Nintendo went all out to showcase Animal Crossing New Horizons here at PAX East, dedicating the entirety of their booth to the upcoming title. With each station configured for four-player co-op (one Nintendo representative and three PAX attendees), the booth will see a lot of traffic over the next few days. My demo was approximately twenty minutes with the Nintendo representative taking point as the Leader and us as the Followers for the first few minutes, before we then rotated and took turns as the Leader.
When playing as a Follower, you are very limited by controls. You can rotate through your equipped tools but this can be a slow and clunky process. Multiple times throughout my time as a Follower, we would stumble across a bug that I would try to catch or a shiny spot in the ground but somebody else was inevitably able to get to their net or shovel before I could and claim the spoils for themselves. On the flipside, because the multiplayer is a shared-screen experience, the team could be strategic with their resource management to free-up as much collecting space as possible. In our demo, only one member of our party had a ladder. As a Follower, she used the ladder to scale a cliff that was inaccessible to the rest of us. Then, with a wave of the controller, the Leader gave up control and she was able to take charge. As she ran away from the rest of the party, we all respawned into existence beside her and were able to set to work chopping at trees and digging our holes in the new area of the island.
When I was made the Leader, the team was exploring the Museum, which Nintendo had delightfully pre-populated with a number of fossils, bugs, etc. Had we been exploring our own collection, this certainly would have been a bit more rewarding but being given control in a room filled with half-finished dinosaur fossils that I had not procured just meant I had to walk back through a couple of large rooms to get back out to exploring what else our island had to offer: an incredibly nonessential gripe in the larger context of the game, but one I felt in the moment nonetheless.
Once outside, I hopped into the phone to look at a couple of the Apps, including the new Nook Miles app that rewards you for a variety of achievements like distance walked on the island or number of fish caught. As previously announced, completing these achievements will award you with a currency that can be used to purchase items or in-game activities like the excursions to mystery tours.
I stumbled upon Kicks and bought myself a nice little pair of garish green pointy elf shoes. Then we headed up to Resident Services to look into the new crafting mechanic. It appeared pretty straightforward with the recipe cards showing the necessary components but we didn’t have enough to make anything individually. The representative pointed out that if we collectively had the right mix of ingredients we could go outside and take turns dropping items for one person to pick up but we were pretty sure we still wouldn’t have what we needed and moved on.
This was also the home of Tom Nook, the recycling bin where people would be able to pick up the items they collected as Followers, and Isabelle, who was agonizingly shy and kept her back to us the whole demo.
We wrapped up our demo diving into somebody’s house (the starter tents had already all been upgraded). Whoever designed the single-room unit had a dedicated bathroom corner with a shower and sink and was a fan of race car beds.
The whole experience looked beautiful and charming, even if it reinforced that I likely won’t be playing this much as a multiplayer experience. Following the demo, we were shuffled into a full-sized snippet of the island that Nintendo constructed on the show floor. It would later be populated with characters like Tom Nook, Isabelle, and K.K. Slider but they hadn’t arrived on the island yet so I just got a couple photos of myself in front of the house and tent. Nintendo is all in on Animal Crossing right now and I think the series’ audience is going to be very happy with the end product.