In my 26 years of existence, I didn’t think I’d ever feel bad for standing up a tiny animal made of pixels in a fake video game world, but I did. I said I would be at their house at 6:30 pm, but I missed it, leaving them looking crestfallen and disappointed in me. I felt more than a little ashamed.
This is what Animal Crossing: New Leaf for the Nintendo 3DS has done to me. Let’s review the damn thing.
For Animal Crossing series veterans, the gameplay will feel pretty familiar. As a new resident in a tiny hamlet (in my case, Assville), you work your way up from the bottom by selling fruit, bugs, fish and ore to Re-Tail to gain Bells which you can spend to improve your house.
The difference in New Leaf is that, due to a hilarious clerical error, you’re thrust into the position of Mayor upon your arrival in the town. As the Mayor, you need to build Public Works projects, which range from benches up to wind turbines, and enact ordinances. Different villager types will request different Works, so it behooves you to have a varieties of the available personalities in your town (of which there are eight).
With ordinances, you can customize your town to your liking. Normally, stores open at 10:00 am, but with the Early Riser ordinance, you can force stores to open earlier, which is helpful if you play on your morning commute or before work. Conversely, the Nite Owl ordinance will make the stores stay open later. There are a wide variety of Public Works to build and ordinances to enact, all of which can cost a pretty penny.
At first the monetary cost of things can seem a little daunting. It can cost upwards of half a million bells for some Public Works and home upgrades, but thankfully you can break the economy fairly easily by selling the bugs you catch on palm trees on the Island (which is unlocked after a couple days of play).
Speeding up the funding of certain projects is good because Animal Crossing: New Leaf is dead slow at times. It takes about a month between upgrades to the local supermarket to get the next one ready, and building new shops and expansions take a couple days. Animal Crossing wants you to take your time, and it isn’t afraid to throw a bunch of artificial barriers in your way.
Despite its simple appearance, Animal Crossing: New Leaf has a bunch of stuff for you to do and due to the fact that the game progresses in real time, synced to your 3DS clock and calendar, this means that every season there will be new content.
Every day when I open my 3DS, I go through my checklist: I search the town for fossils and other things to dig up, I harvest the fruit, sell anything I can to Re-Tail, water my flowers, and then I talk to my villagers.
This sounds like it might get boring, but ever since I bought Animal Crossing: New Leaf, I have played it everyday without fail. There’s something about its charming presentation that keeps bringing me back day after day.
One thing that does this is the gradual progression of your town from quaint village to a modern town. You start off with the bare essentials, but as you progress you can add a second floor to the museum, expand the supermarket and add a coffee shop. Being the Mayor allows you to shape your town and it’s really very rewarding.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf taps into a very special center of the brain because even if you’re awful at video games, you can’t “lose” Animal Crossing. Sure, I’ve managed to game the economy to my advantage and have a perfect town rating, but even someone who doesn’t come from a background of needed to be the best they possibly can at video games will get the same enjoyment out of Animal Crossing that I do. It’s simple, charming, and wholly engrossing.
With four season’s worth of content, it’s very easy to recommend Animal Crossing based on the value alone. While its cutesy nature and lack of any sort of conflict (unless you irrationally hate one of your villagers) might turn off some people, everyone else should be prepared to be sucked in, working your real life schedule around pleasing your sycophantic villagers.
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