During the Nintendo Treehouse gameplay demo of Animal Crossing: New Horizons yesterday, Nintendo showed off a lot of new features, but perhaps one of the most interesting sights was the in-game map full of new discoveries!
Popping up in the lower right of the screen occasionally when the player pauses movement during gameplay, just like the time & date display, the in-game map preview offers quite a few interesting new details in Animal Crossing: New Horizons worth looking over.
In fact, having the map preview appearing in the corner at all is a new feature in itself! This should really help make up for the absence of a second screen on the Nintendo Switch.
Before we dive deep into the discoveries awaiting, let’s take a look at a zoomed in view of the map from the highest quality footage we could find, with sharpness enhancements:
There’s an Airplane / Seaplane on the beach
Potentially the most exciting discovery found on the map is the large airplane or seaplane icon near the middle of the south beach. While the reveal trailer’s opening voice-over about a delivery from Nook Inc. definitely hinted at an airplane involved in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, this confirms it!
We suspect that this airplane area on the map will act as the main form of transportation for the game, both in terms of your initial discovery of the island as well as the method for leaving the island to visit faraway lands with friends in multiplayer online.
And while neither the reveal trailer or the Treehouse Live gameplay demo focused on the airplane area, it turns out that it was briefly visible during the demo — even though they appear to have been trying their best to avoid the area and did not discuss it at all!
In fact, that bit of blue and white in the bottom left corner of the first screenshot above is almost certainly a part of the seaplane’s wing.
Multi-Level Towns with Cliffs are back
Do you see that area near the top of the map? The suspiciously lighter green colored zone? It looks like that likely represents the long-awaited return of cliffs in the Animal Crossing series with Animal Crossing: New Horizons!
For players joining the series with Animal Crossing: New Leaf, some previous titles like Animal Crossing: City Folk featured two-level towns where there was an upper area on a cliff, with the other part of the town residing on a lower level below the cliffs. It was a great way of mixing up the environment and making the town feel larger.
In addition to the map, here’s an edited screenshot below combining three different scenes appearing to show the cliff area in the background if you look closely:
Notably, we don’t see any obvious way of accessing the upper level area — both in the game screenshots, but also most importantly on the map screen. In previous games featuring the cliffs, they were accessed with large slope ramps at certain intervals and made prominently visible on the map so you knew how to access them, as seen below.
Perhaps this is a sign that we may need to unlock the ability to access the upper cliff areas by building a ramp or other structure ourselves later in the game.
There’s no starting bridges at all
Remember that vaulting pole highlighted in the Animal Crossing: New Horizons reveal trailer as a way to cross the river? It turns out that’s not just a fun trick to play with — you need it! You’ll notice there’s a complete lack of a single bridge crossing a river present on the map, presumably representing the beginning of the game.
We can obviously assume that you can construct bridges later into the game, just like in Animal Crossing: New Leaf, but it sure looks like you’ll be stuck with nothing but your trusty pole until then! How long? It’s hard to say, although hopefully only a few in-game days before it becomes too much of an annoyance.
Split Rivers are back, and Acres might be too
Speaking of rivers, there’s a river splitting in two completely separate directions near the middle creating a sort of ‘island’ within the island in the center-bottom of the map! This is another feature available in older Animal Crossing games, but removed in Animal Crossing: New Leaf and we’re glad to see its return to Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
What’s more, we couldn’t help but notice that acres might be making a comeback in Animal Crossing: New Horizons with the subtle dotted lines over the map creating a grid of rectangles. We haven’t seen acre dividers on the map since the original Animal Crossing for GameCube!
On the flip side though, these lines could also just be a meaningless visual representing a folded out map, so we’re not saying this with certainty. But in our view, they’re a little too obvious looking to mean nothing at all!
The matching letters and numbers are missing too, which could be only visible on the proper map screen. Remember we’re just working off a small preview in the bottom right of the interface.
Villager House locations might be controllable
One of the most requested features for the series since Animal Crossing: New Leaf have been more control over the placement of villager homes in your town. After all, nobody likes their precious rose garden getting trampled on by an ugly mouse!
With the Welcome amiibo update, steps were taken to prevent destruction of patterns, but Animal Crossing: New Horizons might be taking the extra step.
See these likely villager houses on the map? Don’t they seem a little suspiciously close to each other, not to mention perfectly aligned too? We believe this might just be a clever hint of player controlled villager home locations! Here’s another shot below of the homes in-game from the same demo as the map:
And just in case you’re still quite skeptical, we know they’re not regular player tents because the player tent seen below in the exact same demo has a completely different ‘triangle tip’ design, including a mailbox that is missing on the others. Meanwhile, the villager tents have the traditional signpost on them presumably noting the villager owner.
So while we can’t say with 100% certainty that villager house placement control is a confirmed feature, it sure looks like it could be a possibility based on the rather odd locations of these two homes. We’d guess this was intended as a subtle hint of future feature announcements.
The Island is surrounded by 3 beaches and a back wall of rocks
In the original Animal Crossing games, there was always a single beach at the very bottom of the town with both sides surrounded by towering cliffs. Then in Animal Crossing: New Leaf, we gained an extra side beach on either the left or right side depending on your village layout.
Now in Animal Crossing: New Horizons with the deserted island setting, we’re finally getting a full fledged beach on three sides of the island. There’s a large section of black rocks at the back of the island too, presumably quite tall forming a wall since they’re up against the cliff area. This leads us to suspect this might be the area for major buildings, including the elusive unseen shops, can be built later on.
The Town Plaza is back, but there’s work to be done
Outside of the villager homes, mystery airplane area, and your personal tent, the map is definitely looking pretty bare overall to begin with. It appears that concept even extends to the so-called ‘town plaza’ area, or at least what we’re assuming will become one.
Right now, it’s essentially a giant nearly empty square full of dirt with a bulletin board and the Nook Inc. crafting tent on it, but we’re pretty sure this will eventually transform into the main town plaza given the presence of the bulletin board. Not to mention the very large space marked on the map!
In a nice touch, the area is even bordered by random wood planks on the ground. Might we see another town tree planted when Isabelle eventually shows up to the island? We really don’t know yet but there’s certainly plenty of room for it.
That’s all we could spot for now!
Whew, that’s all the major points we spotted from the map! Of course, the majority is simply informed speculation at this early stage of the reveal, so we may very well end up being disastrously wrong in many areas. But we had fun along the way, right?
Did you spot anything else yourself that we missed? Let us know in the comments below and share how wrong we are!
Pre-orders are now open for Animal Crossing: New Horizons at Amazon, GameStop, and Best Buy. Stay tuned to Animal Crossing World for more on Animal Crossing: New Horizons as we approach the release date next year.