First off, I want to start off by saying this: Animal Crossing: New Leaf is not simply a game, it is a way of life. If you are known to get addicted to things, stay clear away as this game will take hold of you and I’m not sure there are “Animal Crossing Anonymous” groups (yet), so you might be in for some trouble. However, if that doesn’t trouble you, then let’s get started!
For a bit of history, this is my first time playing an Animal Crossing game. Until the recent gaming generation, I was pretty much a Pokémon and Zelda gamer, so I didn’t play the earlier games in the series. However, I decided to buy New Leaf based on the hype this release was receiving. I was torn between getting it as a physical cartridge or a digital download, but I opted for the latter option as it became fairly clear that this was a game that you would always want to have on your person. I do not regret that decision at all, as it means that I can quickly check my town for a few minutes whenever I want – unless you get really obsessive like a certain friend of mine, this isn’t a game you will be playing for hours on end at a time – this is one where the play-time will rack up slowly, over a longer period. Okay, I sort of wish I had received the cute Isabelle figure from GAME, but that’s about it.
I’ve owned this game since the day before its European release and one thing I have noticed, is just how much you can figure about a person by how they play this game. For example, I’m the kind of player who will make sure that I have just the right amount of Bells I need for my next immediate goal – be it paying back Tom Nook or funding a public works project. However, I also know players who obsessively fish for hours and rack up millions of bells, storing as many as they can in the bank. I would say my habit accurately represents what I’m used to in the real world – my family isn’t made of money and often, we have to live day-by-day, so I’m used to saving up for short-term goals as opposed to long-term ones. Whenever people say that my bedroom is messy, I refute the fact by saying that it’s not a mess because I know where everything is and I think my Animal Crossing house shows this very well as well – my rooms are organised, but very cluttered – there’s usually only a single square-wide space for you to walk.
One thing that I love about this game is that it gives players near-total freedom in how they want to play. Unlike most games, there is no in-depth story mode, there are no levels, no objectives – you just sit back, relax and play at your own pace. Do you want to fill your town with a forest full of trees? That’s fine! Do you want to go out to the island until the midnight hours fishing for sharks? That’s fine too! Do you want to go around hitting your villagers with your net? I wouldn’t recommend it, but that’s also fine! Do you want to collect certain themes of furniture, or just pick and choose whatever pieces you like? It’s all up to you! Some people may look at this aspect and think “Well, what’s the point?” but really, it’s quite simple – to escape the real world and enjoy a quiet life in a town full of cute animals.
Obviously, it would be hard to talk about Animal Crossing without mentioning the cuddly animals. Can we just get it out of the way that Isabelle is adorable? She’s an incredible workaholic – she doesn’t even have a house! Does she live in the town hall? Despite that though, she’s always bright and chirpy (except when I found her sleeping that one time). The cute designs, as well as the pleasant and peaceful music, really gives this game a nice, relaxing feel. Also, the detail put into them is really well done, such as Brewster making your coffee and actually handing it to you – the small details make things feel more real, despite it being a game about talking animals who can somehow make coffee without having any fingers, never mind thumbs. Another thing I do love about the game is the humour – whenever you catch a fish or a bug, there’s always some kind of cringe-worthy pun to go along with it, but as cringe-worthy as they are, they give the game a lot of character. There is also a wealthy supply of classic Nintendo related items, including some of the items the company made before they entered the gaming market, such as the Ultra Hand, Ultra Machine, Ultra Scope, Love Tester and Ten Billion Barrel that will drive any die-hard Nintendo fan into a collecting frenzy – personally, I have a museum exhibit dedicated to such items. It’s little things like these that really show just how much love was put into making this game.
As I mentioned earlier, having this game as a digital download is the preferred option of choice due to the long lifespan of the game. Due to Animal Crossing having no real goal, you might ask how it can have such a long lifespan but the answer is simple – it runs on the real world clock. Every second, minute, hour, day, week and month is as it is in the real world and certain events only happen at particular days and times. This means that players should regularly check their games on special occasions and holidays. The real world clock can be a double-edged sword though. This means that in order to make the most money, you will have to stay up late to go to the island when the sharks and rare beetles come out and depending on how hectic your life is, it could limit your ability to fully enjoy the game. Fortunately, Nintendo understand that and have introduced Town Ordinances into this game – you can make a law requiring shops to close later in the night, or you can make them earlier on. However, this does leave a large portion of the clock where there really isn’t much to do in the game (due to me having the late night ordinance in effect, this is 2am-10am).
Of course though, no game is perfect and this game does have its negative points. It does make me feel happy though that through my time playing this game, the only problems I have found are relatively minor affairs. The first of them is the camera; when you’re in someone’s home or the museum, you can use the D-Pad to rotate the camera to any angle you prefer. Unfortunately, this feature doesn’t work outside of the aforementioned buildings – it just acts as a short-cut to your tools. While being able to cycle from your fishing rod, to your axe, to your net just by pressing left and right is convenient in itself, I would have preferred if I was given more control over the camera angles when out and about in my town or on the tropical island, especially as there have been times where I’ve had a tree obscure my line of sight, making it harder to aim my fishing rod when trying to catch a shark, for example. Another niggle of mind is that none of the incoming residents apply for planning permission when building their houses – I’ve spoken to many people who have been frustrated by their future plans being ruined because a new resident decided to build their new house in an inconvenient spot. Personally, I built my house far away from the centre of the town, because I like my space…then three residents decided to build their houses right next to mine. Another slight niggle is that the Majora’s Mask item is a tad glitchy – when displayed on the floor, the spikes on its side dig into the floor and when placed in a display cabinet, they poke out of the glass. I also wish we could have more than 10 custom designs. Lastly, can I please just use the mail service to send letters and items to other players? Also, the ability to only allow specific people to enter your town at any one time would be a great addition to a future Animal Crossing game.
The biggest thorn in this game’s side though, is the online connection stability. I’ve been able to play games like Kid Icarus: Uprising on Nintendo Network with no issues at all, but when I try and connect with friends on Animal Crossing, there hasn’t been a single time when the connection hasn’t cut out. I’m not sure if this is due to server overload or what, but it is a pretty big issue. This is made rather more hampering when you consider that this game is definitely a community game. You would not believe the amount of friends who have got back in touch with me simply because we both own the game (most likely because they wanted my native fruit, but whatever). When I flip open my 3DS, I usually see at least half a dozen people online and playing the game. Although I do have to wonder what the point of the online interactions are – usually, people visit my town to drop off or collect an item we’ve made a deal over. There are the games on the Tropical Island, but that’s about it really.
Also, there’s nowhere else to really say this, so in closing: Tom Nook is a jerk. He keeps on charging me outrageous amounts for home expansions and wouldn’t even give the mayor a house until I’d paid up and considering how “public” Public Work Projects” are, they really should be called “Stuff the Mayor Has Funded” because there are no public funds – everything comes out of our pockets!. Is it any wonder that my basement is becoming a “World Domination Planning Room”? =3.
In conclusion, Animal Crossing isn’t just a game – it’s a community and it’s a whole other world. It is endearingly sweet, but overpoweringly addictive and it’s no surprise that the title has become one of the 3DS’ fastest selling. This game is definitely worthy of an 8/10 – unfortunately, while the majority of the faults I had with the game were slight niggles, there is a fair few of them that do stack up. Still, if you were to ask the question of “Snog, Marry or Avoid“, I’d definitely say Marry – but be warned, marrying animals tends to be frowned upon!
If you would like to visit my town, my Dream Address is 7000-2213-8277.