An island getaway on the horizon
Here’s some much-needed good news: Animal Crossing is back! The beloved franchise’s latest entry, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, was released at the end of last month. This is the first mainline game in the series since 2012 (though, there have been spin-offs in the years since). It’s a welcome arrival, offering all those people stuck indoors due to the spread of COVID-19 a sunny escape.
In New Horizons, you take part in a special getaway travel package courtesy of Animal Crossing character Tom Nook (known in Japan as Tanukichi). You then move to a remote island (in your choice of the northern or southern hemisphere), and there you pitch a tent, fish, collect wood and craft things. As the game progresses, you can build a house and bring more civilization (and life) to the island. As with previous Animal Crossing titles, New Horizons takes place in real time and corresponds to the seasons.
You can also collect items like bugs, shells and fish, which can then be sold for “bells,” money that can be used to buy fashionable outfits, cool furniture or even pay off your mortgage. There’s also an in-game rewards program called Nook Miles, which allows players to complete tasks such as bug collecting or flower planting. You can track your mileage on the Nook Miles app on your in-game Nook phone and the miles can be exchanged for in-game items. New Horizons might be cute, but its in-game economy is as gritty as good ole fashioned capitalism.
Besides racking up bells and miles, you can craft items from chopping wood or metals fracked from stones. It’s also possible to develop the island’s terrain and build mountains, create new streams and even make little islands. The customization doesn’t stop there, however. It’s possible to drop items all over the island, customizing it even further. Want to drop some lawn chairs on the beach with little side tables? This is your paradise. Get to it.
Animal Crossing games are relaxing solo games, but there is local play that allows friends to visit each other’s islands as well as a four-player co-op to help with the bug catching and seashell collecting. There’s also an online play function to invite Nintendo Switch friends over. New Horizons also has a Best Friends list that can be culled from those who have visited at least once. Best Friends can be contacted through a messaging function, but a word of caution: They will be able to chop down trees, dig holes and possibly make a mess of the island. As with real life, choose your buds carefully.
To mark the launch of Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Nintendo has also released a special AC-themed console, which looks glorious.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons was released on March 20 for ¥6,578. The Nintendo Switch bundle, which comes with an Animal Crossing carrying case and a downloadable version of the game, is ¥39,556.
Switch on a new color
On March 20, Nintendo also released a brand new Switch Lite color: coral. Previously, the slimmer Switch was available in turquoise, gray and yellow. The new color is another option for those in the market for a Switch Lite.
The Switch Lite was first released last September. It’s a handheld-only version of the Switch, meaning that it doesn’t have detachable Joy-Con controllers, nor does it support TV Mode or come with a Switch Dock. While the Switch Lite is slightly smaller (3.6 inches by 8.2 inches compared to the original Switch’s 4 inches by 9.4 inches), it does have a slightly longer battery life, maxing out at around seven hours compared to the original Switch’s six-and-a-half. It also has a traditional direction pad instead of the four-button pad of the original, which is preferable for many players.
Don’t mistake “coral” as a fancy way to say “pink,” the hue is actually a shade of orange derived from the sea creature of the same name. It’s striking enough to perhaps entice buyers who’ve yet to pick up a regular Switch or sprung for a Switch Lite. More importantly, it’s designed with the solo player in mind, and with a new Animal Crossing release available and tons of kids having to stay home due to the new coronavirus, now is a good time to give it a second look.
The Coral Nintendo Switch Lite is available for ¥21,978.
More evil than ever
Capcom has been on a streak of remaking Resident Evil games with emphasis put on striking graphics and a welcomed modern sensibility. Its latest effort is Resident Evil 3 (Biohazard RE:3 in Japan). Last year saw the Resident Evil 2 remake, a fresh take on the 1998 classic, reimagining the game with third-person-style “over the shoulder” controls. The result was a hit with critics and players alike and this year’s edition hopes to replicate that success.
The new release reimagines 1999’s Resident Evil 3: Nemisis. Once again, the Osaka-based game maker is ditching the rigid controls and fixed camera angles of the past for modern controls akin to those of the latest third-person shooters. Capcom has gone one step further than hi-def graphics and contemporary controls, though. It has included a brand new online mode called Resident Evil: Resistance, which I checked out at last year’s Tokyo Game Show. In it, there are four players who must survive against a “mastermind,” a different player who’s able to control the cameras, drop in creatures, spawn zombies and set traps.
This is what’s known as a four-on-one asymmetrical co-op multiplayer game. When on a team of four, communication is key. Each player has a specialty, such as the types of weapons they use or abilities like disarming closed-circuit cameras or healing injured teammates. By working together, you can solve puzzles and escape. However, playing as the mastermind is a completely different experience. You’re by yourself, so you must try to gauge how to place traps and trick the other players. The mastermind can also take control of zombies or even the villainous Mr. X, who packs quite a wallop.
The modern remake of Resident Evil 3: Nemesis is enough to recommend this game, but its online mode really pushes it into must-play territory.
Resident Evil 3 was released April 3 on Xbox One, PS4 and Steam for ¥7,091. There are two versions: a Cero D-rated version for those 17 and up, and a gorier, adults-only Cero Z-rated version. RE3 comes bundled with Resident Evil: Resistance.