Review: Animal Crossing – New Leaf / Platform: Nintendo 3DS / Release Date: Out Now
Animal Crossing: New Leaf is genuinely hard to review. Part of the reason as to why is because of the game’s real-time clock, meaning things such as holiday celebrations or seasonal bugs and fish are off limits and must be unlocked as real days go by. But the bigger reason is because at its core, New Leaf is a deeply personal experience.
Back in the days of the GameCube, Animal Crossing was a game that broke new ground. The aforementioned real-time clock meant that the game was technically always playing, even if you weren’t. If you started up your game after three months of not playing, you’d notice that some of your animal neighbours might have moved away and cockroaches littered your home, while weeds and dead flowers scattered your once beautiful landscape. The world changed and it didn’t need you to do so.
The game also introduced an insanely addictive collecting aspect, turning you into an absolute hoarder. From furniture to clothes, to fish to fossils, there were tons upon tons of virtual items for you to get your hands on.
The series really hit its stride with Wild World for the DS in 2006, taking all the fun of the original game on the go and introducing some minor online play. In contrast, the 2008 Wii entry of the series, Let's Go to the City, is often viewed as a disappointment for completely retreading the same ground of its predecessors without offering anything different.
Learning from the mistakes of Let's Go to the City, the series has quite literally turned over a new leaf with this latest incarnation on the 3DS. Players are now put in the role of the mayor rather than just a normal villager, meaning you can now build structures such as benches or bridges with the help of public funding, or enact ordinances that cause shops and villagers to wake up earlier or stay up later, to help work the game around your schedule (you can also enact an ordinance that boosts sales of items but causes a higher tax increase, or an ordinance that helps keep your town looking beautiful by having residents plant and water flowers).
There are other new tweaks to the formula as well. You can now buy trousers or skirts (and yes, you’re free to cross dress in the world of New Leaf if you want to), and a visit to a tropical island allows you to play mini-games. The games are more fun to play with a group of friends, but can be played solo as well. Your reward for completing them is medals which you can use to buy exclusive items at the island’s souvenir shop, such as the wetsuit which grants you the ability to swim in the ocean.
There are new villagers and new gameplay opportunities, but it’s still the same old Animal Crossing fun—which isn’t really a bad thing. Your enjoyment will come from donating fish, fossils, insects and paintings to the museum, trying to own every article of clothing and piece of furniture, all while interacting with your fellow neighbours and building a bond between the two of you.
Whether you’re new to the series or a veteran, there’s enough new content in New Leaf to justify a purchase and qualify it as a must-own title for anyone with a 3DS. It may be good to be the king, but New Leaf shows that it’s even better to be the mayor. And for that, it gets…