What a world we live in, where we have so many different kinds of video games for different kinds of moods and occasions. When you feel like being scared, play Silent Hill. Perhaps you feel like beating someone to a pulp; play Tekken. Then there are those days when all you’d like to do is unwind and relax. For those very days, Animal Crossing: New Leaf is the perfect cure for your stress. As a game that follows a 24-hour clock, your town in New Leaf becomes another place to visit in your daily routine, a place that is constantly changing, and a world of your own.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf adds another bright and elegant example of excellence to the Nintendo 3DS library. Nintendo hits just the right notes with this addition to the Animal Crossing franchise by concocting a game able to captivate both old and new fans of the franchise with a plethora of tweaks to the formula, making a game that feels fresher every day. The biggest change in New Leaf is the player’s role as the town mayor, letting the game burst with opportunities to shine above and beyond its predecessors.
It is evident that the developers at Nintendo have chosen to handle this game with grace and dignity, offering new experiences rather than simply porting the previous game to the 3DS as they did with moving Wild World from the DS to the Wii and slapping on the title City Folk; New Leaf is different in all the right ways. As the mayor, you are now given greater control of your town. Town ordinances allow you to alter the type of town you wish to run, with each ordinance revolving around the different ways you may enjoy playing Animal Crossing. Some people enjoy dousing their town in flowers and greenery, while others may enjoy fishing and catching bugs for big money late into the next day. Personally, I have my town, aptly named Guatever, set to the Night Owl ordinance, so stores close later than usual and my animal neighbors roam about way past midnight, although they get up a little later in the mornings, probably with hangovers.
At the heart of it all, however, the basic mechanics of Animal Crossing remain prevalent: catching and selling fish and bugs, filling up your museum, expanding your home, collecting furniture and outfits, and doing favors for your neighbors. Fortunately, the animal villagers are more lenient this time around, refraining from asking for a piece of furniture that is likely nowhere to be fou– Son of a bitch, I literally just remembered right now that Bill the duck wanted to come over to my house at around noon. The time is now 6 PM.
But, I digress. Veterans and newcomers to the series can expect more strange and often hilarious banter from the villagers. Also, as a staple of the series, you can still change some of their catchphrases for them, turning their innocent dialogue into something as awful as your dirty little mind can make it. It’s tempting, it’s hilarious, it’s Animal Crossing. You can’t blame me. When else would I have the chance to have a cat look me dead in the eyes and say “I’m pregnant again”?
In terms of design, Animal Crossing: New Leaf has been given a fancier texture treatment, making its simple, cartoony visuals slightly more life-like, making it even easier to immerse yourself in this world. From the grains of sand to the fur on Tom Nook’s head, the details mixed with the 3DS’ 3-D effects make it easy on the eyes. Although apparently, I just have special eyes that let me play with the 3-D all the way up with no consequences. Please, don’t try it if it hurts your eyes, but if you can do it, by all means, do so.
The music is once again the beautiful ribbon holding the whole package together. For every hour of the day, a different song plays, each one pleasant and appropriate for the time of day. My personal favorite is the song that plays at 7 PM, employing a tone and melody that is both alien and familiar to the series, that is an effective representation for New Leaf’s significant departure from the rest of the series.
New Leaf may improve upon its predecessors in nearly every way, but that doesn’t mean it will finally reel in the more impatient gamers who always hated waiting every day for changes to take full effect. In this case, construction often takes several days to be completed. However, if you really hate that, you could still time travel by means of adjusting your internal 3DS clock, but don’t think that won’t come without any consequences. Like some sort of Nintendo wizardry, the game knows when you have been fiddling with the time; your flowers and turnips will wilt and weeds will sprout all across your town. But if you still feel like doing that to see everything the game has to offer as soon as possible, go right on ahead, but it probably won’t be nearly as rewarding as it could be.
It took me approximately one month to unlock about 90% of the stores and locations available to me, which is when I decided I had seen enough. It may have taken a while, but it’s such an awesome feeling to wander through my town and see the fruits of my labor, both figuratively and literally. One of my proudest achievements remains the forest I have grown in parts of my town, especially the one that anyone must go through to reach a fountain I built. As the days went by, more and more content became available, but of course, it wasn’t cheap; Tom Nook drives a hard bargain. Still, it felt as if the game was blossoming for the first few weeks as I noticed the game getting progressively better and better with more to do every day. In no time at all, I realized I got much more than my money’s worth. Suffice to say, this game is huge.
For those that have completed their daily errands, your time in the town doesn’t have to be over for the day. The tropical island makes a return from the original Animal Crossing game on the Nintendo GameCube (or Animal Forest on Japanese N64s), giving players a much speedier way to make money. Time stands still on the island as the seasons never change and expensive sharks and beetles are plentiful all year round, making it the best place to grind when you feel like just playing for the hell of it. Plus, what other game gives you the chance to literally stuff your pockets full of deadly sharks?
Fortunately, you don’t have to go hunting for sharks on your own. Multiplayer returns once again, as a flawed, but fun experience. Unfortunately, the drop-in-drop-out element only works when strictly entering or exiting the town of your own volition, so on various occasions when I’ll be playing with three other friends and my internet decides to crap out for no reason (because Comcast likes to do that every now and then), everyone gets disconnected and loses their progress as well. The host, or the person whose town everyone is visiting, can save the game for everyone whenever they want, but you don’t want to have to be anxiously saving every few minutes. However, when everything is running smoothly and everyone’s internet connections are being polite, the game runs smoothly with minimal lag.
The majority of the game’s features also remain open while playing with friends, meaning you can all go to Club LOL together to get loose and be the hottest bitches in the club. The island is also available where everyone can partake in mini-games together, ranging from scavenger hunts, bug catching contests, mazes, and much more. Luckily, they’re all plenty of fun. Somehow the game actually seems to work the best online while in one of these mini-games, which is very helpful for the more time sensitive ones. Although it should be noted that mini-games are as hectic as the game will get, which might be perfect if at any point you’re craving a little action, either on your own or with friends.
New Leaf also has the benefit of the 3DS’ StreetPass technology for an additional feature. By using StreetPass, you can enter the homes of other players you pass by on the street, either admiring how terrible their taste in furniture might be or judging them for having a nicer wallpaper than you. As luck would have it, you are allowed to order any of the purchasable furniture that inhabits their homes, making it much easier to build up your collections. I totally ordered several things from Reggie Fils-Aime’s house when it was shared to all New Leaf owners across SpotPass. But anyway, here, you will also be able to see their player card, which includes a picture of their character and their achievements, which come in the form of badges, such as catching 50% of all fish in the game or being a good samaritan to your fellow villagers. Many of these features, however, are not available on the very first day you play the game. I like to think New Leaf is like a wonderful hot tub. As you are sinking your body slowly, bit by bit, into the steaming hot water, you are eventually enveloped in warm, relaxing, goodness.
In all, Animal Crossing: New Leaf is once again one of the most deceptively vast and personal games this generation. As the game unravels more and more to you as your time in the town progresses, you would be hard pressed not to marvel at how much the developers at Nintendo have stuffed into one game. It’s because of all this content that New Leaf can be personalized on such a grand level, even according to how and when you prefer to play. Complete with a large variety of new features and revamped graphics and music, New Leaf feels like the definitive Animal Crossing experience. While its 24-hour clock might bother less patient gamers, it can be bypassed, but not without consequences. Not many games allow you to play in such a variety of ways. Beyond its core elements, the game is bursting with a charm, elegance, and a sense of humor that is hard to ignore every day. Simply put, Animal Crossing: New Leaf is an utter joy to play and any 3DS owner would be foolish to let its adorable visage keep them from trying it out.
[+Tons of content][+More to do and see every day][+Superb personalization][+Hundreds of NPCs with unique personalities][+Funny dialogue][+Excellent, revamped graphics and soundtrack][+Great use of StreetPass][+Island for grinding][+Plenty of fun mini-games to play with friends][+Play it however you'd like][+Stands out above its predecessors in a big way][-A lost connection means everyone gets disconnected in multiplayer]
As promised, here is a slideshow filled with pictures of my immature misadventures in Animal Crossing: New Leaf. Enjoy.