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Newest Nintendo 'Animal Crossing' Arrives


Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a video game from Nintendo that's bringing comfort to millions of socially distant people around the world. That's because it's all about creating a reassuring reality in a time when the real world isn't. Reporter Megan Manata explains.


MEGAN MANATA, BYLINE: It's a new day, perfect weather to go outside and water your flowers or maybe you'd like to spend your morning fishing. Maybe catching bugs is more your speed. Whatever way you want to spend your day, you can also pop by for a quick chat with your friendly furry neighbors.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character, speaking Animalese).

VANESSA NGUYEN: Right now, my favorite is Flo. She's this penguin character, and I absolutely adore her.

MANATA: That's Vanessa Nguyen, or Nessa as she prefers. She's a senior at Boston University and a Twitch streamer who specializes in playing Animal Crossing in front of a live online audience.

NGUYEN: Like, the characters have so much personality that it almost feels like they're real, too.

MANATA: Flo the penguin is one of the hundreds of animal neighbors players can meet in Animal Crossing: New Horizons. It's been seven years since Nintendo's last big mainline Animal Crossing game in North America.

NGUYEN: Honestly, Animal Crossing means so much to me. Like, I feel like it's one of those things where - I don't know. I named my island Safe Space because that's what it is.

MANATA: Animal Crossing is a social simulation like The Sims. In this world, the player is the only human character in a world inhabited by animal villagers. In previous games, the player arrived in a populated town. But in New Horizons, the player creates a town on a deserted island. The game revolves around building friendships, running errands and playing outside. Characters speak Animalese, a made-up language. The games follow a real-time clock and calendar so time and seasons change with real life. There's no real danger, no lives to lose and no romance to pursue. According to the senior director of product marketing at Nintendo of America, Bill Trinen, the series is about what they call the slow life in Japan.

BILL TRINEN: And what the development team really wanted to do was to create a space that gave players the freedom to kind of create, you know, their own personal getaway or their own sort of personal creative space where they could go to relax and escape from the everyday world.

MANATA: Trinen has worked on the game since it first launched in America in 2002 for the GameCube. He says the sights, sounds and look of the game help create a comforting and empathetic world. Players like Noelani Pasillas agree.

NOELANI PASILLAS: It makes me feel so much more relaxed, especially during these times where I'm just not able to go out anywhere.


MANATA: Raymond Lancione says that New Horizons has helped him feel closer to his friends by visiting their islands. Lancione is the president and CEO of Qweerty Gamers, an LGBTQ nonprofit that focuses on inclusion and visibility in gaming. A longtime player, he loves K.K. Slider, a character he even tattooed on his arm.

RAYMOND LANCIONE: Just feels like a really cool cat, but he's actually a dog.

MANATA: A singing, guitar-playing dog...


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As K.K. Slider, singing in Animalese).

MANATA: ...Whose body of work spans genres and cultures, something so needed in this time when we feel like we're all alone on our own personal islands.

For NPR News, I'm Megan Manata. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Megan Manata

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