The world of Animal Crossing has a special place in many people’s hearts. If you own a Nintendo console, then it’s a possibility that you have been subject to Tom Nook’s constant debt collecting, and harassment from villagers who haven’t seen you in a day or two. It’s like a living and breathing tamagotchi, just without the constant need to feed your pet to ensure it doesn’t die.
There’s a new addition to the series on the scene though, and it arrived last month in the UK. Animal Crossing New Leaf is like Animal Crossing Wild World for the DS, the only difference is, it’s better.
A slight twist on the original plot of you moving into the neighbourhood, instantly being plunged into debt my Tom Nook and being thrust into the ‘Lets be friends!’ scene, New Leaf instead sees you taking on the role of the new Town Mayor. Mayor Tortimer has clearly done his time, and is ready to pass the responsibility onto someone else. As Mayor, you have control over a lot of different things, and this is what really makes New Leaf a fantastic, and tailored experience. You have full control over town ordinances, which allow you to declare whether you want the shops to open late or early. Your animal residents will react to whichever ordinance you have in place, waking up and staying out later if you want the ‘Night owl’ ordinance, or getting up early, and going to bed early if you have the ‘Early bird’ ordinance in place. This really helps players to pick when they can play their game depending on their own lifestyle.
The next important role as a mayor is to build as many new things as you can. These are called Public Works Projects, and the townsfolk will constantly be suggesting new things that you should build. Of course, it’s not as simple as saying you want something built, it all has to be paid for. Every time you start a new public works project, a small creature named Lloid sets himself up at the site of the project and all but begs for donations from you and everyone else. Brilliant idea, I hear you shout, but is it? These projects aren’t cheap, and the animals in your town may very well be more than a little tight with their spare bells. So who ends up forking out the extra cash? Yep, that’s right; the mayor. There are a lot of public works projects to complete, and coming in at anywhere between 30,000 and 400,000 bells, it’s a tall order for just one person, but needs must.
The main purpose of Animal Crossing New Leaf is fairly simple; get as much money as you can to develop your town, expand your house and make as many animal friends as possible. On the surface it’s childs play, but it can be much deeper the longer you play it. It’s not just a simple case of collecting bugs, fish and fossils. These only serve to provide you with the bells that you need in order to set the ball rolling on public works projects and make your house the perfect example of a Happy Home. Animal residents will ask you for help with hunting down a certain bug and will always reward you, and they will even send you gifts when they’ve been to visit your house.
There is also so much more to do in New Leaf than there ever has been before. Main Street is where most of your shops are kept, and through time and spending of bells, these shops will eventually expand, and new shops will open. This is a fantastic way to keep the player interested, as this was an issue that Wild World had; everything was already there. It is exciting and intriguing when a fresh building site crops up on main street, and really adds a thrill to otherwise potentially monotonous gameplay.
Animal townsfolk are also much easier to interact with in New Leaf, tending to be far less clingy. In Wild World, if you made an appointment for an animal to come and visit you, and you forgot, you would never live it down. New Leaf is much more forgiving. While it’s still not a good idea to forget, you’re not attacked with disappointment every time you have to do something in the real world and forget about your little visitor. This makes playing the game much easier, and far less guilt-ridden.
As Mayor, you also have the ability to create your very own town tune. This will play every time you speak to an animal, so it’s important to make a little jingle that you’re not going to mind hearing every few minutes. The background music is also relaxing, and can really help you escape from the world for a long time if you’re out catching bugs, or sat along the shore fishing for exotic sea creatures.
KK Slider also makes a reappearance, but this time as DJ KK. He’s not available from the very beginning of the game, but you’ll soon be able to see his live sets once again, and have a little dance with your animal friends late into the evening. Other familiar names and faces will also crop up the longer you play, such as the angry Resetti, there to tell you off if you accidentally turn off without saving.
The character models have improved since previous titles in the series, featuring taller and more anatomically correct players. It’s impossible to say life-like, because that would be a lie. Because of this increase in proportion however, clothes designs and your own custom designs are much easier to see, and much more defined than in previous titles. You can even buy socks and shoes for your character at a later date, which is a simple and appealing addition.
It still has a very childlike feel to it, but that’s part of the charm. Video games aren’t all about blood, guts and gore, and just because this game has vibrant colours and no violence (aside from those pesky bugs) doesn’t make it a kids game. You would be mistaken for looking at Animal Crossing New Leaf and assuming that it would be dumbed down for a younger audience, and while the dialogue between characters is hardly complex, players of any age can enjoy this game.
New Leaf makes excellent use of the online capabilities available on the 3DS, utilising Spot Pass as well as Street Pass in a very effective manner. If you Street Pass someone with a copy of Animal Crossing, a copy of their home will be made available in the Happy Home Showcase in your town. The Happy Home Showcase is just as it sounds; a living gallery of other players homes for you to visit and admire. The best part about this? Any home that you visit in the HHS will allow you to purchase any item you feel like from a catalogue. Really like that funky bed someone’s rocking in their spare room? Simply order it from the catalogue. All items in the HHS have a slight markup in comparison to if they were purchased from the shop in town, but it’s certainly worth it if you’re collecting a furniture set and someone has just the item you need.
The addition of what is called the Dream Suite is also a fantastic idea that allows you to roam freely around other players towns without changing anything. You see, the Dream Suite puts you into a dream version of other players towns, where you’re free to cause as much chaos as humanly possible, without it having any detrimental affect on said town. You can also upload a version of your town, so that other players can visit you. The only downside to the Dream Suite is that nothing you pick up in your dreams can be brought back to the real world with you. You can spend as much time as you want harvesting perfect fruit from Nintendoland’s dream town, but none of it will come back with you, which makes it all seem rather fruitless (pardon the pun).
If you have a friend who shares your love of Animal Crossing New Leaf, then they can also visit your town for some fun and games as long as your train station gate is open. It is possible to leave your gate open and allow anyone to enter your town, but it is not always advisable. Unlike the Dream Suite, if someone visits your town while your gate is open and chops down all your trees; that’s it, they’re gone for good until you grow new ones.
Animal Crossing New Leaf just keeps getting better the more you play it. There are so many secrets to be discovered that it would be unfair to reveal any more in this review, nor is there enough space. Unlike previous instalments, it doesn’t feel as static, and there is always something to work towards, whether that be filling the museum, or expanding the super store. The social features the 3DS bring to the plate also help make it an unforgettable experience overall, and anyone who loves games such as Harvest Moon or Rune Factory need to get their hands on this game.
My dream address is 7800-2228-8347