When the first Nintendo Direct for Animal Crossing: New Horizons premiered in 2020, fans were quick to speculate the meaning of a gravestone that appeared in one frame. Could the grave mark the death of Tortimer, the retired mayor of towns in previous games? Or did Kapp’n, a boater with a penchant for singing charming tunes to passengers, perish in a maritime accident? While these characters hadn’t actually died, when New Horizons released a month later, fans learned many of these cherished characters were doomed to a fate potentially more agonizing: unexplained exclusion from the game.
While New Horizons’ initial updates added mechanics like diving and art collecting, the game was notoriously lacking some of Animal Crossing’s core features — until the developers finally filled in (most of) the blanks with the 2.0 update. Dropping alongside the Happy Home Paradise DLC, the update introduced gyroids, an expansion of the game’s previously pumpkin-exclusive farming and cooking system, and hundreds of new furniture items. But for longtime players who have grown up alongside Animal Crossing, reuniting with their old favorite characters has been the best part of this update. It even brought back older fans of the Animal Crossing franchise who initially hadn’t enjoyed New Horizons.
While New Horizons was initially released in 2020 to overwhelmingly positive reviews, some longtime fans of the series felt the game lacked a certain quirky charm and replayability, largely caused by the absence of these fan-favorite characters. “I think it just got a bit repetitive to me,” player Estey Boling said over email, explaining why they stopped playing after a few months. Boling had been a fan of the series since 2005’s Wild World, but never felt engaged by New Horizons. “I hadn’t even paid off my house in full nor did I feel super satisfied with how my island looked.”
The clear favorite among seasoned players has been returning to The Roost, Animal Crossing’s storied coffee shop, and rekindling lost relationships with Brewster, the pigeon who runs it. Brewster, who was previously absent from New Horizons, has always held a treasured spot in fans’ hearts thanks to his gradual character development.
“I always loved Brewster’s cafe in Animal Crossing: New Leaf. I like how he’s shy at first and then opens up,” longtime fan Alayna Chu said via Twitter DM. Chu was so disappointed by Brewster’s absence in New Horizons that, after becoming burnt out from two months of playing, she decided to boycott the entire game in a Twitter campaign, until Brewster was added. “I basically created my entire personality into wanting Brewster added into New Horizons,” Chu said. “I am just glad he’s there. I visit him all the time!”
Alongside Brewster, other lovable characters like Kapp’n, Tortimer, and Harriet have made a triumphant return. As for other characters that lack a role in New Horizons, players can join them for coffee at the Roost by scanning their Amiibo, allowing for some charming reunions.
For many, the return of beloved characters has helped break up the pace of the game’s tedious features like terraforming and online trading. “I think I really missed the sort of leisurely feeling of the game,” Boling said. “I like having things to do every day on my island that don’t totally feel like work, and I think Brewster and Kapp’n really helped re-pique my interest there.”
With the long-awaited addition of these familiar faces in the game’s final major content update, does the game now live up to expectations? Sort of. Fans are still missing a few things like the minigames on Tortimer’s Island from New Leaf, though most complaints are focused on quality of life improvements like bulk crafting and varied villager dialogue.
“I was so genuinely depressed when the game was first released because I had been playing the series for so many years. It was a major part of my childhood,” longtime fan Claire said. “I’m glad that Nintendo has put in all of this work and effort to at least bring us closer to a fully fleshed out game. It isn’t necessarily there yet, but I hope Nintendo will learn from this.”
For some longtime fans, New Horizons may not be perfect. But thanks to update 2.0, the game has drawn back an older part of its dedicated fanbase that had been reluctant to play since release. For these fans, the stakes for 2.0 were high. Many hoped the game would live up to their childhood memories of older titles like Animal Crossing and Animal Crossing: Wild World. And now that it’s finally complete, New Horizons just might raise a new generation of Animal Crossing fans, the way older titles raised players like Claire.
“I remember running home every day to start up the GameCube so I could run around in a safe space, where I had friends who cared about me, and missed me if I didn’t play for a few days,” Claire said.