3DS

North America

Animal Crossing: New Leaf

by Andy Goergen - June 4, 2013, 10:01 am PDT
Total comments: 20

9

That's odd, I don't even remember being nominated.

In many ways, Animal Crossing: New Leaf is the same game that we've been playing for 11 years. We've seen gradual evolution across the four iterations, but never a full-fledged redesign of the series. In New Leaf, you spend your time fishing, planting fruit, paying off debt, contributing to a town museum, expanding your house, collecting furniture, and participating in all of the other staples of the Animal Crossing series. The silver lining is that these things are all still pretty fun, and New Leaf does its best to maintain the series feel while polishing the interface and mixing up the options for customization.

This is absolutely the best Animal Crossing game yet, and also the one with the most stuff to do. The differences are noticed immediately once you arrive in town and are unexpectedly declared mayor. As mayor, you will go through a brief tutorial (significantly changed for the first time since the 2002 GameCube original) that includes finding a plot of land to call home, collecting seashells, and getting to know your neighbors. The full experience of the game isn't gated behind the tutorial like in previous games, and you can take on these activities at your own pace.

Another benefit of your newfound position of mayor is the ability to shape the town in ways never seen before in an Animal Crossing game, both through public works (new structures) and ordinances (new rules). These allow you to change the hours of the shops, increase the amount of money that you will get from selling items to the shops, and even add new bridges or decorations. Your town will truly be your own after you've finished a few public works projects, and that's a feeling that was hard to come by in previous games in the series.

The public works projects change the focus of the game from paying off your house debt to paying down the donation boxes for new town structures. The effect this has on the game is that your house and the things inside it take a backseat to general town improvements. It's a welcome diversion from simply trying to add another room to your house for furniture, as in previous Animal Crossing games. New public works projects will be added over time, giving the player lots of ways to keep customizing and improving their town.

Although the Animal Crossing series is not known for its visuals, the graphics in New Leaf are a series high point. The grass shimmers as it fades into the distance, the water glistens under the moonlight, and the animals have far more detailed textures here than in previous games. The water effects are actually a bit of a hindrance when trying to fish at night, as the fish do not leap out from the water as easily as in previous games due to the added complexity of the water effects. The music, like previous games in the series, is wonderfully mellow. It changes depending on the time of day you play, with the night sounding ethereal and soothing and the morning peppy and cheerful.

The multiplayer gameplay from previous Animal Crossing games remains mostly unchanged. While playing on a 3DS that's connected to the Internet, you can either open your gates to accept local or online visitors, or you can hop on a bus and visit towns via local wireless or online. Players have to have their games open for you to visit, requiring a bit more communication than the 3DS is really equipped to handle, but if you have a nice collection of friends playing the game on your list, hopefully leaving your gates open will result in one of them stopping by. In addition, you can visit other towns via the Dream Suite. The town you visit is chosen at random, and no items can be taken to or taken home from the town. The only thing that can be retrieved from the towns you visit in the Dream Suite is a new pattern.

One major addition to New Leaf is the Resort Island. Not only is the island a great place to get new tropical fruits and fish, but the island adds a new component to the multiplayer by allowing multiple players to travel as a group and participate in mini-games. The mini-games award trophies and medals which can be used as currency on the island shop. It's always nice to have new environments to visit that are specific to each town, and the Resort Island in New Leaf is among the best in the series. The island even introduces a new gameplay mechanic: deep water swimming. You can either borrow a wet suit for island use only or spend medals at the shop to pick one up and bring it back to your main town. Deep water swimming adds entirely new types of sea creatures that can be caught, most of which are shellfish. It takes a little more patience to catch a deep water fish, but they will fetch you more money when you sell them.

Another new feature is the Happy House Academy showcase, which allows you to use StreetPass to collect house layouts from other players and visit them offline in your own game. Once unlocked, you can view houses from other players and even request furniture from those houses to be delivered to your town shop (for a price, of course). I was unable to test this feature, as the game has not been publicly released and it was therefore a tall order to find someone to StreetPass with, but the potential is there to more quickly find and collect the furniture that suits your interests.

The last new major addition to New Leaf worth discussing is Main Street, the centralized hub of most of your town shops and offices. Although not all of your shops will operate on Main Street, which can be reached by crossing the train tracks on the north side of town, most of them will be found there: the museum, Tom Nook's real estate business, the Nook nephew's shop, the Able Sisters, and several new locations that will be opening up in your town the more you play. It's nice to have quick access to all of these places at once, and it frees up more room in your town for the customizations you really want.

Animal Crossing: New Leaf is a beast of a game, featuring hundreds of hours of open-ended gameplay. If you were turned off by the lack of structure and real goals in previous Animal Crossing games, nothing here will change your mind. If you find the slow paced sprawling sort of play that Animal Crossing encourages to be your cup of tea, then New Leaf will give you all you could ever want and more. If nothing else, it's a great excuse to hear your animal friends spout out customized phrases to suit your style. "Hey, what's up Dookieface?" Indeed.

Summary

Pros
  • Great graphics
  • More to do than ever
  • Resort Island a great addition
Cons
  • Online gameplay remains dated in execution

Talkback

CericJune 04, 2013

You know this sounds a lot like how the Mayor in Defiance got her job...

Should have called it Animal Crossing: Socialist Nightmare

Thanks a lot, Obama.

Ian SaneJune 04, 2013

I find it very annoying how changes to this "series" (personally I consider it all one game, ported to multiple systems) has such minor incremental changes.  I'm just not interested in an updated Animal Crossing as I've had my fill of the Gamecube one and would need an outright Animal Crossing 2 to feel any need to return to the franchise.

At the time I just assumed that the Cube version was effectively a port of the N64 game because the original was Japan-only, so they made a Cube version to allow for a more widespread release.  I had no idea that this would become Nintendo's normal approach to the series.  Like with Pokemon spin-offs and the Wii Series I feel that Nintendo doesn't put in a proper effort on purpose because the target audience lets them get away with it.

I always imagined a full 3D Animal Crossing with a fully controllable camera like in most 3D Nintendo games.  Surely Nintendo can think of the same incredibly obvious idea.

TJ SpykeJune 04, 2013

Great to see this is the best entry yet in the series (they are all distinctive). The game sounds great and if I have the money, I will get this ASAP.

I've had the Animal Crossing-themed 3DS XL preordered since it was announced. I'm glad to see that the game has lived up to my hype. I can't wait for Sunday.

KhushrenadaJune 04, 2013

Quote from: Ian

I find it very annoying how changes to this "series" (personally I consider it all one game, ported to multiple systems) has such minor incremental changes.  I'm just not interested in an updated Animal Crossing as I've had my fill of the Gamecube one and would need an outright Animal Crossing 2 to feel any need to return to the franchise.

At the time I just assumed that the Cube version was effectively a port of the N64 game because the original was Japan-only, so they made a Cube version to allow for a more widespread release.  I had no idea that this would become Nintendo's normal approach to the series.  Like with Pokemon spin-offs and the Wii Series I feel that Nintendo doesn't put in a proper effort on purpose because the target audience lets them get away with it.

I always imagined a full 3D Animal Crossing with a fully controllable camera like in most 3D Nintendo games.  Surely Nintendo can think of the same incredibly obvious idea.

Actually, according to a lot of reviews, this game is the next step in the Animal Crossing franchise. Here's a link to Metacritic: http://www.metacritic.com/game/3ds/animal-crossing-new-leaf/critic-reviews.  I remember when the Wii version came out, people were crapping on that one a whole lot more for hardly doing anything new and reviews were a lot less positive. Seeing this has me actually really excited and interested in Animal Crossing.

I only have the DS version and by the time I got it and started playing it was like 2 or 3 years after it was released and people had moved on. Now after seeing this, I'm really thinking seriously about grabbing a copy day 1 which is against my frugal ways but it might be interesting to experience this series with everyone at a fresh start and a lot of dedicated people all playing and sharing it at the same time making a big virtual prescence.

Quote from: Ian

I find it very annoying how changes to this "series" (personally I consider it all one game, ported to multiple systems) has such minor incremental changes.  I'm just not interested in an updated Animal Crossing as I've had my fill of the Gamecube one and would need an outright Animal Crossing 2 to feel any need to return to the franchise.

At the time I just assumed that the Cube version was effectively a port of the N64 game because the original was Japan-only, so they made a Cube version to allow for a more widespread release.  I had no idea that this would become Nintendo's normal approach to the series.  Like with Pokemon spin-offs and the Wii Series I feel that Nintendo doesn't put in a proper effort on purpose because the target audience lets them get away with it.

I always imagined a full 3D Animal Crossing with a fully controllable camera like in most 3D Nintendo games.  Surely Nintendo can think of the same incredibly obvious idea.

Animal Crossing is one of the few games where humility, calmness, and leisure are celebrated instead of things like titillation, adrenaline, and sensationalism. I like that I feel that Nintendo's approach to the series preserves those virtues preserved instead of overthrowing them.

Call that "letting them get away with it" if you will, but I would rather think of it as the small Animal Crossing town staying true to its own qualities instead of trying to emulate the big city our protagonist is probably running away from in the beginning.

Pixelated PixiesJune 04, 2013

"If you were turned off by the lack of structure and real goals in previous Animal Crossing games, nothing here will change your mind."

Good to know.

Killer_Man_JaroTom Malina, Associate Editor (Europe)June 04, 2013

There are absolutely goals to strive for in Animal Crossing. The key factor is, how do you want to go about achieving them and at what pace?

The issue that some players run into with the series is focusing all their efforts on trying to hit a certain goal and burning out. For example, spending all of your time harvesting fruit and fishing because you want a bunch of money to spend on a development of some kind. In reality, these are long-term ambitions, and it doesn't make sense to power through them as quickly as possible. That's why there are dozens and dozens of events, interactions with neighbours and so on to enjoy as you leisurely move towards the long-term goal.

Fatty_The_HuttJune 04, 2013

Quote from: Killer_Man_Jaro

There are absolutely goals to strive for in Animal Crossing. The key factor is, how do you want to go about achieving them and at what pace?

The issue that some players run into with the series is focusing all their efforts on trying to hit a certain goal and burning out. For example, spending all of your time harvesting fruit and fishing because you want a bunch of money to spend on a development of some kind. In reality, these are long-term ambitions, and it doesn't make sense to power through them as quickly as possible. That's why there are dozens and dozens of events, interactions with neighbours and so on to enjoy as you leisurely move towards the long-term goal.

This description reminds me of the StreetPass games like Find Mii and the Puzzle Pieces game. I still play those almost daily after more than two years and I am still not finished. I am not frustrated by this, I enjoy the dip-in-and-out game style. I have never played an Aminal Crossing game. Maybe, like Khush, I will dive in early and have the shared experience.

Ian SaneJune 04, 2013

Quote from: Kairon

Quote from: Ian

I find it very annoying how changes to this "series" (personally I consider it all one game, ported to multiple systems) has such minor incremental changes.  I'm just not interested in an updated Animal Crossing as I've had my fill of the Gamecube one and would need an outright Animal Crossing 2 to feel any need to return to the franchise.

At the time I just assumed that the Cube version was effectively a port of the N64 game because the original was Japan-only, so they made a Cube version to allow for a more widespread release.  I had no idea that this would become Nintendo's normal approach to the series.  Like with Pokemon spin-offs and the Wii Series I feel that Nintendo doesn't put in a proper effort on purpose because the target audience lets them get away with it.

I always imagined a full 3D Animal Crossing with a fully controllable camera like in most 3D Nintendo games.  Surely Nintendo can think of the same incredibly obvious idea.

Animal Crossing is one of the few games where humility, calmness, and leisure are celebrated instead of things like titillation, adrenaline, and sensationalism. I like that I feel that Nintendo's approach to the series preserves those virtues preserved instead of overthrowing them.

Call that "letting them get away with it" if you will, but I would rather think of it as the small Animal Crossing town staying true to its own qualities instead of trying to emulate the big city our protagonist is probably running away from in the beginning.

I like the gameplay of Animal Crossing.  I just don't see why what wanting a more meaty sequel would "betray" that in any way.  I'm not asking for adventure elements or anything like that, just wondering why the same characters show up in my town and why I've still got this fixed overhead view and the same shops and such.  I see all the ways I can interact with the game world in the 3D Zeldas and wonder why AC can't offer the same sort of thing.  You could easily have something like a non-adventure Zelda and it would be a huge step forward in the series while maintaining the same gameplay style.

ShayminJune 05, 2013

It's amazing that a 9 review can leave me no closer to buying the game... but I've had no experience with the series and I'm not sure this would be the way to start.

Quote from: StrikerObi

Should have called it Animal Crossing: Socialist Nightmare

Thanks a lot, Obama.

banhim.jpg

Quote from: Ian

I like the gameplay of Animal Crossing.  I just don't see why what wanting a more meaty sequel would "betray" that in any way.  I'm not asking for adventure elements or anything like that, just wondering why the same characters show up in my town and why I've still got this fixed overhead view and the same shops and such.  I see all the ways I can interact with the game world in the 3D Zeldas and wonder why AC can't offer the same sort of thing.  You could easily have something like a non-adventure Zelda and it would be a huge step forward in the series while maintaining the same gameplay style.

This is just my personal opinion, but I think radically changing the camera of Animal Crossing would be a real change to the game's theme. This game isn't about "seeing" your environment, the gameplay in this is not you against the world, the environment, or the geometry. You don't need to see all those things in Animal Crossing. You simply need enough of a camera to let you simply and accessibly get around town and do the real things that matter: visiting neighbors, picking flowers, going fishing, and writing letters. You don't need radically overhauled visuals or a surround sound experience to get to the essence of Animal Crossing. It's one of the few games made to appeal more to your heart than to your head.

I'm not saying that strictly adhering to "the way things have always been done" traditions is the right move for the small provincial town that is Animal Crossing. I honestly have had difficulty getting into BOTH the DS and Wii versions of the game despite falling in love with the GC version. But I do know that I keep coming back to the franchise, and I think one of the reasons I keep doing that is because I want to feel like I'm coming home, and there's some comfort in things being, for better or for worse, "familiar." I'm concerned that "big city" glitz would just get in the way of that.

ResettisCousinJune 05, 2013

If there's one series I've played and thought a lot about, it's Animal Crossing. I think Nintendo is on the wrong track with this series- at least for my tastes. The extreme collecting is not the resonate part of AC to me. To me, it's the real time clock, "serial multiplayer" (your turn, mom; now your turn, brother) and the writing. I would like to see them expand the game in terms of the player-to-animal relationships (slash the number of possible neighbors down to a dozen or so and give each one a small text adventure-ish quest line), and I'd like to see a larger and more varied town landscape. They've also gone the wrong direction by pulling commerce out of the village and by making you the center of power and attention. I think it's a problem that you don't feel like a citizen as much as God with everyone else being a prop.

pokepal148June 05, 2013

i hope there is another holiday event i can grind bells out of in no time

jvgsjeffJune 05, 2013

^You don't need a holiday to earn a lot of money. Just go to the island and catch lots of valuable fish and bugs. Earning bells is easier than ever in New Leaf.

night814June 06, 2013

A lot of potential goals in AC result from your own desires, like wanting certain furniture or helping a neighbor

pokepal148June 06, 2013

Quote from: jvgsjeff

^You don't need a holiday to earn a lot of money. Just go to the island and catch lots of valuable fish and bugs. Earning bells is easier than ever in New Leaf.

yeah but the easter one could just be abused to death... I used it to pay off the house in city folk...

Lucariofan99August 02, 2013

To me it just looks like farmville but 3D, tell me why its so good? :confused;

Lucariofan99January 31, 2014

take it back this is the best game EVAR!!!

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3DS

Game Profile

Tobidase Doubutsu no Mori Box Art

Genre Strategy
Developer Nintendo
OnlineYes
Controllers

Worldwide Releases

na: Animal Crossing: New Leaf
Release Jun 09, 2013
PublisherNintendo
RatingEveryone
jpn: Tobidase Doubutsu no Mori
Release Nov 08, 2012
PublisherNintendo
RatingAll Ages
eu: Animal Crossing
Release Jun 14, 2013
PublisherNintendo
Rating3+
aus: Animal Crossing: New Leaf
Release Jun 15, 2013
PublisherNintendo
RatingGeneral
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