Animal Crossing: New Leaf Review
Developer: Nintendo EAD Group No. 2
Console: Nintendo 3DS
- ESRB: E
- PEGI: 3
- ACB: G
- CERO: A
Life simulation games can achieve success through providing the player as much customizable content as possible or glorifying the mundanities they might experience themselves in real-life. Animal Crossing as a whole tries to provide a balance between the two, leaving in what can be manageable as a fantasy versus the hardships of reality. With the addition of being mayor of the town, New Leaf maintains this fantasy while still offering some challenge. Keeping the player’s house in order is now a microcosm compared to the mayoral duties the player must undertake.
Right off the bat, the position of mayor is thrust onto the player whether they like it or not. But they must, because it comes with all the amenities included with being a high profile citizen, such as a place to live at very little cost. Nook, who’s exclusively in charge of real estate this time, does not have the player work part-time at his establishment for a measly fraction of the down payment. Instead, the player must sell whatever he or she can find and buy a piece of equipment for fishing or bug-catching. If unenlightened, they are encouraged to talk to their secretary, Isabelle, whose advice gives not only words of wisdom, but equipment that their general store may not currently have in stock that day.
After paying off the debt, Isabelle will then need to authorize the player for official mayorship. This is where Tom Nook’s errands would be obsolete, as it requires increasing the player’s approval rate by not only mingling with the villagers, but also keeping the town clean, donating to the museum, and contributing to the flea market. This allows the player to learn the tricks of the trade without being walked through each step of the way. Isabelle will inform the player of the town’s priorities, but they must use their own discretion and prior knowledge to resolve those concerns.
The aforementioned flea market is another venue for shopping and selling, except it allows the player control over the price of their products when set up to be sold to other villagers. While most furniture to be bought is more expensive than in the general store, it’s a good place to get as many furniture as possible because the general store sells very little to begin with. Having lots of furniture and clothing along with selling lots of money’s worth of items to the flea market will allow the player to create custom furniture from the flea market’s owner’s husband.
In addition to allowing the different types of leg-wear, there is more that can be customizable than in any Animal Crossing iteration. While the player is still limited to the grid-based drawing with only 15 colors to choose from at one time, they can customize their palette and still be able to make some detailed designs. Overall, along with the customization of the town with public works and ordinances after officially becoming mayor, there is no shortage of options in how the player can alter the town’s aesthetic and lifestyle. Players even have a choice in which villagers are allowed to live in their town with a certain public work if the opportunity arises.
In keeping with fantasizing the position as mayor, the player will eventually be invited to an island paradise for getaway vacations anytime they want. In addition to fish and insects not seen on the home land, there is the option to go diving for sea creatures underwater while wearing a bathing suit. Getting a personal wetsuit requires playing mini games on island tours for medals, which is the island’s currency. The games themselves are fast-paced and the centerpiece for multiplayer connectivity. The reward of medals is incentive enough to play them alone, but they are a good change of pace doing them by oneself. After getting enough medals for the wetsuit, the player is no longer confined to the land and can explore the waters as if there were no boundaries in their town anymore.
As a life simulator, there is not much action going on. The spectacle lies in the atmosphere and making progress over a long period of time. In a way, it’s like the video game mechanic equivalent to a Bildungsroman. This game wants the player to stop and smell the roses, but also to learn from doing so, which isn’t necessarily something that can be done in real-life. After playing the game every day for an entire year, the player will have a lofty pedestal to both figuratively and literally look over their town as mayor. Thinking about the passed mistakes and overcoming them is what makes the biggest impact from New Leaf. This is how taking it slowly and not playing for extended periods of time will achieve this effect.
- Beautiful style; no more dated, pixelated, polygonal graphics
- Many new features than ever before
- StreetPass options and new multiplayer modes
- Intuitive interface with the touch screen
- Huge breadth of customization
- Additional stores may take awhile to unlock if requirements are unknown
While City Folk's addition of the city area only removed the action from the player’s town, New Leaf streamlines it by having only one store on hand to easily sell items and removes the clutter of the market places into a nearby but separate area. The action is in the player’s town, as it is theirs to change as they see fit. If fans missed out on City Folk, whether intentionally or not, New Leaf is sure to be their true sequel to Wild World or the GameCube game.
Value Verdict: New for $34.99 on the Nintendo 3DS