Animal Crossing: New Leaf Review – Party like it’s 2002!
The original Animal Crossing for the Nintendo GameCube, or Nintendo 64 in Japan, left its mark on the gaming world by introducing many young gamers to a fun life-simulation experience. Allowing players to do year-round activities and celebrate holidays, the game nestled its way into the hearts of many young players. After two sequels, the series looked to be headed downhill as the third game received more mixed reviews than the previous installments. Now, with New Leaf being the fourth game in the series, expectations were high, meaning the chance of disappointing were even higher.
The game starts out reminiscent to the original, with your character riding on a train answering questions. What’s new is that on the train you can pick your town map from a few options. This added customization, as well as the inclusion of more clothing styles, is a welcome addition. There are more additions from previous incarnations, many minor including a graphics update and the addition of hanging furniture.
The game, like its predecessors, is not story driven, with most of its enjoyment coming from daily tasks in an effort to improve your city. For the first time in the series, the game allows you to play as mayor of your town, which helps you improve the city in more ways than ever before. The lack of focused story might sound uninteresting, but it’s entirely the opposite. Each day collecting coins, catching fish and buying furniture is a day well spent in the town of your choice.
The beginning of the game is slow, with you first trying to garner 10,000 bells to put a down payment for your house. Around the same time, you also need to raise your town approval to 100%. Both can take a while, with most bells being gained through the selling of bugs and fish. Despite being time consuming, both goals are made better with townsfolk who often talk to you and gossip about other animals in the city. After the house is built and the loan is paid off, you can continue to expand the house and meet new townsfolk. With each expansion, the loan grows in price, forcing you to work harder to pay it off. There’s no rush to pay the loans, so you can enjoy the game at a casual pace. If you feel the need to rush, though, shaking seemingly empty trees is a good way to find bells, and beehives.
The game’s graphics look beautiful, especially for a handheld game. It looks similar to the original Animal Crossing, but crisper and less blocky. It’s difficult to tell on the 3DS XL that the pixels are being stretched, making the game still look great despite being on a screen much larger than intended. New Leaf’s 3D capabilities add to the game, but are not required. The 3D adds depth to the game and makes trees, bugs and other objects pop out of screen. The 3D is a welcome addition, but using it too much for some can cause headaches, so be sure to use it sparingly if that’s a fear.
One issue is that you can easily lose progress as the 3DS’s power button is close to the base of the right thumb. This issue is more with the 3DS and varying hand size, but it would be nice if there was a form of frequent, or semi-frequent, auto-saving. This would save players from the occasional stress of powering down the system accidentally. For those with smaller hands, this most likely isn’t even an issue, but an auto-save feature would have been a pleasant addition.
Also, there does come a time when many of the characters dialogue become stale. Depending on the season and time of day, most townsfolk will have something new to say, but the same can’t be said for store owners. Some store owners, like the museum owner and Timmy and Tommy Nook, say the same thing day and night for a very long time. The biggest problem with this is that with some can be long blocks of text that can be an inconvenience to the gamer.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf can’t help but remind you of the original game, but that isn’t a bad thing. All those great past memories, like making friends and playing hide and seek with other characters come alive once more. The game is made for both children and adults, and the nostalgia it provides is bountiful. Even after over 10 years, the Animal Crossing series is still the cream of the crop.
What do you think? Leave a comment.