It’s finally here! That game we’ve all been waiting for: the one with nothing to “master” or “level up ” on. Animal Crossing: New Leaf is the ultimate casual game and while it may have taken years to get here, it is well worth the wait.
Endless fields lay beneath a bright sun. Glittering sand rests beside a bountiful ocean; and lush forests filled with fresh fruits wait to be harvested. You rest peacefully within your home built by your hard work. After taking in the morning sun shining through the curtains, you descend down the staircase feasting your eyes on the large room before you. You take a moment to admire your collections of furniture, insects, and fossils. You glance out the window to see that your neighbors have begun a day’s work. Watering cans and fishing poles already in their paws. With a relaxing sigh, you gather your own gear and start towards the front door. Bright rays fill the silent room as the door creaks open revealing the tranquil village before you.
Timeless adventures now lie just beyond your doorstep. What will be in store for you today?
Since 2001, Animal Crossing has provided leisure activities to gamers. It has been nearly five years since the last game but now a new installment has been released for the Nintendo 3DS. Animal Crossing: New Leaf tells a different story than its successors; you arrive at the new village but there seems to have been a mistake. The inhabitants think that you are Tortimer’s replacement after he retired. Instantly, they elect you as the new mayor and the town falls into your hands thus opening a wide variety of new duties for you to endure.
New Leaf focuses heavily on customization and micromanagement. Anthropomorphic animals make up the citizens of the rural town entrusted to you. Strengthening the community is among one of your top priorities. To do this, you will communicate with them on a regular basis and offer to do favors like delivering presents or collecting certain items for them. It might sound like a lot of responsibility but you can ignore your duties if you like. Personally, we’d recommend keeping up with them because it gives you the ability to modify the town as you see fit. Public work projects let you select requests that villagers have made that both fancy up the village and provide few services to the townsfolk. All building placements are up to you thus allowing you to personalize the look of your town and setting it apart from all the others.
You can also set up ordinances that change the behavior of the residents to fit a schedule that better suits your playtime. For example, an Early Bird ordinance will set a law that changes store hours to where they open at earlier times and residents will be more active in the morning than at night. While a Night Owl ordinance creates a law that sets everyone’s biological clocks to later hours allowing players with busy days in real life a chance to play the game without needing to adjust their system’s clock.
As you invest more into the town, Main Street grows. A handful of colorful entrepreneurs will reach out to you to fund their lifelong dreams of starting their own business. Other shops open after you have spent bells (the game’s currency) in select stores. Shampoodle returns to let you change your physical appearance and Tom Nook will continue to drive you into debt, but a few new faces have been introduced. Kicks the skunk runs a shoe store where socks and new shoes can be purchased. Re-Tail ran by Reese is a flea market that serves as an alternative way to sell product. You can sell them to her yourself or offer them to the flea market. Once offered, the items go on display. Villagers can be persuaded to purchase them but it also makes it easier to sell off rare items to other players. Cyrus, a second alpaca at Re-Tail, can change the color of furniture to better suit the color scheme of your interior design.
The Abel Sisters are back but with a new sewing machine. This nifty device lets you both create and capture QR codes for quick design sharing via the internet. Using the 3DS’ built in camera, you can snap pictures of four QR codes that then allow you to instantly download another user’s clothing design. Every piece of clothing is interchangeable down to the very socks your character wears, making cosplaying a fun, unintentional feature. (My character currently looks like the female protagonist from Persona 3 Portable and it is awesome.)
Nearly all the funding comes from your dedication to your citizens. A variety of odd ended jobs provide an opportunity to make some mad bells. Fishing, bug catching, and digging for buried treasures are all familiar tasks to veteran Animal Crossing players. Certain creatures are only catchable during certain hours of the day, in specific weather conditions, and even in different seasons adding a bit of challenge to the hunt. A new technique has been introduced that let’s you hunt for creatures in the sea. A wet suit can be purchased that allows you to dive beneath the waves of your coast, adding some freshness to keep the game from going stale.
Of course if you are feeling generous, you can donate your finds to the local museum to build your town up culturally. The more items that are donated, the more the museum grows giving a bit of an incentive to not be a greedy bastard.
You can run errands for your neighbors that often get your gifts in return for helping them out; gifts that you can then secretly sell to put a few extra bells in your pocket. New activities have been added to change up the game’s pacing a bit. Animals will occasionally ask you to partake in a game of hide-and-seek with them. Find everyone in time and you get a nice reward. Or invite an animal buddy over to your house which often results in you getting a letter with some goodies. These new additions really breath some life into the world by adding a strong sense of personality to inhabitants. Neighbors will talk to each other, shop on their own, and even partake in fishing or bug catching around the village making it feel more lively than previous Animal Crossing installments.
When the main land gets dull, you can hop about the speed boat to visit a small island off the coast. Here you and fish for or catch tropical animals to take back or join a tour. Much like the games you play with your neighbors, the tours give you timed challenges that reward you with medals. The medals can be exchanged with an old turtle on the island for rare furniture or clothing that can only be purchased directly from her.
New Leaf is one game that I feel completely utilizes every feature of the 3DS system to the point where it feels like it could not work properly on any other system. The 3D effects add a very charming pop-up book feeling to the already adorable appearance of the game. It adds a sense of depth that the Animal Crossing series has always tried to mimic in their previous titles. You can have other players’ houses appear in your Happy Home Showcase via Street Passes, giving everyone a chance to show off their interior designs. Others can always visit your village both on and offline where you can trade items, pay off their public work projects, or just chill. Once you have opened a Dream Suite, you can host a dream version of your town for others to visit without worrying about the consequences that might follow their rude actions like chopping down your trees or aggravating the neighbors.
The core of the game remains absolutely the same which is works for and against it. It makes it easy for veterans and newcomers alike to the series to jump into the immersive world but the tedious nature wears you out. New Leaf‘s pacing is roller coaster ride. It starts off relatively slow as it takes a time for new features to open up to the player even with a low, easy to obtain mortgage. After toughing out the first week, the momentum of everything goes into hyper drive. More villagers move in, more shops start to open, and wider selection of customizable options start to appear. A sense of accomplishment lingers around you as you see the village unfold before your eyes the way you want it to.
There are a few new additions to New Leaf to look forward to, such as the brand new characters, animal species, and types of fruit. The Main Street area of your town also accommodates new buildings, such as a Gardening Shop run by the happy sloth Leif, Club LOL which is a new nightclub hosted by Dr. Shrunk and DJ K.K., Brewster’s Café which replaces The Roost from previous games, Tom Nook’s new business scheme endeavor Nook’s Homes — which works as a housing remodeling shop — and Kicks, the skunk, now has his own shoe shop appropriately called Kicks. Most establishments can be upgraded by spending a certain amount of Bells, such as the Museum which now expands onto two floors, that includes an additional gift shop and personal display section.
Animals also praise you for your hard work and do take notice some notice of the efforts you have made to improving the town. You will quickly find yourself addicted for a good month or so until the ride comes to a screeching halt yet again. Rewards soon come few and far between. High mortgages and public work projects become discouraging as relaxing activities turn into chores as you try to meet their goals. No sense of urgency exists with the developments, eventually causing you to no longer care about trying to complete them.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf builds upon its usual structure by adding a few new ideas while still retaining familiarity for fans of the series. It is a simple game that can be enjoyed regardless of skill level, and there’s enough content to keep you coming back for months, as is its intentional design due to the slowly unwinding events in real-time. This version also addresses the complaints of it’s Wii predecessor and provides plenty of exciting new features and buildings to enjoy.
However, the sandbox approach Animal Crossing is famous for makes up for the boredom that might spawn from it. Those who are willing to put effort and time into the game can create extremely unique looking towns to show off. I have seen some users use QR codes to form custom patterns for pathways throughout their village. Needless to say, there is always something to do and something you can do in Animal Crossing: New Leaf. A little something exists within its coding for anyone of any gaming type. Casual players will benefit from the laid back attitude while hardcore gamers will like using some strategic thinking to get the most from the town that they can. Either way, you will get your $40 worth out of it easily, even if it ultimately becomes that game you touch for five minutes a day.