Nintendo revealed a raft of Animal Crossing: New Horizons details this morning. As part of the publisher’s Direct video event, it showed off what looks like an impressive expansion of the social-life simulator. But for as much New Horizons has going for it, I’m finding myself feeling anxious as its March 20 release date approaches.
I’ve been looking forward to a new Animal Crossing for years. New Leaf on the 3DS is still excellent. I want that experience in HD with even more to do. And it looks like Nintendo is going to give me that experience in HD with even more to do. That’s very exciting.
What’s less exciting is how Animal Crossing is handling save data and game sharing.
During the Direct, Nintendo clarified how all of those basics work.
New Horizons creates one island per Switch. Everyone who plays on that system will get their own home, but they will all exist on the same mass of land. If you take that same copy of Animal Crossing and boot it up on a different Switch, it will create a separate island.
Saves are equally confusing and limiting. Here’s what Nintendo says in the fine print on its website:
“This game does not support the Save Data Cloud functionality of Nintendo Switch Online. However, a limited ability to recover Animal Crossing: New Horizons save data from the server in the event of system failure, loss, or theft will be available to Nintendo Switch Online members sometime in the future. Check back for more details as they are available.”
“Animal Crossing: New Horizons does not support the ability to transfer your save file from one Nintendo Switch system to another.”
I get that Nintendo is quirky, but why does it have to give me a headache?
It’s worth noting that the U.K. Animal Crossing page says a transfer feature is coming later this year.
Why is Animal Crossing: New Horizons like this?
Nintendo supports cloud saves, backups, and transfers for other games. Why is Animal Crossing different? The company isn’t pulling these restrictions out of nowhere. It is trying to prevent players from exploiting its systems.
Now, I’m not the most creative Animal Crossing player, so I probably can’t think of every possible way to use cloud saves and transfers to get around the game’s systems. But some of them are obvious.
Nintendo’s cloud saves work in such a way that you can easily choose to download or overwrite your current state. In Animal Crossing, this could enable you to take advantage of random elements where you try to get the best random item while offline. If you get something you don’t want, however, you can simply start the game over and download your cloud save.
I get (and kinda respect) Nintendo wanting to enshrine the pure Animal Crossing experience with protective measures. The temptation to cheat is real, and the legitimate way is better for most people.
Maybe the honor system is better
Even if Nintendo’s intended experience is best, it doesn’t seem worth these overzealous measures. I’m not going to cheat in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and it stinks that I don’t get cloud saves because someone else might.
It’s downright unacceptable that I cannot transfer my save at all to a new Switch. I’m positive that I’m going to upgrade again at some point. Nintendo did release six different 3DS models, after all.
But why do I have to live in fear of losing my devices? Nintendo says it will reveal a way to recover saves if you lose or damage your Switch … but it will only do that for you in certain circumstances. And even then, it will only ever recover your save once.
If you especially unlucky, not only will you lose two Switch systems, but you’ll lose all of your progress in Animal Crossing.
And it’s not even just about the save system. Locking each Switch to one Animal Crossing island is also bizarre. I already have a Switch and a Switch Lite. I’m going to choose which one I’m going to play Animal Crossing on, and I’ll never get to use the other play my real save.
I hope that I’m overreacting to all of this. It’s possible that Nintendo has thought it through and this really is for the best possible player experience. It doesn’t feel that way, though. Right now, a month out from release, it’s making me kinda uneasy. And that’s not what I want from Animal Crossing.