Nintendo is trapped in the 1700s when it comes to the internet, something that is still quite apparent with several aspects of Animal Crossing: New Horizons, including the process for restoring your island from a backup. Cloud saves and island restorations are available as of the recent Version 1.4.0 update, but as laid out on a Nintendo customer support page, there are several unintuitive and annoying impediments to fully restoring your island should you lose or break your Switch. That includes phoning customer service. Why? What vast, criminal, island-duplicating conspiracy is Nintendo trying to protect us from here?
For an island backup to work, you’ll have to activate the feature by speaking to Tom Nook on the title screen (and by having an active Nintendo Switch Online membership) once you’ve downloaded Version 1.4.0 of Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Your save data will then automatically and periodically link up with the cloud to create a backup.
If your system is lost or stolen, you’ll have to ensure that you have an active Nintendo Switch Online membership when you go to restore your Animal Crossing: New Horizons island on a new system (remember, your subscription can lapse for up to six months before Nintendo yeets your cloud saves into oblivion). Restoration is only available when a Switch is lost, stolen, or damaged – it would be a travesty if people used this feature for their own personal convenience, after all. Additionally, as confirmed by Vooks after numerous tests, you can’t actually commence restoration within Animal Crossing: New Horizons until you call Nintendo’s customer support. Once again, the potential for abuse is just . . . too much to leave unchecked.
Once you’ve taken care of all the prerequisites, you can summon the restoration menu by holding the minus button when the black Nintendo screen appears while launching Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Hopefully. Make sure you’re using the same account that initiated the backup. As noted by Vooks, it’s unclear what this whole process means for folks in countries without a Nintendo customer support line or countries where support is closed due to COVID-19.
Nintendo claims that we’ll have a less dumb way to transfer islands between Switches in Animal Crossing: New Horizons later this year, but who knows what that will look like? Will I have to send Nintendo a fax requesting permission to make a save backup? Will these cloud backups be delivered to us on a flash drive traveling by carrier pigeon? This beloved game company has an irrational fear of cloud saves. It took forever for Nintendo to even acknowledge the concept of using the wonders of the digital world to retrieve lost save data, and when we finally got the feature, Nintendo was still reluctant to implement in games that would benefit the most, including Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Now, we’ve at least got something to work with. It’s not great, but it’s something.