Published by: Nintendo
Genre: Life simulation
What works: Plethora of customization options | Watching your town come alive each day | Effective online sharing features
What doesn’t work: No voice chat
The definitive Animal Crossing experience
Creating personal experiences is one of the main focal points in the Animal Crossing series. Each previous title has had you move into a village full of animals and live your life among them, running errands, furnishing your home, and discovering what each new day brings. Its sandbox-oriented format means you can spend each day doing whatever you want, whether it is befriending your neighbors, designing clothes to wear, or fishing for sea bass. Animal Crossing: New Leaf continues with this same format but offers so many more tools to play with and even more ways to create your own unique and individual memories.
The core aspect of the Animal Crossing games still remains intact, so you can expect to play a game that develops at your own pace. As soon as you start playing, you’ll move into your new town and be forced to live in a tent until you can afford a house. This is one of the initial challenges the game throws your way that lets you tackle it however you want. You can sell the fruit you pick off your trees, the fish you catch, or the furniture your villagers give to you for completing tasks for them. Regardless of how you do things in your village, you’ll always feel in charge of your own decisions.
To add to this sense of power, New Leaf makes you the mayor of your own village, giving you additional options on how to spend your day but also more ways to customize your experience. You can beautify your town by adding benches, lamp posts, and many other public works projects and choose whether to add optional buildings like a café or a police station. You can also enlist ordinances that affect how your residents live their lives. Want your villagers to wake up early or sleep late to match your own real-life schedule? Done. These simple additions not only make the game feel more robust, but they let you tailor it to match your playing style.
Being on a handheld means your town is accessible at any time and any place. We managed to spend over 100 hours within our first three weeks in our town of Sputato simply because it was too easy to open up our 3DS with the intention of playing for a few minutes but ending up playing for hours instead. The game’s clock runs parallel to yours, so you’ll find that shops close at certain times and some villagers sleep later than others. Everything in the game takes time to complete, so you’ll need to wait real-life hours and days for things to be built, deliveries to be made, or fruits to grow. Holidays are also celebrated in the game, so you’ll have plenty of reasons to check up on your town each day to see what’s new.
While the game is a great relaxing single-player experience, its robust online features makes all your efforts even more rewarding since you can easily share your designs and creations with others. You can visit your friends’ towns as long as you have their friend code, but to make communication easier, New Leaf introduces a chat feature that lets you send messages to friends simply playing the game. You can’t voice chat, but this instant messaging system is something all 3DS games should implement as it makes communicating with your friends a breeze. Hosting or visiting other towns is a seamless experience and you won’t run into delays even if you have three other friends over.
Additionally, New Leaf also introduces a new way to visit someone’s town via its Dream Suite feature, which uploads your town’s data to the servers and lets others visit yours at any time. This lets you share your town with people all over the world you may not know without worrying about friend codes or whether they will step on your flowers or chop down your trees. What’s more, the 3DS’s StreetPass feature also allows you to send over a saved model of your house to someone else’s game, giving them a peek into your home and letting players purchase furniture you have. These added features give the game a sense of community and give you more reason to be proud of the town you’re building.
New Leaf also features competitive mini-games you can play with players online at your town’s island paradise. These aren’t anything to rave about, but provide a release from the game’s mellower sandbox gameplay. Players are pit against each other in timed games like digging for fossils, popping balloons, or catching specific fish. You’re rewarded with medals that you can use to purchase items with, so not only do get a distraction from your daily musings as a mayor but they also serve a purpose if you’re looking to purchase special furniture you can only get on the island.
A game like Animal Crossing: New Leaf can take over a year to fully explore, and even after you’ve met every special holiday visitor or completed all of your town’s upgrades, you’ll still want to come back for more. Playing it daily is its own reward as you’ll discover new furniture, conversations, and things you might have overlooked even months into your game. New Leaf isn’t a game that can be beaten, but instead is a game you’ll want to take your time with and enjoy. After all, you never know what memories your new town will bring.
A download code was provided to us by Nintendo for the purpose of this review. We spent a total of 112 hours in the span of about 3 weeks playing the game. You can also visit our town of Sputato and see how it’s doing by entering our Dream Address 5900-2007-1102.