Animal Crossing: New Horizons released with plenty of fun new features, all put in place to grant players an improved level of creativity. Terraforming was the addition that initially got everyone talking but, after 300+ hours of gameplay, I’m just as enamoured with the game’s Mystery Island Tour mechanic and ‘island hopping’. After all, once you hop you just can’t stop!
In New Horizons, island hopping is the act of moving through a series of islands in quick succession. This is usually to reap the rewards of each unique Mystery Tour or to search for a specific item, villager, or critter. It’s so much fun to visit uncharted lands, and the randomised element (no two islands are ever exactly the same) means that there’s always a surprise in store.
Why I’m Hopping Mad
Hopping on the seaplane to a Mystery Tour island will set you back 2,000 Nook Miles. It’s pretty expensive, but given the variety of islands and the guaranteed goodies that you’ll walk away with, it’s well worth heading to the Nook Stop in the Residence Services and redeeming some tickets.
Specifically, the Mystery Island Tour features around ten island templates, each with different characteristics and goodies. But these Island templates vary in rarity. For example, one hard-to-find type of island harbours large amounts of Bells, whilst other more common islands provide lots of flowers and fruit. Because the rarer islands are so few and far between, this is where the island hopping mechanic – visiting lots of island in quick succession – comes into play.
Gathering a large amount of Nook Miles tickets and setting off to Mystery Tour islands galore is a sure-fire way to earn Bells and fill up your museum. Additionally, each Mystery Island you visit includes a hidden furniture item in the trees, rocks that will provide raw materials you may have exhausted in your hometown, the occasional golden nugget, and a message in a bottle.
Available all year round, my favourite Mystery Tour island is Fin Island. Fin Island is one of the rarest island templates, and for good reason. This island’s waters are home to fish that are exclusively finned, the most valuable of all fish. Fin Island is the perfect place to turn a profit, but it’s also an excellent location for completionists who are eager to fill in their Critterpedia as the likes of Whale Sharks, Suckerfish and even the elusive Ocean Sunfish swim its waters. If it weren’t for Fin Island, my museum wouldn’t be anything like as complete as it is!
And My Castaway This Week Is…
Island hopping gets even more exciting should your home island meet a few criteria. If you have an open plot, an empty house waiting for an occupant, or less than ten villagers, then you’ll discover castaways wandering around Mystery Tour islands. And there are more than 300 potential friends to encounter!
Should you take a liking to a particular castaway, you can invite them to move to your island. When I first got New Horizons, villager hunting quickly became my favourite part of the game, and an unshakable urge to spend up to fifty Nook Mile Tickets at a time to find my dream villager soon became a frequent occurrence. As you might have guessed, I gave in to the urge a lot.
Prior to New Horizons and the amiibo update in New Leaf, players had no control of who came to live with them, and the residency of the entire town was decided by luck. In New Horizons, players who don’t have access to amiibo cards can still round up a host of their most wanted furry friends. Plus, even if the initial villagers you come across don’t tickle your fancy, who doesn’t love a bit of window shopping?
Though it may take a lot of Nook Miles Tickets before you’re face to face with your dream villager, for some people this mechanic is an addictive and rewarding process that falls in line with Nintendo’s overall goal for New Horizons. Which is, of course, to allow the player improved levels of customisation. New Horizons has already changed the course of the franchise, but now you can go searching for your ‘dreamie’ (an adorable term coined by the Animal Crossing community for their dream villager) just to make things extra special.
Play The Stalk Market
There is another way to go island hopping as well. With a huge pool of players mixing in the Animal Crossing community, multiplayer sessions are no longer defined by groups of close friends or family. Thanks to the Stalk Market (a way to buy turnips cheaply and sell them for big profits), there has been exciting amounts of travel across the globe, with players opening their Dodo Gates to strangers so that other players can reap the rewards of their turnip price.
New Horizons also released at a time where many people found themselves unexpectedly cut off from friends and family due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With no means to physically connect in a socially distanced world, gaming bridged that gap for many people including myself. Visiting my friends’ islands and chatting over the Nintendo Switch Online smartphone app was honestly a lifeline during a very stressful time, and I know it was the same for many other people too. Plus, I was able to steal amazing design ideas from Animal Crossing players who are way more creative than I am!
Island hopping may be new to the franchise, but I for one hope that future Animal Crossing games implement and even expand on the general concept. Island hopping is more than just an addictive aspect of gameplay, it reimagines the player’s ability to collect otherwise exhaustible items and find their dream villagers. It even offers a fun way for you to engage with your friends at a time when that’s not always otherwise possible. It’s a well-known adage that you can’t choose your family, but at least you can choose your friends and, thanks to island hopping, your Animal Crossing villagers!