Leveled Up

Animal Crossing: New Leaf Review

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Benjamin Franklin once said that “nothing is certain in life but death and taxes”. Pretty bleak huh?! Thankfully living life in the charming world of Animal Crossing isn’t quite so bleak, and New Leaf is the most fun and charming of the series to date. Even with the mortgage repayments…

If you’re unfamiliar with the Animal Crossing series…where have you been? Hiding under a rock like a pill-bug? (AC reference). The franchise is undoubtedly the most popular life simulation game around and is beloved by little girls and grown *ahem* men alike. To sum up the experience, you live out your life in a village full of adorable animals, whilst saving money for furniture and house expansions. That’s not enough to get you excited? Well you don’t do anything particularly out of the ordinary per say, but AC’s charms emanate to make the whole experience a deeply involving one.  

With AC being a franchise that has seen little change over its past iterations, what changes have Nintendo implemented that makes New Leaf worth shelling out new bells for instead of sticking with your old Wild World or Let’s go to the City? Well, everything that you enjoyed from the old titles has been taken, bundled together with a huge amount of new content thrown in for good measure.

In New Leaf, your character is elected to become Mayor of your new village. I say “elected”, but in reality you just… show up. Becoming Mayor was Nintendo’s way of giving you far greater levels of customisation in  New Leaf compared to before. Rather than simply having your own home to restyle, now you can tailor the village in your own image through public projects. This can range from adding benches, to streetlights and even camping sites. Ordinances can also be implemented. You can make your village more horticultural, more wealthy, or if like me, you do have a life in the real world and can’t play your 3DS every single afternoon, you can change your village to more of a night time community which will keep shops and landmarks open until late! Perfect for all us grown up gamers.

Returning from Let’s go to the City is the inclusion of extra shops, only this time they appear in your village for added convenience and accessibility. Now, Main Street is the hub of your shopping experience, featuring previous mainstays like a Nook store and the Able Sisters clothing, only now a whole range of extras have been added for you to build and unlock over time such as Kicks, the shoe store and for the green-fingered players, a brand new garden store for all your plants and flowers. 

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My favorite and most interesting feature of New Leaf has to be the return of the island, previously featured in AC on the Gamecube, only this time it’s bigger and better. Visiting the island gives players the chance to take part in a number of highly addictive mini games, either alone, or in a group of up to four (with registered friends or strangers via “Club Tortimer”). These mini games range from catching bugs and sharks within a time limit, to taking part in a scavenger hunt (usually for fruit or furniture). The games may sound bland and fairly typical of AC’s usual daily activities, but they are crazily addictive, and have to be played to be appreciated. Medals are awarded for successful mini game completions and these can be traded in for rare items found only on the island.

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Just about everything else has been improved or expanded in some way or another. Clothes and furniture can be customised to suit your own style. And for the completionists, building up the exhibitions in your museum doubles in fun in New Leaf due to the inclusion of more bugs and fish, not to mention the ability to swim and dive for creatures of the deep (usually crustaceans and the occasional… sea slug… bleck!). The island even serves as a location for native species, not found in your own village, Finally, there are the usual bones and art pieces to collect, which now include statues and other works of art, but thanks to that law-dodging fraudster Redd, this is still the most difficult and time-consuming of the collections to build up. 

Aesthetically, New Leaf has received a face lift from the last portable installment, Wild World. The upgrade in hardware and the stereoscopic 3D effects have allowed the rough edges to be smoothed out and the detailing in the models is more noticeable than before. Now the animals appear to be more textured, and fur is noticeable where once it was not. Water textures look luscious and realistic and the smaller details can be more appreciated, such as the smoke from a villager’s chimney. The music is more varied and of a higher quality and this only compliments the upgraded look to the game. Players can listen to KK Slider’s concerts as usual, as well as visiting a new DJ set by KK during the week. Finally, Kapp’n’s Sea Shanties are hilarious and make the boat journey to the island worth going through. 

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I could talk about features and content indefinitely, as New Leaf is a game when every day can reveal something new and playing frequently will unlock one thing after another. Discovering everything in the game could take months, if not years. The game still has a few issues. Events don’t occur regularly enough, leaving days or weeks with nothing of note on the calendar, but generally it’s a flawless addition to the series. Nintendo have taken what has made past entries into the series so successful and quadrupled it in scope, practicality and replay value, making New Leaf an essential 3DS purchase. The greater ability for customisation, including more creatures and new ways to catch them, and the vastly improved multiplayer functionality all serve as a testament to how much effort Nintendo have put into making New Leaf a game with greater longevity, that should keep you playing for a long time to come. So if you haven’t got it yet, go sell some fruit and bugs and purchase a copy now.

I give Animal Crossing: New Leaf 5 Sea Slugs out of 5

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