'Animal Crossing: New Horizons' will offer island terraforming

Save data recovery and transfer features are in the works, too

Nintendo just wrapped up its latest Nintendo Direct stream, which touted the features and gameplay of the upcoming Switch game, Animal Crossing: New Horizons. There are plenty of new elements to be excited about, but a few stand out and show that the latest entry in the series will take a big step forward.

Arguably the biggest change to the Animal Crossing formula is the ability to modify your island. Once you obtain maintenance and construction permits, you'll be able to add bridges and slopes, pave your own roads and even reroute rivers or demolish cliffs. This will add a new level of creativity to the game.

Party Play is another welcome addition to Animal Crossing. Up to eight people can live on a single island. You can either invite friends to live on your getaway or have family members who share your Switch console move in. With Party Play, up to four villagers can explore simultaneously. You'll have to designate a leader, who will decide where everyone can go -- you can't wander away and explore on your own while in this mode. All the items you and your crew find go straight to a locker at the Resident Services building, so you can decide who takes home which supplies.

Nintendo assured fans that it's working on free updates to the game. The first one will be available on launch day, March 20th. The DLC will let you celebrate a Bunny Day event in April. It seems like Nintendo is planning similar content for most major holidays.

One concern of hardcore Animal Crossing players is the ability to backup and save their games. Several Switch games can use cloud saves, and files can be transferred from one Switch to another. Neither will be the case for New Horizons, though. Nintendo says that it is developing a solution specific to the game that will let Nintendo Switch Online members recover save data from its servers "in the event of console failure, loss or theft." In other words, try not to lose your system until this feature is available. Furthermore, Nintendo will create another utility specific to New Horizons that will let you move users and save data to a different Switch console. This will be useful for those who want to migrate from a Switch to a Switch Lite.

Some gamers say that Animal Crossing games are too similar to one another. But between these new features and the fact that the series hasn't had a mainline entry for eight years, it's a safe bet that New Horizons will bring plenty of villagers back for more adventures, diplomacy and interior decorating.