It’s been a long wait, but the new Animal Crossing game is finally with us! And now is a better time than ever to get lost in the gorgeous world it has to offer, full of friendly characters to get to know, and hundreds of critters to catch. But, if you’re wondering how to get started, I’ve put together a list of handy things to know from my first week’s experience of playing the game to get you settled into your island life a bit better, whether you’re a newcomer to the series or not. As Animal Crossing runs on real world time, this list isn’t extensive and there are many things I don’t know about just yet, but I hope it’s useful. Enjoy!
Making your character
When you start up the game for the first time, one of the first things you’ll do is create your own character. You can select your skin tone, hair style and colour, eye shape and colour, and nose shape, as well as your ‘style’, which indicates your preferred gender character. However, none of the hairstyles or clothing are gender-locked, and all of the characters will use gender-neutral pronouns to refer to you regardless of what you pick, so there’s no pressure on what you pick here. 
A brilliant new addition to the series is that you can also change up this look you pick at the start whenever you like! So you don’t have to worry about choosing something that you’re going to be stuck with forever; there’s really no limit. It’s also worth noting that you’ll unlock more hairstyles and hair colours as you progress through the game (and quickly!) so don’t be disheartened if you don’t see one you love. 
At this point you’ll also choose your name, which you CAN’T change later, so make sure you’re happy with whatever you put in!
Creating your island
At the start of the game, you’ll also choose the landscape of your island by selecting from one of four maps. New Horizons has a new feature which you unlock later in the game where you can terraform your land and alter the landscape (making new rivers and cliffs, and flattening current ones so you can walk up them) however, it does have some limits which you should be mindful of when choosing your first map!
You can’t terraform your beaches, as well as the big rocks on them, so make sure you’re happy with where they are, as well as their size. You also can’t change the mouths of your river, so be sure you’re satisfied with where they begin, even if you can alter where they flow later! Finally, you won’t be able to change the position of your Airport, Resident Services, or the Plaza, which are indicated by their respective symbols on the map, so you can check before you choose. 
A couple more things you won’t be able to change later is the colour of your airport and your native fruit. The fruit shouldn’t matter much, as you can plant other fruits on your island and they’ll grow the same as your originals (and you’ll even be able to sell the non-native fruits for more!), but the airport colour is completely random and not customisable. Therefore, if either of these are important to you and you’re not happy with what you start with, you might want to reset your game to get one you prefer. 
In terms of naming your island, you won’t do this until a bit after choosing your map, but you can’t change it later, so make sure you’re happy with it! There’s a ten character name limit, and it’s worth noting that your characters don’t add the word “Island” onto the end of it in their dialogue. For example, if you named your island “Coconut”, it’d just be called “Coconut”, not “Coconut Island”. Therefore, make sure you account for squeezing anything like “Island”, “Bay”, “Cove” or “Town” onto the end of its name if you want to include it!
Getting new villagers
In New Horizons, you can have up to ten villagers on your island (not including you). You start off with two villagers, who will always be a ‘Jock’ and ‘Uchi’ (sisterly) personality-type pair. This means that if you were planning on resetting your game to start with your favourite villager, make sure that they are one of those two personality types, or you’ll be there a while…
You can also invite more villagers to your island from Mystery Tours. Starting from Day 2, you’ll unlock the Airport, and you can use Nook Miles Tickets available from the Nook Stop Terminal in Resident Services to fly out to a completely random uninhabited island. These islands are great for getting extra resources such as flowers, wood and iron nuggets, but most importantly, they’ll also have a villager there that you can talk to and invite to your island, if you wish. Once you’ve invited three villagers to your island this way, as long as there are no big building projects happening on your island, you’ll be given the go-ahead by Tom Nook the day after your last invitation to sort out their housing plots, and they’ll move in one by one. If you don’t invite enough villagers by a certain point (which at this point we aren’t sure exactly when, but within about half a week) you’ll get random villagers in the spots that weren’t filled.
It’s important to keep in mind that your first three invitable villagers will all be of the ‘Lazy’, ‘Normal’, and ‘Peppy’ personality types, so if you have any favourites from those categories, it’ll be worth getting yourself lots of Nook Miles Tickets and trying to find them. 
Later, you’ll also get access to the Campsite, which random villagers can come and visit, and you can choose to invite them to stay permanently. Your first visitor to your campsite you will have no choice but to invite, but after that one, you can decide. 
Once the campsite is unlocked, you can also use Animal Crossing Amiibo cards to bring the villager on the card to your campsite to invite.
After a while, you’ll also be able to create empty housing plots that random villagers can move into, and it also seems that you can still invite villagers that are moving out of other people’s islands to come to your own once they have their interior of their house packed up, like in New Leaf
Nook Miles
A new addition to this game is the introduction of Nook Miles. Players of New Leaf after the ‘Welcome Amiibo’ update may remember the Town Initiatives, which gave you ‘MEOW Coupons’ for completing some daily tasks. Nook Miles are a similar concept, but are far better executed. 
For various achievements and tasks, from earning money to planting trees, you can earn Nook Miles, which can be redeemed for various exclusive items, and even things like inventory upgrades and new hairstyles. 
You’ll also very quickly get access to Nook Miles+, which gives you five mini tasks at all times that you can complete for a smaller amount of Nook Miles. This means you’re always going to be able to get more, even when you’ve finished most of the ‘main’ achievements later into the game. 
I really recommend buying the ‘Tool Ring’ as soon as you can, which will make it quicker and easier to select and use your tools, as well as grabbing your first inventory upgrade as soon as you can, as your pockets start to feel really small once you have all your tools. Of course, if you’re wanting to be selective about your next three villagers like mentioned above, do make sure you grab plenty of Nook Miles Tickets!
DIY Crafting
One of New Horizons’ most exciting new features is crafting, which allows players to make their own tools and furniture to decorate their island. To craft something, you’ll need a DIY recipe for it, which you can buy from the Nooklings, find washed ashore in a bottle on beaches, be given randomly by your villagers, and sometimes as a reward from popping the floating balloons. Friends can also give you recipes that they have a spare of in their inventory. 
Once you have a recipe, you’ll need the materials listed to craft. These may include different types of wood (which you can get from chopping trees), iron nuggets, clay or stone (all of which you can get from hitting rocks with your shovel). Once you have everything you need, just press craft (you can also mash the A button to make it happen a bit faster).
Like in previous Animal Crossing games, you can make your own custom designs to display around your island or wear as clothes, and New Horizons even takes it a step further by adding the option to use these custom designs on things like furniture and even your Nook Phone case! 
To get access to the Pro Design maker, which will allow you to create a whole host of brilliant looking clothing, such as dresses, hats, hoodies and sweaters, you’ll need to buy it with Nook Miles tickets. After that, it’ll become a new option on your Custom Designs app on your Nook Phone. There’s some amazing examples you can find online, here are just a few for some inspiration. 
As for customising your furniture (amongst other things), after a few days have passed from the start of the game, Tom Nook will let you know he’s running a customisation workshop in Resident Services. Complete the workshop, and you’ll get access to customisation kits, and the “customise something” option on workbenches. 
You’ll then also be able to order a customisable phone case with your Nook Miles.
Tools and their uses
Much of this is rather self explanatory, especially for those who have played an Animal Crossing game before, but here’s a list of all the tools you can make, and the different uses they have. Just to note, ‘flimsy’ tools don’t perform any differently to the non-flimsy versions, they just break faster.
Net: catches bugs (and can be used to hit poor unsuspecting villagers on the head).
Fishing rod: catches fish from rivers, ponds and the sea.
Shovel: can be used to dig up fossils, clams, and other treasures. It can be used to hit rocks for resources, and dig up flowers or trees to put in different places. 
Vaulting pole: used to jump over rivers.
Slingshot: used to pop the floating balloons in the sky for treasure.
Stone Axe: can be used to chop trees for wood WITHOUT chopping the tree down.
(Regular) Axe: can be used to chop trees for wood and also chops the trees down after three strikes.
Watering can: used to water your flowers to keep them healthy.
Ladder: can be used to climb up cliffs to reach higher ground.
Magic wand: can be used to change between registered outfits.
Catching critters
Of course, one fan favourite activity in Animal Crossing is catching bugs and fish. Here’s some top tips for filling out your Critterpedia…

  1. Fish in different places! The sea, rivers, ponds and even the bodies of water on the cliffs are all home to different kinds of fish. Don’t limit yourself to one place!
  2. Look out for different critters in different weather and at different times of day. For example, when it’s raining, you might find some exclusive rare fish, or spot some snails on rocks. Equally, different things appear at different times of day, such as butterflies in the day and moths at night. Keep your eyes peeled!
  3. Look for rare bugs on flowers and tree stumps. Have you planted any new blooms lately? Or perhaps been chopping a few trees? Keep a lookout for bugs that can only appear there!
  4. Try fishing on the pier! You might just find some extra big catches…
  5. Craft yourself some fish bait with clams to help search for rare fish!
  6. Keep an eye on your calendar. There are different fish and bugs available all year round, even month to month. If you’re determined to fill out your collection, make sure to take a look online to make sure you’ve got everything you need before the month ends. For example, check out this infographic here. 

Frequently asked questions
Q. How do I move a tree to a different place or destroy a rock?
A. Eat some fruit first! It’ll give you extra strength. On a similar note, do be careful not to accidentally destroy a rock after eating fruit (though it will respawn after a while so don’t worry).
Q. How do I get a villager to move out?
A. There’s no surefire method, but ignoring them (not speaking to them or sending any letters) helps. Some people think that hitting them with a net speeds up the process, but this isn’t confirmed. If you move in a villager with an Amiibo card and there’s no space for them, you’ll be able to move a different villager out to move them in, though. 
Q. Are some villagers rarer than others?
A. Not exactly; all of them have the exact same chance of popping up on your island. However, as all of the previous villagers up to New Leaf had Amiibo cards which can be used to bring them to your island, New Horizons’ new villagers who don’t have Amiibo cards yet can be considered rarer. The new villagers are Audie the wolf, Cyd the elephant, Dom the sheep, Judy the cub, Megan the bear, Raymond the cat, Reneigh the horse, and Sherb the goat.
Q. How many personality types are there?
A. Eight! The male villager personality types are Jock, Lazy, Smug and Cranky. The female villager personality types are Normal, Uchi (Sisterly), Peppy and Snooty. There aren’t any new personality types in New Horizons.
Q. How can I play with my friends?
A. On Day 2, you’ll unlock the Airport, and there you’ll be able to invite friends either locally and over the internet to visit your island, or visit theirs! You can choose to set a ‘Dodo Code’ to share with specific people if you don’t want any uninvited guests. 
Q. Is Isabelle in this game?
A. Yes! Keep playing daily and you’ll see her soon. 
Q. How long does building things take?
A. Usually only one day, but some things might take a bit longer (for example, the museum takes two days of construction).
Q. Can I move my house or any other buildings?
A. Yes! After a while, you’ll be able to talk to Tom Nook to move your house, other villagers’ houses, and other buildings such as the museum and shop. There is a fee for doing so; 30k Bells for your house, and 50k Bells for other buildings. But if you want to create your perfect island, the option is there!
Q. What is ‘time travelling’, and what are the positives and negatives of it?
A. Time travelling in Animal Crossing refers to when players change the date or time on their system clock to skip forward in the game. Many players prefer to do this so they don’t have to wait too long to unlock certain things, or so they can simply develop their island faster, which can definitely be seen as a positive as you can keep playing and doing more things in your game in one sitting. 
The negatives are that any turnips you buy to sell later at a higher price (a popular way of earning lots of money) will rot when you time travel, so you’ll lose any money you spent on them. Also, as seasonal events in this game such as the upcoming Bunny Day (Easter) event are added in free updates, you won’t be able to experience those just by skipping forward. Finally, in my opinion, I’d argue that time travelling takes away a lot of the charm that Animal Crossing has, which is that it develops and grows in real world time alongside your real life. To me, it doesn’t feel quite as alive and autonomous if you skip forward through the days, but at the end of the day it’s up to each individual player! Play whichever way is the most fun to you. 
Q. Is there an end to this game?
A. Nope! Of course, the longer you play for, the more developed your island will become. If you have the tenacity, you’ll of course be able to fill out your Critterpedia and museum, and expand your house to the biggest it can be. But the world of Animal Crossing is ever changing; new things can happen every day, villagers can move out and others move in, and there’s always new ways to decorate and dress. As Nintendo is adding seasonal events via updates, there’s also a chance that each year’s events will differ to the last, unlike in previous entries to the series. In short, yes, after a long time there will be less for you to do, but there is no set end point. 
A few final miscellaneous tips…

  1. Before you start hitting a rock with your shovel, dig a couple of holes behind you. They’ll stop you from being pushed away, and you’ll be able to get more materials out of the rock!
  2. If you find a glowing spot in the ground, dig it up and you’ll find some Bells. But don’t just pocket them! See what happens if you bury them in the same spot…
  3. Try to play every day! Even if you can only spend 10 minutes on the game, it’s worth checking in every day you can to progress the development of your island, since it requires real time to pass to unlock everything. 

Now, that’s all I could think to mention in this Week 1 starting guide! There’s so much more that Animal Crossing has to offer, much of which I haven’t even experienced yet, that I couldn’t possibly squeeze into this article. You might be wondering why I’ve not put up a review for the game yet, but it’s just because one week of gameplay is barely even scratching the surface of what the game has to offer; it wouldn’t feel right for me to do a full review for it yet. But, I hope I’ve been able to give you some insight into what the game has to offer, and hopefully you’ll be making your island getaway soon if you’ve not already! Have fun!


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