Nintendo’s Animal Crossing series has always stood out for its uniqueness. This cartoony, animal-filled life simulator has managed to sneak up on gamers and occupy countless of hours of fans’ time, and the latest installment, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, is aiming to follow suit. Fortunately, the latest AC not only manages to offer what past console iterations did on a handheld, but also adds a broad range of new features that easily make it the best entry in the series to-date.
Users who’ve familiarized themselves with the general plot of each Animal Crossing will find the opening to New Leaf providing a serious case of dÃ©jÃ vu. As players embark on a new journey via train, they’ll choose their gender, name, name of their town, and even the town’s layout. Upon arriving at the new town however, the local villagers inhabiting the area quickly mistake the player for their new mayor — welcoming him/her to the town that they now must manage. It’s this new position that enables many more gameplay options, and makes for a dangerously addictive experience.
The basic premise behind Nintendo’s infamous series is simple: you live your life, water flowers, catch bugs and fish, interact with your neighbors, etc.. It’s hard to pinpoint what makes Animal Crossing: New Leaf so fun, but the sheer bulk of daily tasks — coupled with an overwhelming number of collectibles — make this a completionist’s dream come true… or maybe their worst nightmare. Regardless, the formula is addictive, and players will find themselves scrambling to accumulate all kinds of different things.
The biggest addition to the series that’s introduced in New Leaf is the ability to customize the town. This feature is implemented by making players the mayor of their respective town, followed by tasking them with making their beloved village the best it can possibly be. This is done by enacting ordinances which allow players to customize the economy, look, or business hours of their town. Can’t play during the day because you work late? Implement the ‘night-owl’ ordinance so that shops are open late. Tired of watering flowers? Make your town ‘beautiful’ so that flowers never wilt and die.
As mayor, players will also spearhead public works projects, allowing them to build bridges, benches, and even add new stores to their town. All of these additions won’t come free though, as players will more often than not end up funding a majority of the projects themselves. Over time other villagers will chip in some of their hard-earned Bells to build all sorts of new things, but its the player’s dedication to improving their town that’ll really makes adding to their town feel like a rewarding experience.
It’s this obligation to make the village a better place, coupled with the desire to deck out your own humble abode, that makes playing Animal Crossing: New Leaf such an enjoyable time. Users are forced to balance their time between helping citizens and improving their own living arrangements, and this proves to be a challenging, yet enjoyable task. With a little bit of elbow grease (and a lot of grinding) it’s possible to keep the two progressing at a solid pace, but there will be times when players will be faced with adding a new floor on their house or building a new cobblestone bridge.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf‘s pacing will also keep players hooked for countless months to come. Every upgrade made to the town usually requires 24 hours to complete, which means there’s a reason to boot up the game every single day. Ignoring the game for too long will also lead to disastrous results: with villagers moving away, weeds taking over the town, and missing events that’ll net players Bells and other rare items. Different seasons also mean different wildlife can be found gallivanting around just waiting to be captured, making the landscape of the game itself a very different place throughout different times in the year.
Multiplayer also makes its triumphant return to the series, and visiting neighbors (and vice-versa) has never been easier. This is thanks to the local and online features of the Nintendo 3DS, which allow players to interact with one another regardless of where they are. Once players have visited one another they can be added as a ‘best friend’, which then enables players to chat with one another in-game. Setting up visits has been improved, although the task of having to visit each other beforehand can make the initial meet up a little challenging.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf doesn’t try to change the formula dramatically, but instead plays into it — adding even more furniture to collect, tasks to complete, and debts to be paid. The options to customize furniture, build businesses, and improve the overall quality of life for villagers makes for some of the most addictive and enjoyable gameplay the franchise has ever seen. Animal Crossing on the 3DS is a game that will suck players in for countless days, months, and possibly even years to come — making it easily one of the must-have games currently available on the platform.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf is available now, exclusively on the Nintendo 3DS.
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