25 things we learnt about Animal Crossing: New Horizons from the Direct and our preview

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Exactly a month out from launch, we've had a huge content drop for one of the most highly anticipated games of the year, Animal Crossing: New Horizons. While Nintendo's special deserted island Direct confirmed a lot of gameplay details we already knew about, the 25-minute stream also gave us loads of new information. We've collated them all of the new details for you here, adding in a few tasty tidbits we discovered after going hands-on with the game during an Animal Crossing: New Horizons preview session. 

So here are the 25 things you need to know about Animal Crossing: New Horizons before launch:

1. You get to design your character from scratch

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As much as we love Animal Crossing: New Leaf, trying to decide your character's look from a series of random questions used to drive us mad! But, thankfully, Nintendo has heard our cries and is now letting you design your islander from scratch. You can choose from eight hairstyles, different hair and eye colours, eye, nose and mouth styles, and more. You can even change your appearance – and gender – at any time, however many times you want. Be you who you want to be in Animal Crossing: New Horizons. 

2.  The basic design of your island is fairly preset 

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Once you have designed your character, the other big thing you need to do before heading down to your island is to give your new home a basic design. You can pick whether to live in the Northern or Southern Hemisphere of the island – Nintendo suggests mimicking your real-world situation – and then you'll get to pick from four basic layouts to give you a starting point. It's not unlike the different farm layout presets you can choose from in Stardew Valley. Of course, how you change and edit the island from there is entirely up to you.

3.  There are two new buildings at the start of the game 

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When you first start out in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, your little island is going to be a bit basic, but there are two initial buildings in place that will help you out immensely. Firstly, there's the Airport. It'll be where you first arrive on the island, but after your first night in your camp, it'll turn into a location where you can use the internet or wireless connectivity to invite friends to your island – or travel to theirs – like you could with the station in Animal Crossing: New Leaf. 

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Then there's the Resident Services tent. Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, it's here where you'll find the Nook family. You can sell goods here, purchase unwanted items, or dig them out of the recycling bin, get some advice, drop off bells at the ABD (Automatic Bell Dispenser), access the crafting bench, or enrol in some free DIY workshops. Eventually, it'll be here where you attend an item customisation workshop, which will let you change the colour, or decorate, any of your crafted items.  

4. But more will come

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It's going to take you a while to get your island the way you want it to look, and to get there you're going to have to start small. But, eventually, your little deserted wasteland is going to be your personal paradise, and as you progress, more businesses and buildings will be added to your land. Familiar locations like the Museum and the Able Sisters tailors will return, along with new locations like a campsite where you can invite guests for "recreation purposes". Whatever that means. 

5.  Literally doing anything gets you NookMiles 

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Tucked inside your NookPhone is an app dedicated to NookMiles, a brand new currency for Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Yes, there are still Bells, but it's these new NookMiles that you'll be steadily paying back to Tom Nook to clear your debts racked up by your Getaway Package. Later, you'll also be able to exchange these for in-game rewards, like Nook Inc merchandise (little cutie Hawaiian shirts, we feel you so hard), and helpful items that can "enrich your time on the island". 

Handily, the Nook Mileage Program is pretty gosh darn generous. A quick scan of the in-game menu shows that you earn Nook Miles for pretty much everything you'd usually do for free in-game. For example, you can be rewarded with Miles for just chatting with residents, fishing, catching bugs, planting flowers, selling fruit or seashells, increasing the number of furniture items you have placed, taking snapshots, editing your profile, placing furniture outside, editing the bulletin board. and more. It's so easy to earn NookMiles that it honestly feels like Tom Nook is up to something.

Excited yet?

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Here's where the best deals are on Animal Crossing: New Horizons pre-orders

6. NookMiles Tickets are your (temporary) escape from the island 

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But wait, there are also NookMiles Tickets to obtain too, and these are seriously exciting. These can be used to travel to other deserted islands (not those of your friends and fellow New Horizons players), and you'll go to a different island for every ticket you exchange – it depends entirely on how the pilot is feeling. It's here where you will be able to find unique trees, flowers, crafting materials and more, all of which you can bring back to your own island. After all, you can't natively find everything that's available in New Horizons on your island, so it's time to get travelling!

7. Bees aren't your only problem anymore 

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You're going to want to stock up on medicines, because the island is home to some seriously mean creatures – and they'll be coming, for your face. The bees that dwell in the hives you can shake free from trees are still a nightmare that you'll need to contend with, but now there's news of scorpions too! Nook, we didn't sign up for this! It seems like there might be some other aggressive creepy crawlies to face too. 

8. Plus, there are ghosts now

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And that's particularly true in the night time too. Turns out there was something here before you on this 'deserted' island. As darkness falls, you might want to switch on a light or two, or risk coming face to face with a ghost. It's not clear yet whether these spirits are malevolent or friendly, but either way, be careful. 

9. Look out for castaways

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As this is a deserted island, there's always the potential for the sea to deliver you a surprise or two. Although we've got our fingers crossed for more messages in a bottle, you may also find that a castaway has washed ashore. You'll need to rescue them, and support them, and then help them find their way home – although you'll probably find yourself having an adventure or two along the way. 

10. There are going to be a tonne of familiar faces

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It's not just about meeting a whole cast of new islanders, you'll no doubt be interested in seeing some old pals too. Yes, Tom Nook and co are back, along with our favourite, Isabelle, but you'll notice some other familiar faces too. From travelling traders like Sahara, to surprise appearances, you need to keep your eyes peeled for old friends.   

11.  You can customise everything 

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Although your island may be pretty basic to begin with, eventually you'll have the power – via systems like the Island Designer Permit – to completely transform your island. Carve away cliffs, add more water features, set aside specific spaces for new residents, bring in new facilities, and more. It's completely up to you how you choose to customise your island. 

Plus, if you invite your friends to your new home, any tools capable of damaging your beautiful creation will be disabled, so they can't just start smashing it to bits. However, if you add any visitors as Best Friends, you can give them access to the full toolset – just make sure it's someone you trust.

12. Traversing your island is about to get a whole lot easier

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Given the size of the island, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is introducing a slew of new traversal options to help you get around with ease. Not only will you have your vault pole and a new, adorable unfolding ladder (which only slightly gives us Death Stranding flashbacks), but you'll also be able to build new ways to get around. We're talking bridges, slopes, and more. 

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And you'll also get the ability to freely pave your own paths and terrains. No longer will we be constrained by pre-existing routes.  

13. Placing tents is a fiddly business

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We'll warn you though, placing a tent is actually a fairly fiddly business in Animal Crossing: New Horizons. It's basically a 2x2 square, but in order to place it you basically have to look in a direction and pray it'll land in the exact position you were thinking of. Sadly, if it's a little out of whack, there's no easy-adjust option – a tile to the left, or a tile to the right kind of nudges – you just have to try placing it all over again.

14. Your inventory items now stack

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Gone are the days of seeing multiple items you've picked up clogging up your inventory. In Animal Crossing: New Horizons, your inventory items actually stack. We got up to sixty-odd weeds in one stack during our preview session too, so there doesn't seem to be a cap – or at least as far as we know. It's not just weeds either, you can stack crafting items like branches, or fruit like peaches, and lots more. What a revolution in storage management. 

15. Trees can be hiding multiple resources

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Need some branches but can't see any lying on the ground? Well, the trees are lying to you. Give them a shake, and you might find that a branch falls out. But if you keep on shaking the trees can have much more to give, so don't move on too quickly.

16. Weeds are still very much a thing

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Oh weeds, how we loathe you. But also somehow find clearing you from our otherwise glorious homes strangely satisfying. Well, for Animal Crossing: New Horizons, they're back, and weedier than ever. They come in several forms – including those that actually look like pretty wildflowers – and are all over your brand new deserted island. Thankfully, you can sell them to Tommy and Timmy for 10 Bells a piece and quickly make a decent amount of money just from clearing the way for more awesome things.

17. You can freely control the camera in your tent / home

While there are only a couple of camera angles to choose from as you trundle across your island, you can have a good old nosey about in your tent, or in your home. That's because you have complete camera control when inside your home or your tent. It'll certainly make home decor a lot easier, and somehow even more exciting.

18. Your home comes with built-in storage

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It flashes by so fast in the Nintendo Direct that it's a 'blink and you'll miss it' moment, but it looks like your home automatically comes with built-in storage. You can see the islander sending items to "storage" and yet it looks like their abode doesn't feature any kind of storage furniture. Hidden attic spaces for the win!

19. Resetti is gone, autosave is here to stay

A simple one, but a welcome one. No more angry moles telling you off for not saving. New Horizons features autosaving.

20. Residents can give you crafting recipes as gifts

During our hands-on time, our fellow islander, penguin Flo, gave us a gift – a crafting recipe for an umbrella, which just so happened to be made using weeds. Not only is that a lovely gift, but it also gives weeds another use. Good job, Flo!

21. Flimsy tools will break 

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Initially, all you'll be able to create are flimsy versions of the tools we've come to know and love – like the shovel, fishing rod, and more. But, although these iterations of the tools will do the job, they won't last long. They will break after too much use, so be prepared. 

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New Horizons is about to give you a fresh reason to download the Nintendo Switch Online app on your real smartphone – not your NookPhone. There's a new feature that'll drop just after launch called Nook Link, which will provide some additional features. For example, you can use Nook Link via your phone's camera to scan in the QR Codes of any custom design patterns from New Leaf or Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer on 3DS. 

You can also use Nook Link to talk to your fellow Animal Crossing: New Horizons players in online co-op, using your phone's keypad to type, or for voice chat.

23. Amiibo and Amiibo Cards are both supported 

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New Horizons will support both Amiibo figures and Amiibo Cards from the Animal Crossing series – although it seems like there are plans to add support for a wider variety down the line. You can use them to summon the characters to your Campsite, but also take them to a brand new location called Photopia for special photoshoots too. 

24. You can't upload your save to the cloud 

It's official folks. Animal Crossing: New Horizons will not support cloud saves. "Animal Crossing: New Horizons does not support the save data cloud feature," came the news during the Nintendo Direct. "However, we're planning to operate a service for recovering backed up save data from the server in certain circumstances, like console damage, or loss." 

25. There are free updates coming all year round

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But wait, there's more good news too. Nintendo plans to drop regular free updates to the game that will deliver seasonal events, and other activities for you to take part in. Plus, special guests. 

Sam Loveridge
Global Editor-in-Chief, GamesRadar+

Sam Loveridge is the Global Editor-in-Chief of GamesRadar, and joined the team in August 2017. Sam came to GamesRadar after working at TrustedReviews, Digital Spy, and Fandom, following the completion of an MA in Journalism. In her time, she's also had appearances on The Guardian, BBC, and more. Her experience has seen her cover console and PC games, along with gaming hardware, for a decade, and for GamesRadar, she's in charge of the site's overall direction, managing the team, and making sure it's the best it can be. Her gaming passions lie with weird simulation games, big open-world RPGs, and beautifully crafted indies. She plays across all platforms, and specializes in titles like Pokemon, Assassin's Creed, The Sims, and more. Basically, she loves all games that aren't sports or fighting titles! In her spare time, Sam likes to live like Stardew Valley by cooking and baking, growing vegetables, and enjoying life in the countryside.