A classic joke people that play a lot of videogames would often crack is “Life is a boring videogame”. Well, the other night I was walking to the store. It wasn’t a very far walk, but the walk was filled with mosquitoes and bugs that bit and distracted me. I walked on a path that mixed houses and trees quite equally and got to the store just before it closed. At the same time I was doing the exact same thing in Animal Crossing: New Leaf.
If life is a boring videogame, then Animal Crossing would certainly be boring… And, is it?
Animal Crossing: New Leaf (3DS)
Developed and Published by Nintendo
I first played Animal Crossing when trying out the Japanese N64 title, I certainly enjoyed it even if it didn’t completely win me over. No, the version of Animal Crossing that ended up swallowing up my free time for months was Animal Crossing: Let’s Go To The City for the Wii. I skipped out on both the Gamecube game as well as the Nintendo DS title Wild World, so I’m not really as acquainted with the series than some other people are, but it certainly holds a place in my heart either way.
When I decided to play New Leaf for review, I didn’t think it’d be so hard to summarize my thoughts on it. However, the tricky thing about reviewing a game like this is the fact that you never feel like you’ve played enough of the game to judge it properly. You could play New Leaf daily for a year and still end up not experiencing everything in the game, it’s a game that’s endless in more ways than one, so I hope you readers understand that when I talk about my experience with New Leaf as a whole, I can’t possibly sum up the experience that a player could potentially reach over a longer period of time.
A common problem for games like Animal Crossing is the concept of change. It’s a series where half of the fanbase is asking for the games to change because they are to similar to each other, where as the other half of the fanbase is begging Nintendo to keep it as close as possible to what it is, because it’s just what they want. New Leaf tries to solve this problem by offering small changes that might appear larger than they actually are on a mechanical level.
Nintendo made it big since announcement that you play the role of a mayor in New Leaf, a change to the formula that might just be something to refresh the series as a whole. As mayor you carry the power to build bridges, fountains and a bunch of other things for your little town upon the request of the other villagers. Sounds fun, and it was an aspect of the game I felt sounded fresh and exciting. So I hate to say that I was very disappointed in it.
As mayor you basically end up visiting a list of things the other villagers want in town, you pick out a thing and then decide where to build it. That’s all well and good, but the problem after that comes from having to fund the project. Animal Crossing is no Kickstarter simulator, if you want something done you better do so yourself. Have a pool that’ll cost you 50,000 bells to build? If you wait a week the villagers might have chipped in 70 bells or so, the rest will be up to you.
And that’s the big problem with the mayor thing. It’s meant to be refreshing, but it’s really just another spot for you to put way too much money into something, which by effect means you need to do more things to gather up the cash required. Thankfully getting money is far easier in New Leaf than in previous Animal Crossing titles, evening it out slightly. Even so, paying off your loan to Tom Nook almost becomes like a dull short chore rather than a goal like it was in the original, taking out what little fun there was to Nook in my opinion.
The game does add some fun things however. The addition of Perfect Fruits that are worth much more than regular fruit and will only appear once on the tree you find them on is fun, even if I ended up selling the fruit I found not realizing that I should plant at least one of them at first. There’s an island you can visit, alone or with friends, to get exotic bugs, fish and fruits to sell for a good amount of bells. You can get swimming great to play around in the water, you can wear a whole new arrange of outfits. There is a lot of new content in New Leaf that adds to the experience without changing anything important to the structure of the game as a whole, which is nice.
Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t go into New Leaf expecting a very different game from Let’s Go To The City, but when there is potential that feels a little wasted like the mayoral duties do, it hurts the overall experience just a little. I also miss the larger city from Let’s Go To The City, which is replaced by a street of stores on top of a hill above your town.
New Leaf does everything the previous Animal Crossing games did, and does it well. The additions to the formula are for the most part nice even if the mayoral duties fell short of what I expected. If you’re a long-term Animal Crossing fan I don’t think you even needed a review to pick up the game. But if you are someone on the fence, let it be known that this is probably the best Animal Crossing game to date, but by no means something you have to pick up if you’re still fine with playing the game on DS or Wii.
Because while it’s the best Animal Crossing, it’s still the same Animal Crossing. For better or worse.