Jun 142013
 

Moving to a new town is never easy. You have to condense your entire life and jam it into as few boxes as possible, put all those boxes on a truck, and hope they arrive safely at a new location. Once you re-settle you have to worry about a new job, and if your beloved pet iguana Fifi had enough air holes in the shoe box you packed her in. You will have to consider the possibility that your new neighbors will be too noisy, too smelly, or that they will be the topic of the newest Hoarders episode. Also, there is the possibility that the entire town will be inhabited with anthropomorphic animals and they will name you their mayor, with no questions asked.

Gameplay
At first glance, it’s easy to dismiss Animal Crossing: New Leaf as a cutesy kids’ game, or a glorified version of FarmVille. Once you spend a little time with it, however, you will realize that nothing could be further from the truth. What the game is truly, at its core, is a study in economics.


As soon as you assume your mayoral duties, you will have to come up with a place to live. The town’s real estate agent, Tom Nook, will gladly loan you the money for your home and give you a tent to live in while you come up with the down payment. Given the fact that he keeps you trapped in a cycle of loans and repayments, it would have been more appropriate for Tom Nook to be a shark rather than a raccoon. To earn the stack of cash he asks for, you will need to start gathering things. You can gather your town’s specialty fruit, capture bugs, go fishing, shake things out of trees, grab seashells, and dig up fossils. Savvy newcomers will begin planting their fruits immediately so there are more trees to shake for goodies and to harvest fruit from in the future. Really, the only thing you can’t do is burgle people’s homes, which is unfortunate since most of them have an open door policy.

Would-be financial moguls who want to feel thrill of financial risk can play the “turnip market”, which is Animal Crossing‘s version of the stock market. Once a week you have an opportunity to buy bushels of turnips and then you have a week to resell them for profit before they spoil. The price you can sell them for fluctuates daily, so it is somewhat of a gamble.

Aside from acquiring items and expanding your dwelling, a large part of your personal wealth will be spent on the town itself. Any time you want to enact an ordinance you will have to cough up quite a bit of money. Actually, the political mechanics in my town of Belle Poo seem very akin to Chicago’s; officials have to grease quite a few palms to get things done. It’s just a shame there is no battalion of mafioso rats to do your dirty work. If you hope to get any public works projects completed in a timely manner you will have to make some sizable donation to the project’s fund.

Getting Sidetracked
When you’re not scrimping and saving your cash, there are quite a few diversions to keep your mind off of your financial troubles. For a mere 1,000 Bells (the game’s currency) you can board a boat to a place that is simply referred to as “the island.” The boat’s colorful captain, named Kapp’n, will sing you some songs that are too hilarious to be missed. While on the island, there are exotic fruits to collect that you can take back to your town, and quite a few interesting mini-games to play that will net you medals as a reward. These medals can be spent in the island’s gift shop for some really unique items, such as a wet suit that allows you to go swimming. If there is a friend visiting your town, they can go to the island with you and the games can all be played together.

If a sunny, tropical oasis isn’t your thing then there is still plenty to do in the town. Personally, I have become quite a fashonista and end up buying or designing a new outfit almost daily. The clothing and accessory shops have a randomized assortment of articles that changes daily, and surprisingly they’ll even let you cross-dress to your heart’s content. However, if buying off the rack isn’t your thing then you can make a custom design to parade around town in. My mayor looks quite distinguished in the tuxedo I made for him, with a top hat from the shop.

Connectivity
As mentioned above, Animal Crossing: New Leaf offers some fun and interesting ways to get your friends involved in the game. Anyone you know who has their own copy of the game and a 3DS can visit your town, either via the Internet or a local wireless connection. They can then trade items with you, and catch unique bugs and fish in your town. There is a nice in-game chat system, and a feature that allows you to dub three people a “best friend”. When one of your best friends is online at the same time as you, a notification will appear in the game to let you know. You can then chat with them, even if you both are in your own separate towns.

Presentation
If at this point the game sounds like a bit of a grind, that’s because it is. However, it is a delightful grind to take part in, and that is thanks largely in part to the game’s aesthetic. The townspeople are adorable, colorful characters that have distinctive personalities. If you get to play the game, you should talk to everyone as much as possible because there are some great dialogue gems in there. The town itself is pleasing to look at, and as you walk around it you will see the environment roll around on a curved plane. The 3D effect is one of the better ones seen on the 3DS so far, and the game’s visual style was clearly chosen to be accentuated by the 3D.

The score for New Leaf is similarly enjoyable, and is surprisingly well-done for a 3DS game. There are different themes that play in the town depending on the time of day, and as mayor you even have the ability to alter the music just a bit. Townspeople even have their own tastes in music, so you will hear a wide variety of tunes when you visit them. All together, the music and visuals join together to make sure that while you are toiling away to dig yourself out of debt, you will be completely enamored with the game’s environment.

Offer someone a game about economics and you’re likely to get an eye roll in return, but slap a beautifully bright coat of paint on it and make most of the cast adorable animals and you might actually grab someone’s attention. Animal Crossing: New Leaf is a wonderful timesuck that you can share with your friends thanks to some nice connectivity. Even the most hardened of gamers will enjoy some time tailoring their virtual town and obsessively collecting countless items. Now might just be the perfect time to pack your bags, and hop on the nearest train and see what adventures await you in places with exotic names like PooVille, ButtTown or FartCity.

Pros:

  • This game is basically pure happiness and relaxation wrapped up and packaged on a 3DS cartridge.

Cons:

  • It will be hard for you to only play this the 16 or so hours a day you’re awake.

Final Word:

FANTASTIC

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