Say goodbye to your real life.
Animal Crossing New Leaf is a brilliant example of how to make a sequel. You take the underlying foundations of what makes the series the series it is and alter it in a few subtle ways as well as one or two more dramatic ways.
New Leaf fundamentally changes the game in one aspect; you are the mayor. Being the mayor brings in a multitude of perks, all communicated through your aide – Isabel. You decide what kind of town you want to be in (to be honest though, anything other than the night-owl town seems pointless as the night-owl keeps your shops open very late); you can request that villagers leave and most importantly, you can start Public Works Projects.
Public Works Projects provide perhaps the biggest change the series has seen thus far: you can decide what the town works on, be that smaller things like benches and a park clock to bridges and whole new buildings like the coffee shop (in which you can work). It’s a good system that sees a Gyroid (Lloyd) accepting payments towards the object you’re building. If you just leave the Gyroid there, not paying money into it, the total will be reached incredibly slowly by villagers putting very small amounts of Bells in but to be honest, if you don’t put any money into it, you’ll be waiting a long time for the project to be finished.
Public Works Projects however do generate a problem – they stifle the amount of things available at the start and can only be made after certain criteria has been met. It appears to be random at times however; some things make sense, like the Reset Centre, which can only be built once Resetti has graced your town but other things like Rooster’s Coffee Shop and the Police Station seem to appear randomly in the list of available projects available to you from Isabel in the Mayor’s Office. Seemingly random listings of available projects and stifling of available activities at the start of your time as mayor notwithstanding, the Public Works Projects system works well and enables control over exactly how you wish your town to look and work.
Another new addition to the series is the Recycle Centre, in which you can place items up for sale (choosing the price yourself), sell items and turnips (which work in the same way as the previous games) and can even alter pieces of furniture with gemstones found in rocks. The Recycle Centre also gives more money than the Nook brothers’ store and every day will have at least one series’ of item for which more money is offered than usual. It’s a fantastic addition to the list of available shops and opens the game-world up even more.
The usual slate of shopping options are found in the high-street beyond the train tracks, but again, a few changes have been made to improve the overall experience. Tom Nook now has his own shop in which you can buy upgrades to your home beyond the traditional loan system (which works in the same way as every game here), adding yet another layer to the customisation the game offers. Tom Nook’s shop is also where you’ll find Lyle, the Happy Home Academy mogul and spokesperson, here he will grade your house and give you tips for improvement. The Nook siblings now run the traditional item and furniture shop and the able sisters still have their clothes shop (with the hairdressers coming later above it) and Blathers still has his museum (more on that later).
There are a couple of new additions also, LOL Nightclub, in which you can dance along to KK Slider’s cool grooves and give fruit to Shrunk to see his jokes (get neat little emotions to display to friends) and on Saturday night listen to Slider’s songs to get CDs to play in your own home. A gardening shop, a shoe shop and a hat/face clothing shop fill up the rest of the High-street’s shopping options.
Back onto the museum; Blathers’ museum works in much the same way as before, but small improvements have been made to the inner-workings of it: you can now give as many things as you can hold to Blathers at once. This really smoothens the experience, as in the older games it really did take a long time to give Blathers your fossils, artwork, fish and bugs. The way fossils work has been improved also, sure, you still have to get them identified (as many as you like at once), but Blathers will tell you instantly if the museum has them on display, from which you can give them to him without wasting much more time. However, the museum does come with one of my annoyances with the game: Blathers no longer tells his stories when you give him things, it’s not really important and most people won’t even know of his stories, but if you do remember them, you will miss them here.
So far, this review has just focussed on the new and the details of the new, but what I haven’t mentioned thus far is the sheer bliss and calm this game brings. Trust me, you really can lose yourself in the wonderful place Nintendo has made and crafted with a fantastic eye for detail. It’s a big task Nintendo has given me in reviewing this game as there is simply so much to it despite its simple atmosphere that should be friendly enough for anyone of any age to appreciate. This truly is a wonderful experience that you will not want to put down. And this is just in single-player.
Multi-player has also been given the ol’ spit-shine; you can invite people to your town, offline or on, visit other people’s towns and go to the Island. The Island, another new feature for this game lets you play mini-games with friends or by yourself of kick back in the warm, sunny climate – catching summer bugs, swimming in the water with a wet-suit (you can swim and dive in this game if you own a wet-suit only available from the island) and catching fish. It’s a great distraction and a fun way to play multi-player beyond just messing around in each other’s towns.
I’m not going to go into any more detail, as I want to leave some surprises and a good sense of the unknown for you, but you will find yourself totally enthralled in the day-to-day workings of life in Animal Crossing: New Leaf, even just talking to your villagers is great fun.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf is the best Animal Crossing game to date, thanks to Nintendo’s fantastic eye for detail, it’s a joy to play, a joy to look at and is an essential addition to anyone’s 3DS library – there is still nothing quite like Animal Crossing, minor flaws notwithstanding.
Here’s hoping your time as mayor is as relaxing and wonderful as mine.