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Animal Crossing: New Leaf

Building A Better Home For Everyone

Nintendo’s Animal Crossing is a polarizing series. Little middle ground exists between those who are reeled in by its laid-back charm and those who simply can’t wrap their heads around its appeal. New Leaf will do absolutely nothing to sway those that don’t want to spend days, weeks, or months talking to animals and shaking trees, but it retains the series’ trademark charm that makes even seemingly mundane tasks worth your time.

Playing this game for 15 or 20 minutes a day is still the way to go, since you don’t have enough to do on a daily basis to facilitate long play sessions. On most days, your experience revolves around collecting and selling fruit, hitting rocks with your shovel in an attempt to find the day’s magic money-spewing rock, digging up fossils, and chatting up your town’s various inhabitants. It’s far from a high-octane gaming experience, but I had a smile on my face during most of the time I spent in my town.

None of these elements are new to the series’ 3DS debut, but it’s still a leisurely good time to go through the motions. Where New Leaf separates itself from its predecessors is your role in the town. From the moment you step off the train, you assume the role of mayor. I enjoyed having some say in my town’s structure, as previous games mostly confined you to house customization (which is still very much a part of New Leaf). As someone who typically plays late at night, I loved being able to set a “night owl” ordinance for my town that made stores stay open later. I also had fun raising money for public works projects like a cobblestone bridge, a campsite, and an additional floor for the museum. Your duties as mayor don’t fundamentally change the way you experience the game, but do provide a nice change of pace.

One of my favorite new additions is the integration of 3DS play coins in the economy. Standard items like shovels, fishing rods, and furniture are still bought with the standard currency, but play coins are used to purchase fortune cookies. These cookies frequently contain a “lucky ticket,” which can be redeemed for special Nintendo-themed items. I dedicated the main floor of my house to these prizes; it’s adorned with the Triforce, a go-kart, spinning red shells, Captain Olimar’s ship from Pikmin, and much more. In addition to furniture, I also scored Nintendo clothing such as a Samus helmet, a Pikmin hood, Link’s tunic, and Majora’s Mask.

Even after spending almost 30 hours with the game, I was frequently rewarded with new events. I got excited every time some new character came to town and mentioned that he was considering building a new attraction in my shopping district. A new club or coffee shop doesn’t change the game, but it’s always nice to add another location or activity to a game that features so many.

Visiting a fellow player’s town is fun, though most of the enjoyment still comes from checking out their houses, meeting their neighbors, and planting new fruit trees. I loved texting real-life friends to request them to open their town gate so that I could accomplish some of the game’s sillier requests; at one point, I travelled to a co-worker’s town so that I could collect signatures on a petition that encouraged my town’s residents to wear hats more often. Players can also travel to a minigame-filled island together, but these basic distractions are low on interactivity and fun.

Detractors of the series may dwell on its lack of defined goals and gameplay, but they’re missing the point of what makes Animal Crossing great. New Leaf is one of the most purely pleasant experiences in gaming, free of stressful boss fights, combative multiplayer experiences, or cynicism in any form. Instead, it focuses on clever humor and forming friendships with the residents of your town. Some may find it cheesy or without direction, but I enjoyed this endlessly charming outlier in the current gaming landscape.

User Reviews:

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  • 5.00
    To begin, I'll be honest: this was the first and only Animal Crossing game I've played. (I didn't have a GameCube, and I can't find the Wii version) I was very excited when I picked it up, because I love life simulation games! That said, I really wouldn't recommend this game to anyone...
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  • 8.75
    Animal Crossing: New Leaf is the fourth game I have purchased for my NIntendo 3ds( a system I use largely for replaying my favorite ds games), and the game has made me reinvest my interest in my gaming handheld. Animal crossing provides casual, short play sessions which are perfect for on the go gaming...
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  • 9.25
    Describing Animal Crossing is like trying to describe the basic concept of time to a child, it is difficult to qualify. How long is an hour? How long is in a little bit? With Animal Crossing, you get a lot of "Well, you see, you go around the town and hit rocks with your shovel." You can go...
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  • 10.00
    Animal Crossing brings me back to the days of my childhood when everything was innocent. Back when my grandma had me convinced there were fairies living under the caps of the mushrooms that grew across the front yard in the springtime after a heavy rain. Or that boiling water was more than water hitting...
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  • 9.00
    Charming As All Get Out Animal Crossing released in 2002 for the GameCube. It was unlike anything anyone had ever played before. However, the GameCube had its limitations. The multiplayer mode in Animal Crossing was dead on arrival, falling victim to the early days of Internet connectivity and to the...
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  • 9.00
    This is the best Animal Crossing yet. Nintendo really made this one even more personalized to the user than the previous versions were. The ability to customize your town being the mayor is amazing, especially being able to choose your map from a set when naming your town and picking where you want your...
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