Animal Crossing: New Horizons asks you if you’re someone with short hair or someone with long hair, and lets you wear dresses and trousers regardless of how you identify, because Nintendo “wanted to create a game where users didn’t really have to think about gender” (via The Washington Post).
When players take their passport photo on the way to their new deserted island home, they are able to select from a range of skin tones, eyes with or without eyelashes, and hair styles in pigtails, cropped close to their head, or in afro twists. Previous entries in the series would determine the player’s facial features through questions and answers, and male characters would wear trousers or shorts whereas female characters had skirts or dresses. It was even impossible to play as a black character in Wild World or New Leaf, unless the player stood outside in the sun to tan.
These new options were “not just about gender,” explained New Horizons director, Aya Kyogoku. “Society is shifting to valuing a lot of people’s different identities,” she elaborated. “We basically wanted to create a game where users didn’t really have to think about gender or if they wanted to think about gender, they’re also able to.” The level of character customisation and flexibility when it comes to their expression has been appreciated by players, who are showing off their unique styles in the quaint social sim game.
Though the current global situation is fraught with uncertainty, producer Hisashi Nogami hopes that New Horizons offers some solace. “We’ve been planning this release for quite some time, so it’s unfortunate that this timing overlapped with what’s currently happening in the world,” admitted Nogami. “I am very disheartened and saddened by the events happening across the world. Considering the timing, we hope that a lot of the Animal Crossing fans will use this as an escape, so they can enjoy themselves during this difficult time.”
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is out now for the Nintendo Switch.