Home Is Wherever You Are – Animal Crossing: New Leaf (3DS) Review
Animal Crossing: New Leaf isn’t a game you can review in a traditional sense, there’s no end point, there’s no real or right way through the game and it can take literally years to play through everything the game has to offer. The game may come on a card the size of a coin but there’s an entire world to explore here, one I hope to spend the conceivable future exploring.
If you’ve never played an Animal Crossing game before then it’s hard for me to explain to you what the game is or why it’s great. On paper, it’s a town simulator; you play as yourself as you help to make your town better for you and your villagers. There’s activities to do every day, some mundane like weeding and some fun like fishing. You can build a house, go into debt several times and you have to deal with your eccentric next-door neighbors. So why is all of this exactly compelling, why would you want to emulate real life, do what some might consider mundane tasks for days at a time?
Because Animal Crossing: New Leaf is the most charming and heart warming game you’re ever likely to play, it’s the opposite of ‘hardcore’ game, it’s an anomaly, a glitch in the matrix and it will draw you in and make you love it.
If you’ve played an Animal Crossing title before though you will already know this, you will know the joy of extending your house, unlocking The Roost and sharing the experience with your friends and you know it will suck in hours upon hours of you life. Just remember to keep that 3DS charged or you know who will appear, at least once this time around.
The core mechanics of Animal Crossing are essentially intact here, you move into a new town, build up a relationship with your villagers and go about your daily tasks and activities. However, this time around you’re given the keys to the city, the aging Tortimer has retired and your town needs your help, it’s a barren place with no night life and barely anyone left. You have to turn it around, don’t worry though you’ll spend the next few months doing it.
Being the mayor, you have much greater control of where your village ultimately goes. You can enact ordinances, build statues, fountains, camp sites and other public works projects wherever you wish and make your town your own. This new found freedom in customisation is no more apparent now that you can adjust how both the inside and outside of your house look, no matter where you go or whose town you visit, it will always be unique. There’s a whole new range of furniture this time around with more and Japanese inspired oddities.
The Animal Crossing experience will be different for everyone, your villagers will say hello to you, ask how your day is, remember events and gifts given and you’ll be sad when they decide to move out. You’ll have visitors come to your village as well; Redd the dodgy art merchant, Katrina the psychic and Saraha who will make your place beautiful for a price.
Timmy and Tommy Nook, the twin tanooki employees who run the store now are adorable, Nook himself a little older and with snazzy jumper is a real estate agent now. He’s softened in his old age but you’ll end up owing him millions of bells before you’re all done in New Leaf.
Nook also has some new competition on the retail front with a garden store, shoe store and even a thrift shop moving into the village. More stores, cafes, clubs and other hang outs are added as you play through the game, some classics return from earlier games as well.
In the three weeks I’ve had the game I’ve attempted to avoid wikis, walkthroughs and guides. I’ve wanted the game to evolve naturally and slowly, there’s no point rushing through upgrades, events and activities. Life is busy enough without you having to rush in New Leaf.
Your play style like the very village you create will be different, I’ve been taking it slow. Been trying out the new tropical island which Tortimer owns, building my orchard slowly and getting to know my villagers. I feel quite guilty though trading in the fossils for money, I want my museum to be a place worth visiting but there’s so much many things to buy and not enough bells.
You reach a point though where you have to go for the guides or ask a friend what to do next, if you don’t there is certainly something you will miss out on. It might be a store, it might be a time based event or it could be a mini game – but whether you look or not you’re going miss at least something.
Thanks to the Nintendo 3DS hardware itself, the Animal Crossing experience is even better than ever now with friends both locally and online. Getting online is easier than ever before, if your friends list is already chock a block and they play the game they’re automatically friends in the game – no more need for adding friend codes. Once they’ve joined your game or you’ve gone to theirs, you can make them a best friend and allow real time text chat at any point – even if your village’s gates aren’t open.
This can come in handy come the latter part of the week when the turnip market isn’t going your way. Up to three friends can visit your village at once and if you’re all up for it you can head over to the island and try out the mini games together. The mini games are a bunch more fun with friends, they’re simple but collecting as many bugs or fish as possible, scraping the maze for certain types of fruits is fun.
Online and local connectivity goes beyond real time, with StreetPass you will now ‘collect’ houses in the Happy Home Showcase. You’ll be able sneak a peek at how your friends’ homes are coming along and purchase most things in them if it takes your fancy. Please though, get that poor Digby a booth when it’s raining please. The Dream Suite is also a new addition to main street, it allows you to share online your entire village with the world. It will give you a friend code you can use to share – this village can’t be destroyed or changed so feel free to give it out to friends. Visiting Dream Suite villages is another great way to get some new ideas for your own village – some of the ones I have visited so far are pretty out there.
These new features ensure that you’ll be able to get new ideas, meet new people and have new experiences in Animal Crossing for months to come. Right now, everybody is playing Animal Crossing and if you need a pal to help you pay off your latest public works project or a town to sell your bells, you’ll be able to find it. It might not be the case in the future.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf is a game that will melt a jaded video gamer heart. Even if you’re familiar with the games, you will find something new to do here and the game has thousands of surprises up it’s sleeve. For the new players I truly envy you, prepare to get gooey. Gaming has crushed the soul of many, with sequels, annual updates, violence and ‘deep themes’. Sometimes though, you don’t need any of that and you can just go fishing with your friends, while dressed in a balloon outfit, at 3AM. It’s Animal Crossing.