Review: Take a vacation from real life in Animal Crossing: New Leaf
The Animal Crossing games, despite their largely un-gamelike nature, have managed to find a massive following. While it may seem like it wants to appeal to casual gamers, the hardcore crowd has embraced this village-living simulation. While City Folk might have made some fans a little irritated by a lack of gameplay innovation, New Leaf seems to be brimming with new content that's going to ensure you always have something to do. You are, after all, the Mayor.
That's right, through some confusion, the animal villagers of your new town mistake you for the Mayor. Right from the get-go, you'll be planting the village tree, making acquaintances, deciding on a plot on which to plop your new house, and, of course, starting a whole new pool of debt to keep those housing upgrades coming.
In that sense, New Leaf still offers that familiar gameplay that series fans have already come to expect. After all, why fix what's not broken? However, New Leaf comes with a slew of new activities, doing away with much of the tedium of past games.
You'll only start with a few shops like Nookling Junction, Nook's Homes, the Able Sisters clothing shop, and, of course, the Museum. After you progress your town further, you'll be able to visit Lief's Garden Shop, the Dream Suite and Club LOL.
If there's something that needs to be reaffirmed, is that New Leaf -- and Animal Crossing in general -- gets more rewarding the longer you play it. Plop it in someone's hand for his first day, and he'll most likely run around collecting clams and fruit and selling them. He'll probably not do much else, considering he might not even have all the tools purchased yet. Come back to that same person a week later and you'll see their routine has largely changed. New fruit trees now populate the land, new neighbors have moved in, scavenging for fossils becomes important, activities like fishing, bug catching, and flower planting have opened up to the player, and his monotonous days of picking up fruit for profit are long gone.
As Mayor, you'll also have a hand in building various facilities around town, whether it's extra bridges to make crossing the river a little more convenient or some more aesthetic choices like park benches and fountains. These public works will then appear in your town unfinished until the correct amount of money is donated. Your neighbors will do their part in donating a few Bells here and there, but it'll be mostly up to you to make that new village addition come to life.
Another new addition is the Island, where players can go to play various minigames for medals (which are used as the Island's currency) and catch various bugs and fish that might be harder to find in the village. The fact that it's always summer on the Island makes going back and collecting rare bugs in exchange for money a nice way to pay off those ever-increasing debts.
Nintendo has added a bunch of goodies from various games, which you can unlock by buying Fortune Cookies at Nookling Junction. The fortune inside can be traded for items like a Mario pipe, Blue Falcon, Link's tunic, Samus' pants and tons more, which will undoubtedly make your home that much cooler.
Multiplayer is a huge part of New Leaf, which makes connecting with friend's towns easier than ever. Up to four people can run around a village at once (but careful not to ruin people's flowers!) and can even go to the Island and play all those minigames together. The Dream Suite allows you to visit any previously visited towns, as well as connect to other people's villages through a very functional search. Since they are dreams, you no longer have to worry about ruining other people's flowers or stealing their fruit, since you can't actually take back anything to your village. However, any cool designs you see, granted it's allowed by original creator, you can then buy when you're back in your village.
For those that are in it for the long haul, there is no better game than New Leaf. The longevity of the game defies logic, considering it's a game about managing a village. Actual Holidays will come and go, various special visitors will drop by on occasion, and you can even become proficient in the Stalk Market and make giant profits with Turnips. Putting in the hours isn't optional for enjoyment, it's a requirement, but when you do, you'll see that Animal Crossing: New Leaf is one of the best designed and most addicting games on the 3DS to date.