Part of the charm of the Animal Crossing series has always been the player’s first introduction to their new home, whether that home is a new town, island, or city. Older titles, like Wild World and New Leaf, gave the player very little control over what their new home would look like. Other than choosing the approximate location of their house (and it was very approximate), players have no control over where flowers, plots, or shops end up. Compared to older titles, New Horizons is more about design.
Players have so much more control over how their islands look, and the ability to place plots and terraform almost everything has changed the game for many Animal Crossing fans. Not everything is changeable, though; sometimes, players resort to restarting to find the perfect island. But even before terraforming is unlocked, there’s a lot to think about when restarting your island, and choosing the right map. Thinking about restarting? Here is everything you need to consider when restarting your island in Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
The airport is a new mechanic to New Horizons, and right from the beginning, there are two things to consider: color, and location. There are four airport colors to choose from—yellow, blue, green, and orange—but unfortunately, you don’t get to see the color until after the flyover, where you see the fruit. There’s also the location of your airport, which can either be to the left, right, or center on the southern beach of your map. Some players like a certain amount of space between the airport and their south-facing river mouths, others like having it in the center of their map, and some don’t mind where it is, as long as their airport lines up with Resident Services.
Native fruit is something that’s important to a lot of players, whether it’s for the aesthetics, or for sentimental value, like having the same fruit they had in other games. Your island’s native fruit is the one that appears all over the island, and the one that you’ll be seeing a lot of before you get your hands on the other fruits. Players with Nintendo Online can grab other fruits pretty easily with Nookazon or by trading with friends, but if you don’t have Nintendo Online, make sure your native fruit is one you like. Some players also reset until they get a specific sister fruit—this is the one you’ll sometimes see on Mystery Islands and is often (but not always) the fruit that Mom sends you in the mail.
Similarly, each island comes with a native flower. These are determined by the player’s birthday, specifically, birth month. Each month has two or three options, and while flowers are much easier to get than fruits, it might still take a while to find your favorite flower. Flowers can be bought starting from day one in the Resident Services tent, and then later at Nook’s Cranny. Leif also sells them on his weekly visits, which start once Resident Services is upgraded.
8 River Mouths
River mouths vary in size and shape with each map, but the biggest thing to consider is their three orientations: south- and west-facing, south- and east-facing, and south- and south-facing. Most players tend to like having only one south-facing river mouth because it’s easier to get around your island in the early game (before bridges are unlocked), but with last year’s diving update, it’s fairly easy to access every part of your island, even on the first day. Just remember to wear your wetsuit, which can be ordered from the NookStop, or bought for PRICE from the Resident Services tent. Symmetry is also something to consider: if your pier and peninsula are on one side of your island, you may want the river mouth on the other. Or, you might not want a south-facing River mouth too close to the airport.
Rocks are one of those things that are easy to overlook, but they can make a huge difference to what you’re able to do with your island. Large, flat rocks are great for decorating (and the sound of your character walking on rocks is chef’s kiss), and they make a great vantage point when farming balloon presents. Smaller, raised rocks take up less room, but it’s hard to do much with them. Plus, if a balloon flies over them, it’ll disappear in the rocks for some reason (unlike flat rocks, which presents can land on just fine).
Peninsulas can either be circular or more jagged, and come in a variety of different sizes. Larger peninsulas are usually coveted for their decorating space. The lighthouse object is one popular example, which takes four squares to place. For players wanting to build cliffs on their peninsulas, size also matters: curving the edges of a cliff requires at least three squares on whatever sides will curve (the two edges, plus a middle piece). Having that amount of space is pretty rare on most maps, but it can make for some cool decor options. The more square peninsulas can make great diving areas, though, and a lot of players use inclines and surfboards to make a fun beachside effect.
Like the peninsula, the pier comes in a few different sizes: short, long, or extra long. While it’s sometimes hard to notice, you can usually tell how long an island’s pier will be from the map selection page. Shorter piers look more like traditional docks (are look adorable on any island) but a lot of players like longer piers because they’re easier to decorate. The length of the pier won’t affect gameplay—unfortunately, having a long pier doesn’t make it easier to catch rare fish—but depending on the aesthetic you’re going for, it may be something to consider.
4 Secret Beach
The secret beach will always be on the back coast of the map, but it can have three positions: left, right, (including right at the corners on either side, or between the mid and corner points) or centered. There isn’t much of a benefit to one position or the other, but depending on how the cliffs are arranged, you might be able to access your secret beach even before you unlock the ladder. Redd usually visits for the first time after the museum has been upgraded (after 60 donations have been made), so depending on how fast players move through the game, this might not be something to worry much about. Still, some have aesthetic preferences, or like the symmetry of having their secret beach in the center.
3 Starting Villagers
Technically, starter villagers don’t matter too much long term. If players really don’t like their starters, they can have them move out, and replace them, as soon as six villagers live on the island. But, what if players love their starters? Can’t they just keep them forever? Well, yes—but, they’ll stay in their awful starter houses, which means that their house exteriors will be the real thing, but their furniture and interior decor will stay kind of lackluster. Super motivated players could gather all of their original furniture and gift it to them, but it’s probably much easier to wait for your favorite villagers until after the first plots are filled.
2 Cliff and Pond Shapes
Being that one of the biggest perks of New Horizons is terraforming, cliff and pond shapes are easy to change and make your own. But, terraforming can take a while to unlock, especially for players who don’t time travel. So, make sure you like how the cliffs look. Do you want a lot of cliffs extended into the middle of the island? Cliffs mostly on one side? Cliffs with interesting shapes? Pond shapes are mostly unremarkable, unless you snag a map with one of the adorable heart ponds. True, these can be made with the Waterscaping tool, but it’s way more fun to have it from the beginning, isn’t it?
1 Resident Services
Of all the things to consider when starting your island, this is probably the most important. Why? Because resident services can never be moved. In fact, it’s the only building in the game whose location cannot be changed. So, it’s important to choose carefully. Here, too, a lot of players like symmetry, and aim for having their Resident Services line up with their airport, or having it be in the center of their island. One of the biggest player regrets is having their Res Services too close to the airport, because it can be difficult to build a cool entrance with such little space. If you’re in that spot, it can still be done, but you might have to get creative with it. Another thing to consider is ease of access; traveling visitors, holidays (and holiday-specific NPCs), and cool events like Bug and Fish-Offs all take place in the plaza outside of Resident Services, so it’s important that the building is easy to access, and in a spot that you’re happy with, since you’ll likely be there a lot.