Friday, June 28, 2013

Animal Crossing: New Leaf (3DS) Review

To end the work week we have a brand-new review for you. It was one of our most anticipated games for the Nintendo 3DS way back when it was announced. We finally got to get our hands on the game, and here is my review.

Meet Your Newest Addiction

2008 was a bit of a messy year for Nintendo fans. The big "core" title unveiled for the Wii at that year's E3 was Animal Crossing: City Folk, a title that, while absolutely fun, was more of the same when compared to its predecessor, the Nintendo DS' Wild World. Many called the game a lazy sequel, so it makes sense that the developers of the Animal Crossing series took that criticism to heart when making the latest installment of the series, primed for the Nintendo 3DS, Animal Crossing: New Leaf. The biggest structural change the series has even seen is being able to become mayor of your town and turn it from sleepy little town to hoppin' and boppin' place to be-- with your personal signature on it. What it all adds up to is the greatest Animal Crossing yet, and a great Nintendo 3DS killer app for the summer.

Animal Crossing: New Leaf starts out innocently enough. Your character rides a train and is approached by a cat named Rover. How you answer his questions will actually determine what your character looks like in-game. If you're the first person to play the game, you'll be asked the name of the town you're going to, and even get to skim through and look various maps of your prospective town before selecting the one you'd like to call home.

As you exit from the train, you are greeted by a group of extremely excited animal locals, led by Isabelle. It turns out Tortimer, the tortoise mayor of past games, has finally stepped out of the shoes of being mayor and for some reason everyone expects you to slide your feet into them. You really have no choice but to expect, lest you wish to disappoint your perky crowd (which you can't do anyway, even if you want to). Thus, after planting a tree in your village's town square as part of a ceremony, your road to having power over the people begins.

Now you own these people...
However, before everything is official and you can begin your mayoral duties, you need to boost your approval rating to 100%. This is performed by speaking with the animal citizens of your town-- doing chores for them, planting flowers and trees around town, picking up garbage, and sending letters via the post office to your fellow villagers.

Once your approval process is over with, you can start running your town. As mayor, you can set ordinances, such as one to make shops stay open later than usual, or set an ordinance to make your town's flowers stay in bloom longer. For someone who plays late at night, the former allows me to enjoy the game better unlike past titles whose strict schedules you needed to follow. In Animal Crossing: New Leaf, the game revolves around you and not the other way around.

Then there's the abundant amount of public works projects you can initiate, one per day. These are things like lampposts, benches, fountains, wells, landmarks and other interesting items for your town that can be placed generally wherever you want them. Much like placing where you wished to live, you can see ahead of time what the end project will look like and either accept or reject that location. Through generous donations by you, the animals in town, the other players in town, and guests in your town, you can meet the cash requirement to see your project come into full fruition, ending with a quick ceremony to celebrate your village's latest success.

Congratulations are definitely in order.
Of course, even mayors have to answer to somebody, and surprise, surprise, that somebody is Tom Nook. He really isn't meant to be someone of power, but he is the raccoon who gives you the title to your home, whose location you decide for yourself and can see how it will look before you accept its spot. He is the guy who even mayors need to pay money to. As you pay off debts, you can choose to select to expand your home-- increasing the size of rooms or adding totally new additions to your home, such as a basement, a second floor, or other first floor rooms. At Nook's real estate service, you can also purchase aesthetic changes to your home, turning a boring old mailbox into one that can really represent your personality, or completely remodeling your home to look like something that resembles a Japanese castle!

Your home is your castle-- literally!
The customization options don't end there. Outside of the immense number of wallpapers and carpets, there are a plethora of furniture choices to choose from for the inside of your domain, some sharing a common theme to make one cohesive look in a given room. The amount of furniture pieces is enormous-- easily hundreds that will take years to collect them all. I'm talking about beds, chairs, sofas, tables, TVs, bureaus, closets, wardrobes, lamps-- the list goes on and on. Certain furniture can even be given a personal touch at the local Re-Tail shop, where the male alpaca there can customize the look of a given piece of furniture to your liking. Re-Tail also serves as a great place to sell unwanted items to, often buying items for more than anywhere else.

Make a room a temple straight out
of the Legend of Zelda franchise!
Then there's Main Street, which offers a wide array of locations, but many aren't open until certain conditions are met. There's the post office, where written letters can be sent off; there's a clothing and accessory story because in my case, every girl's crazy 'bout a sharp-dressed man; there's a shop to buy furniture, wallpaper, carpet, and tools to use for fishing, catching bugs and digging up fossils. The latter of which can be donated to the museum, also on Main Street.

While the mayor has a lot to do, that first player is the only one who can have any mayoral duties, which is disappointing. The other three prospective players serve as normal everyday citizens. However, even then, there's plenty of tasks that can be done, such as filling up one's fish and insect encyclopedia by catching all the varieties, digging up fossils, collecting furniture, paying off their own house debts to Tom Nook, speaking with and helping out the animal locals, heading to the island where it's summertime all the time, and opening the gate to their town for travelers to visit via Wi-Fi, or going out and venturing into a friend's village. Both of which are pleasantly lacking of lag, depending on how strong all players' connections are.

With Wi-Fi play you can have a girls' slumber party!
Animal Crossing: New Leaf has the rules of the past games. The time of your Nintendo 3DS system's internal clock is the time that your town is currently at. Stores open and close at specific times, animals wake up and go to sleep at certain hours, bugs and fish are present at certain times of day and times of year, and events happen on certain days of the calendar. Special holidays have more to do than in past games, such as on April Fools' Day, where the goal is to earn prizes by finding the visiting animal that is disguised as a local. These holidays are much more fun and puts players in a more active role than previous games.

Animal Crossing was always a series that played itself even if you weren't there, and that is once again true of New Leaf. If you don't keep up with your town, pull weeds and water flowers, your town will look relatively messy in a week's time. (Not to mention cockroaches will infest your home! Yuck!) Sometimes the game can feel like a chore-- like you're being forced to play it or else you will suffer a penalty or miss out on something special. This is one of the main issues of the Animal Crossing series in general. It can feel a lot like work at times, but the end result is usually very rewarding, not to mention very relaxing.

Different times of year mean 
different looks for your town.
On the topic of presentation, Animal Crossing: New Leaf features improved visuals when compared to City Folk. Characters look better than ever and do much more by means of interaction. For example, animal pals will wave goodbye to you as you leave their homes, they'll go fishing, and they'll shake nearby trees. Your character is taller than past games, allowing you for the first time to change your pants, shoes, and socks. You can even have short or long sleeve clothing. Yes, ladies, you can have dresses if you'd like. As always, but something I continue to love with the series, each 24 hour segment of each day has a different theme that plays during it. The town theme that you create chimes on every hour, as well as it's heard when you speak with every character in the game. The overall soundtrack is mighty fine, and it's an absolute pleasure to sit down and relax to.

A look at one of my finished projects.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf delivers a much needed shakeup to the Animal Crossing series. Being the mayor puts you in a more proactive role, creating an entirely new dynamic, and a much welcomed one, as it makes for a really fresh experience. While it is unfortunate that only one player on one copy of the game can be mayor, there's still tons to do for ordinary denizens as well. Animal Crossing has consistently made doing what would otherwise be mundane and tedious tasks in real life like picking weeds and watering flowers into things that are strangely addicting. In the three weeks I've had Animal Crossing: New Leaf for, I have played nearly 100 hours already, and I'm nowhere near a point where I feel burnt out. There's always a new fish to catch, a chance to see who has visited my town, a chance for me to visit other towns, and new furniture to fill up my house with, or at least add to my catalog. Consider Animal Crossing: New Leaf your home away from home. I certainly have, and I couldn't be happier.

[SPC Says: 9.5/10]

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