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Monday, December 9, 2013

3DS Review: Animal Crossing: New Leaf

Back in 2002, Nintendo unleashed a new IP upon gamers that was unlike anything else it had previously released. There were no space pirates to fight, no princesses to be rescued and no lord of all evil that needed to be sealed away. Instead, there was simply life to live. Animal Crossing on the GCN somehow made the most mundane acts of every day life boundlessly fun and enjoyable. Life was what you choose to make of it. The third game in the series, Animal Crossing: City Folk for the Wii brought with it very minimal updates compared to it's predecessor, Animal Crossing: Wild World, which was the series' first portable outing. City Folk was still an entertaining game but compared to Wild Wild, it was merely a decent update and it left many feeling cold with it's slim new features. Animal Crossing: New Leaf is the second game in the series to be released on a handheld and while a lot of things are still the same, a plethora of things have also changed and as just about any 3DS owner will tell you, the changes made in this game are most definitely for the better.

The biggest new addition to New Leaf is that you can assume the role of mayor, provided you're the first player to start up a game file. Through a case of mistaken identity, you'll be taking over the mayoral duties of Tortimer, who has retired. Being mayor may sound like quite the daunting task, but this is Animal Crossing we're talking about here. Your approval rating will start out low, but soon enough it will rise to where all the townsfolk adore you and you'll be able to enact town ordinances and public works projects (more on those two things in a bit.) Your secretary Isabelle is there to assist you every step of the way and you don't even have to dress the part. You can walk in to the office with a bunny costume on still get respect. Heck, you can go days, weeks without doing a single mayoral activity and no one will question your work ethics. Real life mayors wish their job could be this easy.

Townsfolk will always let you know when
they want a new public works project.
A fountain and a water pump are just two
of the numerous public works projects
you can build in your town.

As mayor you have quite a bit of muscle that can be flexed. Public works projects can be set in motion to be displayed around town. These can range from more small scale things like a blue bench, a yield sign or something more grand like a pyramid or chair sculpture. Some villagers will even approach you and make suggestions on projects that they'd like see come to fruition. However, these projects don't pay themselves. Each public works project costs a set amount of bells to build and they won't become a reality until the funds are paid up. Your villagers and other players can donate bells to help reach project goals, but the villagers usually offer pocket change, so more often than not, you'll be the one footing the bill. The bulk of these public works projects don't change the overall nature of your town, but it is nonetheless, a very welcome new addition. You haven't lived in Animal Crossing until you have a log bench to sit on while sipping Brewster's coffee.

You can greatly change how your town runs as mayor by enacting town ordinances. There are only four of them, but each one has a significant affect on how your town will operate. The early bird ordinance has shops closing early, but opening early as well. This is great if you happen to be a morning person. The villagers will also go to bed earlier as a result. On the opposite end is the night owl ordinance. Using the night owl ordinance makes shops open a bit later but they also stay open later. Townsfolk also go to sleep later so you'll have plenty of critters to go and visit if you're playing long into the night. The bell boom ordinance makes everything cost 20% more than the usual price but on the plus side, you get 20% more on items you sell, which is great if you're looking to get rich a bit quicker. Finally, the lovely town will keep your town free of weeds, less trash will be found while fishing and the you'll have far less flowers dying on you and way more flowers around your town thanks to everyone's inner gardener coming to life.  

You can sell furniture you aren't using at
Re-Tail and set your own price.
Buy enough fortune cookies to fill your
home with Nintendo themed furniture.

Like previous games, you can always chat it up with your neighbors. They'll frequently ask you to fetch fruit for them, deliver packages to other neighbors, they'll send you mail and in turn you can send them letters and gifts. You can also drop in on them when they happen to be at home and sometimes they'll ask if they can go to your place to hang out. On occasion, they'll just drop by your place out of the blue. As fun as it is to converse with the townsfolk, you'll often find yourself reading the same conversations over and over. But even so, you're still bound to have more than a few townsfolk you like over others and end up going out of your way to talk to them. If one of your neighbors talks about moving away, you can stop them, but if you figure it's time for them to see the world, you can always let them go.

Once you leave the housing area of your town, you may notice the shopping district, main street is, well, barren. The more you shop on main street, the more the shopping center will boom. Spend enough bells at Timmy and Tommy's Nookling Junction and they'll upgrade their store to a super market. Throw some more bells around and you'll get a shoe shop and a hair salon. Pass four of Gracie's fashion checks and she'll set up shop in your town, offering her wild (and expensive) clothing and furniture. It's very satisfying to see your town blossom.

Working part time at Brewsters is more
rewarding and more fun than slaving for
Tom Nook ever was.
From 8PM to 12AM on Saturdays, KK Slider
performs just like the good old days.
For all the changes made to New Leaf, one thing is the same as always and that is your housing situation. When you first arrive in town, you have no place to live. Someone's got to help you get going and if you've played any of the previous Animal Crossing games, I'm pretty sure you know where this is going. He may not work in retail business anymore but Tom Nook still helps you with your housing needs for the sole purpose of throwing you in debt to him. While it is nice that for the first time ever, you don't have to upgrade your home after paying off the initial loan, but what's the point of living in a closet when your home can be bigger than ever before? Six rooms total and even the outside can be customized. The outside customization are by far the cheapest but upgrading your home to the max amount of space on the inside is going to cost you and by cost you, I mean over 7 million bells. Thankfully, there are far better ways to make a lot of bells in New Leaf than in previous Animal Crossing games, but that won't stop you from heavily sighing when Nook gives you the ever increasing cost of those home upgrades. Just try not too spend too much time farming for bells as it kinda sucks the fun outta the game.

Much as you may loathe Nook (if you don't, you'll learn to), paying off your home in full is well worth the trouble because there is a plethora of goods to furnish your pad with. Many items from the previous games return like the classic furniture series but there's also new furniture sets like the modern wood set, the astro set and the sleek set. There are plenty of new Nintendo items to obtain but you'll have to use play coins to get them. Inside Timmy and Tommy's shop are fortune cookies, each with a lucky ticket that can be traded in for a Nintendo item. You may get a Triforce, a Blue Falcon, Majora's Mask, or the SS Dolphin. There are over 40 Nintendo items for Nintendo aficionados to collect and if you're anything like me, you may have one room in your home set aside solely to display all your Nintendo swag.

You can give your neighbors nice little
greetings and catch phrases like this
lovely gem.
Just like real life, sometimes your friends
will drop in on you without saying a word
in advance.

With there being so much more items to add to your catalog in New Leaf, the thought of trying to nab them all might overwhelm you. After all, what was once some of the more common items in previous games are now rare and cannot be purchased in your town and it can be more than a little annoying waiting for some of the more common furniture to be sold in your stores. By visiting the Happy Home Showcase you can visit the  homes of other New Leaf players that you may have crossed paths with through Street or Spot Pass. You can look through these homes and purchase any items that catch your fancy so long as they aren't rare or custom designed. These items cost a bit more, but visiting the HH Showcase is a great way to build up your catalog faster without having to actually visit a friend's town, although that is still doable.

Your animal pals have birthdays just as you
do and you can celebrate with them.
The neighbors usually have some pretty
interesting things to say.

The clunky interface from the last three Animal Crossing titles has sadly not been retired. You can stock up to nine pieces of fruit in one pile, but your tools, which you'll more than likely have on you at all times eat up six slots of pocket space and you can only carry fifteen things in your pockets at a time. That may seem like a lot, but between finding fossils, fishing and shopping, you'll find that your pockets can be filled up rather quickly.

The visual style is more or less than same from City Folk although it looks a touch smoother. New Leaf certainly isn't going to impress any graphics whores but the game would lose a great deal of it's charm if the graphics took on a realistic appearance. The quirky sounds seldom disappoint. Whether it's the near unintelligible gibberish of your villagers or Kapp'n serenading you with his songs on the trips back and forth to the Tropical Island, the audio in New Leaf is just as good as it's predecessors. KK Slider's songs are easier to gain access to since they are sold in Timmy and Tommy's shop, but you'll still want to catch him on Saturday nights at Club LOL for those songs that can't be bought.

It may be on a portable system, but Animal Crossing: New Leaf truly is the biggest game in the series offering more to do than all the other games that came before it. Being the mayor allows you to influence your town to a degree and the customization options are all but limitless. This is one of those rare games that you can turn on for a few minutes or a few hours and get some enjoyment out of. With the game functioning in real time, there's always something to see and do. There's a whole new life waiting for you in New Leaf if you're willing to live it and from this reviewer's experiences, it really is a life worth living.

SCORE: 9.0

1 comment:

Adam said...

I really enjoyed New Leaf as well, fixed most of my issues from Wild World