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Animal Crossing: New Horizons is upon us. For real. You can go play it right now, and I think you should. It’s wonderful.

But what can you do to get the most out of the game? Well, I’ve put together a list of tips that will help you get started in Nintendo’s latest social-life simulator. Let’s get right to it.

How to get the shovel, pole vault, and Island Designer in Animal Crossing: New Horizons

If you’re a few days into New Horizons and still don’t have the shovel and pole vault, you’re probably getting pretty frustrated. But don’t worry, you didn’t miss anything. You just need to go through a few steps first.

You get the shovel and pole vault once Blathers comes to your town. Blathers is an owl who plans to open a natural museum for all the critters that you collect. To entice him to your island, you need to give bugs and fish to Tom Nook. He will then call up the owl and say, “it’s your cousin, Marvin Blathers! I’ve got that new museum sound you’ve been looking for.” Once Blathers arrives, talk to him and he will give you recipes to build a flimsy shovel and a flimsy pole vault.


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The Island Designer tool, meanwhile, comes even later. This is the Nook Phone app that enables you to edit the layout of your island or to lay down paved pathways. And you don’t get it until you roll credits on the game. To accomplish that, you’ll need to build up your town until it’s appealing enough to attract the attention of the musical dog K.K. Slider.

Once Isabelle joins resident services, talk to her about island evals every day. Once you get to a high enough level by building up the infrastructure of your village and adding exterior decor, K.K. will come and put on a concert. Following that concert, you’ll get Island Designer. Keep in mind that you’ll also need to unlock more tools for island designer by purchasing them from the Nook Stop.

Talk to Tom Nook

Above: Talk to Tom Nook.

Image Credit: GamesBeat

Here’s a basic guideline to live by in Animal Crossing: New Horizons. If you find yourself lost about what to do next, just go have a conversation with Tom Nook. His dialogue option for “What should I do?” will always point to the next thing you should get done if you want to progress you capabilities, your home, or your village.

Get the pocket organizer and tool wheel early

Above: Expanded pocket space.

Image Credit: Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Once you get through the tutorial, you may want to start spending your bells and Nook Miles on frivolous things like cosmetics. And you should do that if you want. But there are a couple of items you can buy early on that make the game easier. These are the tool wheel and the pocket organizer.

The pocket organizer expands the size of your pocket. And the tool wheel gives you a quick-select wheel to make it easier to get out your shovel, axe, and other handy items.

You can get these from the Nook Stop ATM in Resident Services.

Don’t put off the quests

Above: And don’t forget to talk to Tom Nook about celebrations.

Image Credit: GamesBeat

In the first few weeks of Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Tom Nook will guide you through some light quests. These include paying off your moving fees, crafting furniture for new villagers, and improving your town. These are easy to ignore, but you shouldn’t.

While you might want to spend all your time decorating your house or designing clothing, you’ll miss out on some features if you don’t go through the quests. These are important, game-changing features like the ability to create paths and roads.

Eat fruit

Growing and selling fruit is a great way to earn bells, but you have another option. Eat the fruit! This gives you super-strength that enables you to do things like break rocks. If a rock is in your way, you can destroy it by eating fruit and then hitting it with an ax. Don’t worry. These rocks will respawn, so you can still get resources from them.

Put up a fence by rocks

Speaking of getting resources from rocks, there’s a trick to maximize your daily haul. If you played New Leaf on the 3DS, you’ll know that hitting a rock with a shovel or an axe pushes your character backward. And this is a problem because the rock acts on a timer. If you waste time running back into position to hit the rock, the timer may run out before you get get all eight hits in.

The solution to this is simple: build a fence behind you. Of course, you can also dig holes because they will also keep you in place. But fences look better, and you can even leave them up permanently if you want.

Always buy every new thing in the shop

Every day, the store on your island will have new products in stock. And while you may not always want everything, you should still buy anything that you haven’t seen before. Doing this will fill out the catalog in Resident Services. This will enable you to reorder any of the things you previously purchased whenever you want.

So buy the new goods and then give them away to other villagers or immediately sell them back to Timmy and Tommy. And then, when you need a specific item to complete a certain look in your house or town, you might already have access to it.

Do your dailies

Above: Do your daily challenges.

Image Credit: GamesBeat

Each day when you first play Animal Crossing: New Horizons, you’ll get a list of daily challenges in the Nook Miles app. These quests will give you double Miles for completing small tasks like catching five fish or chopping some wood. This is a great way to get miles, but it’s also a good way to keep you engaged with some of the game’s system you might otherwise ignore.

Remember that when and where matters for everything

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a real-time calendar game. And that’s not just a cute trick — it has an impact on everything you do. For example, the fish you can catch in March are different from the fish you can catch in August. And some critters are more active in the morning than they are at night.

But it’s not just about time. Also think about where you’re spending your time on your island. Don’t just always go to the river to fish. You can catch different kinds of fish in the isolate ponds or in the ocean.

So don’t fall into a routine. Throw some variety into your New Horizons life.

Harvest islands for resources

Above: Clear-cutting foreign islands for their natural resources? I’m OK with this?!

Image Credit: GamesBeat

Finally, you may find yourself hurting for resources like wood and iron early on. If you’re in that position, use some of your Nook Miles to buy an airplane ticket and travel to a special island. These procedurally generated islands are yours to strip mine. And if you can ignore the unfortunate politics of that, it’s a great way to get what you need to keep crafting items or to complete quests.

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