Animal Crossing: New Horizons beginner’s guide

Animal Crossing finally went mainstream with New Horizons. It has already outsold all of the series’s previous entries. That means a lot of new players exploring the world for the first time, and with New Horizons offering more possibilities than ever, there are a lot of questions to be answered.

Whether you’re a first-time or veteran villager, we’ll let you know exactly what to do to start off your island adventure right.

Comb for supplies immediately

All those tree branches and weeds you see covering your island? They’re a gift. Though a bit unsightly, tree branches and weeds can be used to craft items. Those tree branches make the bulk to the tools you’ll use. Later, you can upgrade to slightly better tools, which will often require iron nuggets. Those, along with clay, stone, and an occasional ore, can be found by hitting rocks. More on that later, but for now, you’ll want to keep as many of those supplies — wood, stone, clay, iron, weeds, tree branches — on hand as possible.

After upgrading from a tent to a house, you’ll access a storage system. This is a great place to hold on to materials because, even if you don’t need them now, new recipes or island projects might require more than you can farm from the island in a single day.

  • Tree branches – Near trees (respawn every morning), shaking trees
  • Wood (regular, softwood, and hardwood) – hitting trees with a flimsy or stone ax
  • Stone – Hitting stones with rocks
  • Clay – Hitting stones with rocks
  • Iron nuggets – Hitting stones with rocks
  • Manila clams – Digging (can be found on beaches from small holes letting out water)
  • Flower buds – Press Y to pick from flowers

While walking on the beach, there will be small holes that let out water. Once you have a shovel, you’ll be able to dig up manila clams, which can be crafted into fish bait. It’s also how you can dig up the communicator parts the popular non-playable character (NPC) Gulliver asks for when he washes up on your shore.

Don’t ignore upgrades

Your new island life will feel a bit primitive at first. You can only use flimsy tools that break easily, your pockets hold few items, and sorting through tools can feel like a chore. But all of these will improve fairly quickly.

Key upgrades can be accessed using the Nook Stop terminal in resident services. This allows you to pull up a customizable ring when pressing up on the D-pad. You can purchase two Pocket Organization Guide upgrades. Each adds a new row of storage to your pockets. The Pretty Good Tools Recipes option takes your flimsy tools and turns them into, well, pretty good ones. They’ll still break, but not as quickly.

There’s gold in them thar hills

Well, sort of. Once you gain access to hills, a whole new world opens up. First, you’ll need to have the museum tent set up. The first time you talk to resident owl Blathers, he’ll give you plans for a shovel and ladder. This will let you climb the cliffs, dig, and hit rocks.

Aside from the new trees, flowers, rocks, and fossil sites you can access, there are some things that can only be found in these areas, including cliffside-only fish such as the cherry salmon and the rare golden trout.

DIY anywhere

There’s a DIY workbench in resident services, but running to and fro gets old pretty quickly. Once Tom Nook bestows you with crafting abilities, you’ll gain a recipe for a “Simple DIY workbench.” This tree stump-looking workbench is perfect for an easily accessible outdoor location.

I also recommend setting up a workbench in your home. This will make things much easier when you have to dip into materials kept away in your storage.

Pop those balloons!

No seriously. If you see a balloon, get popping. The slingshot is available early on for purchase. Last release New Leaf had disappointing prizes: Pieces from the balloon furniture set. The balloons in New Horizons offer different items and sometimes 10,000 bells. Yes, 10,000 or 5,000 bells will magically fall from the sky. So if you’ve grown weary of balloon popping post-New Leaf, give it a new try.

Stamps got a lot more expensive

Sending mail in Animal Crossing was a free public service. A trio of pelicans — Pelly, Phyllis, and Pete — dutifully took the mail of villagers, and in rain, sleet, snow, or hail, they delivered what we mailed.

Now, Dodo Airlines will take those letters, and it’ll be 200 bells, thank you very much. There are some fun changes like seasonal letterpress. This is accessed at the airport where you can also take off and visit other islands.

It’s possible this will change and a full post office will get built. After all, Blather’s museum, the Able Sisters, and even Nook’s Cranny aren’t available at the start.

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