Review by Zarren364
Moving forwards, slightly backwards, but mostly forwards.
Before I begin I should say that I am a returning player of the series, but I've only played Wild World so any additions I see will be based off that game.
What is Animal Crossing: New Leaf?
Animal Crossing as a series is a virtual life simulator in which the player moves into a small village filled with animal neighbors and lives out their life interacting with the citizens, economy, and environment of the village. You talk to your villagers and help them solve their problems, fetch them new items, run errands and occasionally hit them upside the head with a rubber mallet until they see red. You sell fruits and local wildlife(which vary on the time of year and day) to the shops to earn money which allows you to purchase new items to customize yourself and your home, and pay for expansions to your home.
New Leaf takes this to a whole new level with the mayoral system and other fresh additions to the series. With new stores dedicated to altering the outside of your home, brand new categories of clothing, accessories, and a dedicated floral shop, you can customize the way you, and your village looks so that each town is it's own unique gem tailored to it's creator's tastes.
Gameplay and Mechanics
The controls are pretty basic, circle pad to move, [A] to interact, [B] to run, [Y] to pick up items, the D-Pad to quickly switch between tools, and the bumper buttons to take snapshots that are stored on your SD card. The tools haven't changed in any way. You use a fishing rod to catch fish, a net to catch bugs, shovels to dig up or bury objects, watering cans to show off your green thumb, and the axe to become a lumberjack and to be okay. There are a few additions, but only one of note at the time of writing this. The wetsuit that allows you to swim in the ocean and dive for aquatic life and plants.
For the mechanics things are as they've always been. You engage in various methods of making money to customize and expand your house, be it catching fish and bugs, growing orchards of fruits, digging up fossils, or playing your odds in the turnip stalk market. All the while you slowly make your town into the village of your dreams, planting trees and flowers, laying down pathways through your towns, donating various items to the local museum. All the basic stuff that we've some to love in the series.
However, the addition of the mayoral duties adds a whole new wrinkle into the mix. Now you can build various attractions and land marks in your village through your public work projects. Say you want a fountain here, or a streetlight there, or even to move bridges around, you can do that. Heck, you can even alter how late or early your shops close or open, how quickly plants will wither and weeds will grow, or even increase both the purchase and sale prices of all items in your town. Although there is the slightly annoying issue that each item has it's own "box" that can't intersect the boxes of existing buildings or other public work projects, and many of them require a villager to request them which could take a few hours or a few weeks.
There is also the addition, or return as it is, of the tropical island. There it's always summer so you might not get a wide variety of fauna, but the ones that are there sell for a lot of cash. There are also a bunch of minigames to play, but I'll touch on that in the online section.
All in all, the gameplay and mechanics have made a good leap forwards, although they're not perfect, they're very good. (9/10)
Graphics and Sounds
Now the style of the games haven't changed much, or at all really. Everything has the same cartoonish, bright, charming stylization that is Animal Crossing. Plus they've never looked as crisp as they do on the 3DS's screen. For the sounds they've pretty much stayed the same, but there are new additions such as the sound of fish flopping when you first catch them, or show them off, and the sound of birds or crickets chirping in various places that add a nice layer of atmosphere to the game. The music also has the same charm that it's always had. Each hour gets it's own theme that has it's variations depending on the weather, there are dozens of unique CD's that can be played in stereo items, and, just like the graphics and sounds, this is it at it's best.
They earn a solid (8/10)
Online and Multiplayer
Well, needless to say, this is on a Nintendo system, and because of that you have to deal with the whole friend code exchange thing, or play via local wi-fi. Personally I don't see it as that big of an inconvenience, particularly when one grumpy player can completely destroy your town if they feel the need to. There is a lot to do in multiplayer though. As I said before in the gameplay section, on the tropical island there are a ton of minigames to play. These games will net you a second kind of currency called medals. The amount will be based on the difficulty of the game, and your performance. Not only that, but if you're playing with multiple people you get extra medals if you out-perform your buddies. With these medals you can buy island exclusive items including certain tools, furniture sets, clothing, accessories, plants, and access to a special island that has even more exclusive items.
Not only that, but the spot pass feature of the 3DS allows players to send copies of their homes to other players and vice versa. Once transferred they will be stored in the Happy Homes Showcase at the far northern part of your town. You can explore those homes and purchase many items (although for a considerable mark up), and even receive gifts from the player's avatar. Of course in any place outside of Japan, or even just areas of high population density, it is quite difficult to get a spot pass.
Then there is the Dream Suite, another new feature of New Leaf. Once unlocked and built you will be able to throw a copy of your town into the aether of the internet that once retrieved by other players via a code, will allow them to explore your town in a dream state. Although you only get to look at their town, those with the drive to create new unique experiences can use this feature to express their creativity in incredible ways.
Overall, this game has amazing online features and this alone will chew up days of your time in the course of the game's life. (10/10)
Now, this is a difficult thing to asses, especially with a game like New Leaf. On the one hand when you restart your town you will have a completely new experience. Well, you'll have the same experience, just in a different setting. On the other hand, however, the amount of time, not just hours put into the game, but real world days, necessary to get your village the way you want makes doing this a very difficult thing. Many things take weeks, and sometimes a few months to unlock meaning you'll have a long way to go to just catch up to where you were.
Because of this, I have to knock this down a few points (7/10)
The Grumbly Bits
This is where I'm going to throw all my complaints about the game. Most of them are minor, but a few can be quite aggravating when they happen.
1) Well, I'll go right back to the replayability section, the time to unlock certain public works, or upgrades to shops, or shops in general takes way too long early on. Unlike in past games when the only requirements were to spend a set amount of money. You're stuck with the bare minimums, and really not even that, for far too long.
2) When villagers move in you have no control where they move in. Well, that's not true, you can have some control if you've planed public works out in certain areas and you new villagers cannot move in closely to that area. However, too often they'll pop up right in your orchard, or in my case, a few feet from your own house. This leads to instant hatred of those villagers, and given that you have no control over when, or if they move out, a long time resentment of them.
3) In previous AC games many of the predominant townsfolk, once certain qualifiers have been met, will share their back story with you. They would tell you about how they moved to your village, their fears, secrets about other predominant characters, and so on, but this feature seems to have been removed almost entirely. To me this is one of the few places that they moved backwards from the past games.
I still highly recommend that you buy this game. Even though it has it's flaws it is still a sold game that will keep you entertained for a very long time. The new additions give it a brand new vibe compared to the other AC games and while it might not be perfect, it is easily the best in the series so far.
Rating: 4.0 - Great
Product Release: Animal Crossing: New Leaf (US, 06/09/13)
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