Animal Crossing: New Leaf

By Jorge Figueiredo - July 18th, 2013

Please note that images are 2D representations of the 3D shots.

I made a vow a long time ago that I would be wary of any game from the highly addictive Animal Crossing franchise. I swore to the heavens and to all that was holy that any box bearing those two words would never cross the threshold of my dwelling. Well, my friends, I am here today to tell you that, thanks to the wonder of digital downloading, Nintendo’s Animal Crossing: New Leaf has, like an insidious ninja, found its way onto my 3DS – and now? Well, now I am hooked like a helpless fish on a line bound for the shores of Thumbton.

Animal Crossing: New Leaf is the latest game in the cute, life-simulating franchise, in which you are given the task of managing a small town. Oh, but there is so much more to the game than simple job of being mayor. Why, there is wildlife to capture, a home to build, friends to make, and turnips to buy and sell. New Leaf is like a veritable clown car that endlessly dispenses surprises; some pleasant, some puzzling – but all fun.

You begin the game sitting on a train. Through a questionnaire, the game logs your desired characteristics; at the same time, it uses a mysterious algorithm to determine what your character will look like. When it is all said and done, you are deposited at the train station of the town that you have “created”, ready to assume the role of town leader for some unknown reason – it is overwhelming (to say the least). Being the mayor of a town -when you were simply expecting to be a resident- is a complicated affair (no matter what you read about being mayor of Toronto), as there are a lot of jobs that need to be done to keep everything moving.

Sometimes it’s nice to be the king (or queen).

The beginning of practically any task in Animal Crossing is usually just the tip of the iceberg, for whatever that activity happens to be. There are so many facets to everything that it boggles the mind. Take wildlife collection, for instance. Whether you are collecting insects with your butterfly net or catching fish with your fishing rod (obviously, you must first purchase the net and the rod to use them), you can choose to donate your specimens to the museum (if they don’t already have them), give them away to other residents, or sell them for a profit (you can also do this with fossils). However, there are so many different types of creatures to find, depending on: where you are (your town, someone else’s, a river or the ocean), what time of the day it is, and what season you are currently experiencing.

In fact, the real-time nature of Animal Crossing gives the game some legs, pretty much guaranteeing massive re-play value once the player commits, due to the number of variables at play in any given situation. The best part is that one doesn’t have to spend every waking hour playing Animal Crossing to enjoy it; but playing often gives you great benefits. For instance, let’s say that I play for a half hour at night, and catch some valuable fish. I might have to wait until morning to sell them (if the shops have closed), which means that I should probably play for at least a few minutes the next day to ensure that I get some sort of income for my effort (and that if I wait for an extra hour or two, I can sell them at the store that gives me more buck for my bang). Animal Crossing: New Leaf is definitely something that is far greater than the sum of its parts, and little tidbits like the aforementioned selling strategy will effectively grab you and never let go.

There is something for everyone when it comes to decorating.

The longevity of the game is also due to its wide appeal across various player demographics. For example, if the player is someone who enjoys personalizing their games, they can continuously customise their home, and can possibly end up displaying it online for other people to see (and order furniture from). Players can also create designs to be used for all different kinds of clothing (I have seen some really impressive designs), and they can share them with others. If the player is someone who values social interaction, let’s not forget that one can visit the cities of other people, whether through the internet or locally. Not only is this an attractive prospect for a player, it also means that one can capitalize on importing new items directly from other people instead of waiting for them to appear in their own shops. These are just a few aspects of the game that people can enjoy.

I think that one of the most awesome aspects of Animal Crossing: New Leaf is a distinct lack of penalization for not playing all the time. A lot of us lead busy lives, and the last thing we need is to get stressed out about something that’s supposed to be relaxing. New Leaf is light-hearted and fun, offering a beautiful escape from our real-world stressors. I was at a party recently and the discussion turned to Animal Crossing. Everyone talked about what they were doing in the game. Some people were clearly far more advanced than others; but no matter how little someone played, their voice was welcome in the discussion because the important thing was that they played the game. Period. Unlike other games that force you to play unless you wish to lose ground (or even your in-game life), Animal Crossing: New Leaf actually brings people together.

I tried to think of another game that I have played that offers a similar level of deep involvement and immersion, so that I could draw a comparison. Those who have never played an Animal Crossing game will wonder if I am on some kind of drugs when they read the answer: Skyrim (without the combat). Those of you who have played both games will know exactly what I am talking about. Both titles feature an overarching goal, with tons of smaller quests. There are other games that have these characteristics – but they feel static. Playing New Leaf is a far more dynamic experience. It is pretty much a given that your style of play will evolve as the game reveals new surprises; and I’m not talking about paltry bonuses that are tacked on to your existing game session – I’m referring to entirely brand new features that add completely new ways to play.

The best mayors wear sunglasses. Just ask the mayor of Thumbton!

The graphics are the game are simple, yet elegant. Sounds and music are just as cartoonish, yet charming. In-game activity affects the way things look, feel and sound in New Leaf. If you forget to water a new plant, you can count on it looking wilted fairly soon; run too much and you will wear out a path in the grass; most objects that you buy for your house are interactive in some way; even the sound of your footfalls changes depending on the terrain that you run over. Animal Crossing: New Leaf presents an unmistakably large environment that is very much alive and never stops growing.

I could spend a lot of time writing what would amount to a large book on the subject of how awesome Animal Crossing: New Leaf is. But I won’t. One of the reasons that I won’t is because I think it’s important for 3DS owners to pick it up for themselves to experience the game in their own way. However, the more important reason is that I’m actually jonesing to go hunt for some beetles so that I can sell them for a profit and this review is seriously cutting into my netting time. Do yourself a favour: get New Leaf, enjoy the hell out of it forever, and send me a thank you note if you ever find yourself away from your 3DS. Or, if you want, you can thank me by visiting Thumbton (1977-0175-5633) and bringing me fruit.

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