Animal Crossing: New Leaf
November 8, 2012 (JP)
June 9, 2013 (NA)
June 14, 2013 (EU)
June 15, 2013 (AU)
There is no game quite like an Animal Crossing game. It’s one of those magical places you get to go and can endlessly spend hours, but it’s also entirely your own creation. Animal Crossing: New Leaf expands this idea tenfold, revitalizing the mechanics of the game in slight ways to create a brand new experience for its players. This is great because it truly makes it seem like the games evolve with the consoles and capabilities of Nintendo – bringing fresh ideas to an (honestly) hard to revolutionize game series in which the basic tasks are the only tasks.
You begin the game, like usual, being transported to your new village, this time via train, and being asked a series of questions by an always-curious cat, Rover, which determines your facial features. As you step off the train, you’re welcomed with open arms as the new mayor of said village to much fanfare. Here is where Nintendo has changed the formula of Animal Crossing: New Leaf and allowed the player almost entire control over their village with the addition of mayoral duties. These duties include fundraising for public works projects – a series of buildings and improvements you, as mayor, can make to your town, such as park benches, street lamps, a police station, a cafe, a camp site, and many more. Not only does this freshen up the series in a new way, but it brings about a much-desired enhancement to your ability to customize your town the way you like it. Granted, villagers will still move in RIGHT over your hybrid flower patch or pathway, but the addition of mayoral duties helps to contribute to a much needed revitalization of the series and one in which Nintendo will hopefully expand upon for future iterations.
The game is graphically superior to its past versions – modifying the body stylings of characters to give them a more grown-up feel compared to characters in the previous versions who were much shorter and childlike. Everything looks great on the 3DS screen and the textured look of many of the animals is very nicely done. The capabilities of the 3DS also shows through in terms of the scope of the world. The addition of a shopping district (replacing the “city” from City Folk) cuts out the needless “travel” time between your village and the places you go to buy things, and Nintendo has added new buildings such as a recycling center where you can also pawn off used items to your animal friends, a home-buying center to get yourself fancy home improvements like fences or mailboxes, and a dream-world suite which essentially functions as a way to visit anyone’s (dream) town without friend codes.
The game has never sounded better either. From the chirping of crickets to the splashing of water, everything in the game sounds just right. Nintendo knows how to do a lot of things and sound effects are definitely one of them. It helps that the world is rich with noise, like running rivers and ocean waves crashing along the beach sand, which crunches underfoot so satisfyingly. The villagers continue to speak in Animalese, and their words are more unintelligible than ever (thanks for the captions, Nintendo).
Unfortunately New Leaf suffers from a lack of interesting decorative and wearable options. There are a lot of really neat items to collect and display, but not much that really looks good. The special furniture sets are neat, but generally ugly and take up storage after their respective holiday events are over. The carpet has the worst selection that I found myself skipping them over after the first week of playing simply due to there being so few good looking choices. Clothing, overall, is fine, but the head and hat accessories are severely lacking. This might simply be from the decision to age-up citizens, but the hats never seem to fit and the accessories for the face/eyes are all bland and pretty similar.
One of the best features of New Leaf is the cast of animals that join you in your town. There is a great variety of animals that can move in and it’s easy to grow attached to the little buggers as they ask you to do menial tasks for them such as get them an apple from the tree directly behind them or deliver a letter to another resident whose home is less than ten feet away. Despite their laziness, you grow attached to the ones that live around you. I’ve had several existential crises over losing favorite townsfolk (here’s to you, Biskit and Truffles). Despite this, villagers are great little friends to have in-game and you can get some good loot from them for performing their tasks.
Some things never change in Animal Crossing and hunting for bugs and fish continue to be a staple of the world economy of the series, along with donating new and rare discoveries to the museum to amass your collection of the nasty little critters. For me, I found fishing more monotonous than ever and not even the thrill of catching new fish could entice me to cast my line out. I’ve played a lot of Animal Crossing and I think fishing has just run out its welcome with me. I mostly feel the same way about bug-catching, but I still find myself catching a few a day. This comes with the longevity of playing the series and as someone who has played every iteration of said series, it’s hard to want to catch more bugs or fish. Newcomers to the series will find these tasks more enjoyable than veterans, but as a longtime fan, the tasks are getting stale.
Overall, New Leaf is a great addition to the series despite its relatively minor flaws, and it’s a fantastic game to pick up and play when you have some extra time to kill. I purchased my 3DS just to play New Leaf, so to say I am a huge fan is an understatement. I love the Crossing universe and all of its wonders and New Leaf was light years better than City Folk or even Wild World. It was my 2013 Game of the Year and I have continued to play it well into 2014 (I’m playing it now). If you haven’t already dived into the series and have been interested from afar, then this iteration is most definitely one to look at.
Fun, unique universe.
Keeps you coming back for more with something new each day.
Enough content to last a long, long time.
Monotonous at its worst.
Some design choices are too limited and really restrict customization.