ACNH Update 2.0 Impressions
Image: Nintendo Life

After playing the Animal Crossing: New Horizons 2.0 update for the last week, our resident representative extraordinaire Kate Gray delivers the Nintendo Life verdict on what Nintendo has stated is the final "major" free update for many a Switch owner's Game of the Year 2020...

Stop me if you've heard this one before.

I played Animal Crossing: New Horizons with a fervour that can only be described as "unhealthy" for the first two months after its release back in March 2020. I wasn't even furloughed like many people were — I was still working a full-time job, I just spent every other waking hour plugged into my island of egg (all lowercase).

And, like all hobbies that begin with a ludicrous amount of hyperfocus at the expense of healthy behaviour... I dropped off after those first few months. I dropped off HARD.

I spent the next year-and-a-bit being unable to even look at my Switch, sort of like when you drink way too many pints of cider and black and now just the thought of them makes you sick (that's a personal anecdote, in case you can't tell). But when the 2.0 update was announced, I'm sure I wasn't alone in wondering if this, finally, was the thing to bring me back — only this time, in moderation.

Folks, let me tell you: It feels just like the early days again. All my friends are constantly popping up online, with that little notification that tells me that yes, they are also playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Occasionally someone will be playing Tetris Effect or Pokémon, and that just makes me wonder if they even know what they're missing. There are over 9,000 new items, new K.K. Slider songs, new islands to visit, and best of all, entirely new mechanics that have never been seen in Animal Crossing games before, like cooking and farming. There's so much to do now!

ACNH Redd Screenshot
This guy! Yeah! — Image: Nintendo Life

It feels a little bit like I've been sitting at a depressing all-you-can-eat buffet for a year, where the food is good, but it's been out for ages, and I've tried it all. Update 2.0 is like seeing someone exit the kitchen carrying trays and trays of new dishes, steaming hot; there's more here than I can feasibly eat. That's what I loved most about Animal Crossing: New Horizons at the start: the wealth and depth of content felt limitless. But when you binge things, you start to see where the seemingly bottomless pit actually ends.

Let's talk specifics, though. The farming and cooking system not only adds new interactions and décor possibilities to the game — a basket of bread will brighten up just about any room — but they entirely revitalise a large part of the game. Fishing, fruits, and deep-sea diving lose their shine once you've done it all, but now that we can find new recipes for things we catch and bake sea bass into a pie, there's a reason to head back out there. You see those old things in a brand new light.

The food, too, is lovingly rendered and interestingly varied, with an emphasis on world cuisine and not just — as you might think — Japanese or Western-focused foods.

Farming isn't wholly new, as it was introduced with pumpkins, and it is potentially an underwhelming quest once you've got all six crops, because you've now got them all for good — but the opportunity to revamp a part of your island to grow crops (and maybe Gyroids, too) is actually one of the best places to start with the update if it's been a while since you played. It eases you in slowly, because you already know how to decorate if you've been playing the game, and it gives you something to emotionally invest in again. Once you've caught the decorating bug, it'll be much easier to tackle the rest of your island, too!

Likewise, all the new stuffBrewster's Roost, the new furniture, villager visits, new decorating abilities — is like a big lick of paint over the whole game. It's refreshed, revitalised, familiar yet surprising. You aren't required to start afresh to enjoy all of this new stuff, because it slots quite neatly into whatever your island already looks like, which is perhaps the best we could hope for. Accent walls, new furniture, and ceiling decor give us a chance to lightly engage with decorating again, and the first-person camera and tripod let us see our island creations from totally different angles — again, letting us appreciate old things anew.

ACNH Coffee
It's almost like being back in the pre-pandemic times! Almost! — Image: Nintendo Life

Overall, while it's all the new stuff that hooked us back into the game, it's the quality-of-life changes that really make it worth sticking around. There were a few small but bothersome irritants — Isabelle never announcing the presence of special characters, or having to wait indefinitely for Redd, Saharah, or Kicks to visit — that have been smoothed over quite nicely by the 2.0 update's changes.

The storage shed, for instance, seems boring, but combined with the quick-travel warp pipe from the Super Mario update and the Automatic Bell Dispenser that you can place anywhere, it's so much easier to navigate around and redecorate the island. The Island Life 101 app isn't for us (collectively we've logged thousands of hours with the game, we write guides, we know the basics) but it's a brilliant way to ease new players in without having them feel overwhelmed or super behind.

ACNH Crops
I'm going to start an illegal basement tomato sauce business to undercut Tom Nook — Image: Nintendo Life

And that's the heart of this update, really: It's all baby steps. Jumping back in at the deep end is scary for both new players and returning ones who are worried about their islands being dusty and sad. You don't have to immediately dive in — in fact, it's best if you take it slow and enjoy it one day at a time, and Nintendo have specifically parcelled it out that way with how long it takes to staff Harv's Campsite, and the one-a-day limit on both Kapp'n's boat tours and Gyroids. Many players will be jumping between this and the new paid DLC content, but some NL staff haven't even touched Happy Home Paradise yet, despite having access to it. There's so much to explore and enjoy in this update.

If there's one big negative, it's that, well, it does feel a bit weird to have a year's worth of stuff dumped on our doorstep, and as Nintendo drove off, they basically yelled "never ask us for anything again" with that whole "last free major content update" thing. Previous "major" updates added Redd and Leif, diving, dream islands, and seasonal events, but none of them have been anywhere near this big. It's hard to complain too much, because better late than never... but still, it's a little sad to know that this is it.

At least, until the next game. Let's hope it's not too long, eh?

Feel free to let us know how you feel the free update measures up below, and keep an eye out for our full review of the Happy Home Paradise DLC in due course.

ACNH Library
My verdict summed up in one image — Image: Nintendo Life