resident Representative” is similar to the mayoral duties given to them in New Leaf, I see no reason why Ordinances couldn’t make a grand return. It would be so helpful to have more flexibility and would help keep things fresh by allowing players to mix up the nature of islands from time to time. And why stop at the New Leaf laws? There are plenty of new Ordinances Nintendo could offer, including ones that attract more rare bugs and fish, a “no fakes” policy that prevents Redd from ripping off customers, and even a Ban Zipper T. Bunny and All His Stupid Eggs Ordinance.


7) Amenities

Admittedly, Pocket Camp is probably the Animal Crossing game I’ve spent the least amount of time playing out of them all (except for perhaps amiibo Festival, but let’s not spoil a nice article by contemplating on that game), but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate some of its unique elements. One of these was the addition of Amenities: crafted constructions that, unlike New Leaf’s purely decorative Public Works Projects, were more interactive and fun.

Well, “interactive” may be a stretch, since only the animals could engage with them, but that’s where New Horizons could build on the idea. It’d be great if players could hop on a merry-go-round, climb up a treehouse, or splash in a pool. Interactivity could remain purely aesthetic, of course — but even that would help bring more life to multiplayer sessions, and offer a whole new range of opportunities for fans of the game’s photo mode.


6) Minigames

New Leaf’s Island Tours offered a wide selection of minigames, allowing players the chance to earn medals which could be exchanged for exclusive items. They could be played in solo and in multiplayer, with participants given an objective within a time limit, including popping balloons, catching bugs and fish, planting flowers, finding fossils, navigating mazes, and more. Most of these games were based around existing features within New Horizons, so it certainly wouldn’t be too difficult to implement – that said, however, I’d love if Nintendo brought back the Hammer Tour if only for an excuse to bring back the toy Hammer tool — after all, relying on the bug-catching net to give my mates a good whack across the head every time they visit is getting a little stale.


5) Unbreakable golden tools

While the addition of crafting in New Horizons has undeniably added some new and interesting depth to the series, it’s incredibly tiresome to have the game’s tools – which are commonly used within a typical play session – constantly break.. I really thought that the game’s golden tools would solve this by being unbreakable, and while they’re certainly more durable than their regular counterparts, they, too, inevitably crumble into dust after enough use. Unlocking each golden tool recipe isn’t easy, and it would feel so much more rewarding if they were invincible, like in the previous games. Make it right, Nintendo!


4) The Roost

It’s been almost a year since New Horizons players discovered dialogue that hinted at the return of Brewster, the pigeon barista that ran The Roost café in previous Animal Crossing titles. At The Roost, players could bond with Brewster more with each cup of coffee consumed, and even work for him behind the bar and serve other customers in order to earn rewards. Of course, most of the special visitors in New Horizons, such as Celeste, Kicks, or Leif, tend to visit on scheduled days rather than take permanent residence like they used to. Perhaps Nintendo could make an exception with Brewster and his beverage-based business, however, considering The Roost’s prominence in prior games. It’d be fun to have a new environment in which to converse with the villagers and to gain a new employer in Brewster (getting too used to island life really tends to leave a sizeable gap in your resume, after all).


3) Collectible Gyroids

Gyroids are very mysterious creatures in past Animal Crossing games; the series has never really explained their origins in any detail, though this just adds to their strange and intriguing presence. They could be found in the ground, like fossils, and came in many different shapes, sizes, and appearances. You could place them in your home, where they would make a unique sound when activated (the Buzzoid would buzz while the Croakoid would croak). Lloid does at least return in New Horizons, taking donations when you’re constructing a bridge or an incline. Of course, with this being the only Gyroid appearance (aside from a small cameo on the album cover of K.K. Song), it’s easy to forget that they’re in the game at all considering most of us finished building all our bridges and inclines ages ago. As of New Leaf, there are 131 unique Gyroids, ranging from lovably goofy to downright creepy. Collecting them brought a welcome, Pokémon-like aspect to Animal Crossing and it would be truly tragic if the musical mischief-makers never saw the light of day on the Nintendo Switch.


2) Department Store

In the New Horizons’ current state, you can upgrade Nook’s Cranny once after you fulfill some conditions, but it’s a bit lacking compared to the grand, sweeping expansions of the series’ past. The likes of Nook ‘n’ Go, Nookway, and most of all Nookington’s provided a much bigger and more tangible sense of growth as the game went on, and while the already-existing expansion is nice, it’s lacking in comparison to the shopaholic spectaculars of previous games. I miss having a sprawling department store with multiple storeys and a more impressive range of items for sale, and I hope Nintendo can address the needs of us shopaholics soon.


1) More Nintendo-themed furniture, fashion, and faces

The Super Mario Bros. items that arrived from this month’s update certainly didn’t disappoint, but I’m also hopeful that this is just the beginning. Mario’s 35th anniversary celebrations are coming to an end very soon, after all, which hopefully means Nintendo will initiate plans for The Legend of Zelda’s 35th next – and in turn, introduce a new set of Zelda furniture. We’ve seen a number of them already appear in past Animal Crossing games, such as the Master Sword and Triforce, as well as themed costumes. New Leaf even introduced new villagers based on Medli, Ganon, Epona, and Wolf Link!


Then there was a host of cameos from other Nintendo franchises, including Star Fox’s Arwing, F-Zero’s Blue Falcon, Pikmin’s S.S. Dolphin, a Metroid, and a ton of Mario Kart weapons. Nintendo could bring back all of these and more. What about new Pokemon, Splatoon, and Fire Emblem sets? Also, if Nintendo can turn Zelda characters into Animal Crossing villagers, how about inviting those over along with villager versions of Fox McCloud, Snubbull, or Diddy Kong?


You can teach New Horizons old tricks


In many ways, New Horizons almost feels like the ultimate Animal Crossing game; a title with many innovations as well as a celebration of everything that the series has achieved so far – almost. With some glaring omissions in its current state, it’s not quite there yet. But in this wonderful digital age we live in, with DLC constantly introducing new possibilities, there’ss hope for New Horizons to remember its roots and bring back more of what longtime fans love. Considering the regular free updates the game has received over its first year in the wild, Nintendo looks set to continue supporting the game to keep players engaged – let’s just hope that it remembers all of the elements that made Animal Crossing great, just like its fans do.

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Written by Reece Heather

A lifelong Nintendo fan and a longtime editor at Zelda Universe, Reece will forever be grateful that he somehow dodged the Naughty List of Christmas 1998, when Santa delivered the life-changing gift of a Nintendo 64 with Super Mario 64, Banjo-Kazooie, and Mario Kart 64. When he's not playing games, Reece is usually reading Punisher comics, delving helplessly into the weirdest depths of anime and manga, or spending time with his cocker spaniel Gracie -- the goodest girl ever!