Animal Crossing: New Leaf

“Haven’t done this much travelling by train since 2002 or so… man, that’s weird.” Rover stares wide-eyed at you as he considers this, and the Animal Crossing adventure begins.

You start Animal Crossing in the usual way: being quizzed by a cat while you’re travelling to your new hometown. Of course it hasn’t been eleven years since the last Animal Crossing game, but Rover is referring to how he spent the last few games travelling by bus. If you’re an Animal Crossing fan, this is one of the first moments where it will really hit you that even though it’s been a long time since City Folk, there are details you haven’t forgotten.

Nothing has changed about the basic premise behind the game: live out a second life in a village populated by animals. Animal Crossing can easily be mocked because as far as life sims go, it’s awfully tame, very idealistic and almost twee. After all, you spend your days fishing, harvesting fruit and catching bugs to pay off a mortgage to a raccoon. But to leave a description of Animal Crossing at only that does a vast injustice to a surprisingly rich and beautiful world, one that is started by the game, but continues to be shaped by you, especially so since in New Leaf, the town very much becomes yours as soon as your character steps off the train, and is inadvertently made Mayor.

In New Leaf, the town very much becomes yours as soon as your character steps off the train, and is inadvertently made Mayor.

Being Mayor is a guise for customising the town, which was never possible before but always seemed like a logical next step. Want another bridge? Club together with your neighbours to raise the bells and build one. How about a fountain, a park bench, some street lights or novelty cutout displays? Go ahead! You have the power, all you need is the cash. Further to this, being mayor means that you can put ‘ordinances’ into place that change the kind of town you have. Enact the Bell Boom ordinance to boost the economy, make the town beautiful by putting an ordinance in place, or if you can only visit the village early in the morning or late at night, ordinances will mean that the shops are always open for you, and there are always villagers awake to chat. This is your town, after all.

New Leaf feels a lot like a deluxe edition, since not only does it give you the same adorable characters, graphics and music with additional sprinkles (flowers sparkle when you’ve watered them, hamsters and monkeys can now move into your town, you can snap pictures of your village by pressing the shoulder buttons on the 3DS and K.K now does DJ sets every night as long as there’s a venue) but it takes the best elements of previous games and presents them to you with extra frosting and a cherry on top. A lot of the ‘new’ stuff comes from expanding previous elements, or making the next natural progression. The city with its cool shops is now ‘Main Street’ behind your village. Kicks, the shoe-shining skunk, now sells socks and shoes; hampoodle’s magic machine lets you make your character into a Mii; Timmy and Tommy run the supermarket while Tom Nook can customise the exterior of your house, whether that’s with a roof made of biscuits or a fence that looks like it belongs underwater.


The island also makes a welcome return, complete with Kapp’n singing a song in subtitled Animalese while he ferries you there. The old mayor, Tortimer, has now retired to run the Animal Crossing equivalent of an activity resort, holding mini games that you can participate in alone, with friends locally, or, perhaps most excitingly, over the Internet.

New Leaf feels a lot like a deluxe edition; it takes the best elements of previous games and presents them to you with extra frosting and a cherry on top.

It seems like old hat nowadays, but Animal Crossing was never really one for multiplayer over the Internet. However, New Leaf enables you to be matched up with random players to play mini games which range from fishing, to fossil-hunting to hide and seek. Back in the village, if you build a Dream Suite you can visit other villages in ‘dreams’, as long as people have enabled sharing. Since it’s a dream, you can’t trash the place! But perhaps my favourite example of New Leaf’s enhanced connectivity features is what happens when you Streetpass someone with the game.

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At the back of the village is the Happy Home Showcase, where people you’ve Streetpassed will end up with versions of their houses for you to nose around. This is easily my favourite addition to the game. There’s a real ‘through the keyhole’ feel to seeing what others have done with their houses, but the best part is that if you see a piece of furniture you like, you can usually order it and have it displayed in your own house the next day. Infinitely useful for collecting furniture sets, or just grabbing something cool.

I won’t go too much further into what’s new/different or what else you can do in the game, since regardless of whether you’re a seasoned villager or a newcomer, part of the joy of Animal Crossing is in discovering these little details. Even now, having had the game for a while, I’m constantly finding new things and the developments continue on Main Street. Finally, there’s no doubt that this game belongs on the 3DS not only because of the Streetpass elements, but also because Animal Crossing was always infinitely better when you could take it with you – it certainly chills me out during a morning commute. Living the New Leaf life is easy, cute and fun like it’s supposed to be and booting up the game to step into the village is a little like coming home.







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