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Animal Crossing: New Leaf Review

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Adam Barnes

Nintendo brings one of its most-loved franchises to 3DS, but is it a worthy upgrade? Find out in our Animal Crossing: New Leaf review.

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Published on Jun 4, 2013

Animal Crossing: New Leaf is about as ‘Nintendo’ as games come, and while that’s not often a bad thing, as our Animal Crossing: New Leaf review will prove, in this instance it is.

Which is weird, because this is by far and away the best Animal Crossing game yet. There’s more to do, it’s more fully-featured than ever before and there’s much more customisation available as your hamlet grows.

But limited new features aside, the underlying gameplay is still the same Animal Crossing we’ve been playing for years.

You’ll still collect peaches every day to sell or speak to your fellow inhabitants as they whittle on about dancing and the weather and how they’re bored of their current catchphrase.

You’ll still gather up bees and butterflies and beasties and chip away at an increasingly expensive mortgage. 

It’s typical of Nintendo these days, truth be told, where it has found a winning formula and iterated on it over and over again.

Being A Mayor In Animal Crossing: New Leaf

But what of these new features? Animal Crossing: New Leaf offers something of a novelty, allowing the initial player for the game to become the mayor of a tiny seaside village.

This bestows a level of importance that the Animal Crossing series hasn’t provided before, enabling you to enact ordinances and decorate your town as you see fit.

But that’s about it. You’ll only have access to four ordinances, and their effects aren’t hugely noticeable. It’ll mean you can have a prettier town or make more money from sales but little of any impact.

It’s in the customisation options where Animal Crossing: New Leaf really shines, enabling the construction of new bridges, street lamps, benches, bushes and a whole host of beautification projects. 

They’re expensive, however, and add to the more gradual growth of your town that Animal Crossing is known for rather than littering your village with an unnecessary number of oddities.

Though you’ll have the opportunity to donate to the construction of a town project, it’s only yourself and other players that can actually participate.

There’s no canvassing of the public to get them to pledge their own money, even when a particular project has been suggested by one of them.

Life In Animal Crossing: New Leaf

The new Main Street is a huge boon to Animal Crossing: New Leaf though; an ever-growing shopping district directly connected to your town rather than unsightly buildings popping up right next to your own home.

Eventually there’ll be as much to do in the Main Street as there will anywhere else in the game. Where Animal Crossing has often been about spending half an hour each day on clean-up duty, New Leaf has much more available that will swallow your free time.

A game primarily about ticking off chores really shouldn’t be this fun.

But then that’s always been the point of Animal Crossing, whether it’s finding yourself drawn to particular townsfolk courtesy of an especially entertaining turn of phrase or the strange compulsive to gather seashells and sell them on. It all adds character.

As we’ve already said, it’s Nintendo doing what Nintendo does best. It’s agonisingly twee, and for that alone it’s impossible to hate.

You’ll simply enjoy being around Ken, or Carmen, or Knox, or Keaton. Not to mention the recurring characters in Tortimer, Phyllis (the grumpy twin of Pelly) or Blathers.

If those names mean anything to you then chances are you’re going to want to play Animal Crossing: New Leaf. This is a game for you.

Familiarity For Animal Crossing Fans

But it’s hard to ignore the fact that you’re still collecting the same fossil pieces – or the very same bugs and fish and art – that you’ve collected in every Animal Crossing game before.

Sure, there are more things to collect, but that doesn’t shake the incessant feeling that Animal Crossing: New Leaf is just too familiar.

The addition of the tropical island can be abused for some easy coins – and a large chunk of the new creatures to collect – and makes for a solid timesink should you visit.

But it’s primarily the new mini-games on the island that present the real reason to visit, which provide timed challenges of the same actions you’d usually undertake while exploring your town.

It could be collecting bugs or fish, smashing rocks or picking up fruit. There’s even an interesting memory game that utilises the spade. Fine diversions, all of them, but hardly innovative.

The novel new features comes alongside the 3DS’ StreetPass capabilities which, sadly, is hard to test for review when no one has the game yet.

Still, the feature tracks any fellow 3DS owners and their homes, providing row after row of showrooms to visit and explore – an insight into the minds of fellow gamers, perhaps.

Even in spite of our limited opportunity to test the feature, however, there’s only so much appeal it could provide. Sure you purchase some especially rare items for a high price, but there’s no depth beyond that.

The Best - And The Worst - Of Animal Crossing: New Leaf

It probably sounds like Animal Crossing: New Leaf isn’t all that, but it’s not that it is a bad game. Far from it, in fact.

No one expected far-reaching changes of Animal Crossing: New Leaf, but the significance of mayoral importance seems to have been lost on Nintendo. Not nearly enough effort has gone into this potentially game changing concept, and instead too much focus has gone into beefing up the tried-and-tested mechanics.

As a result it’s the customisation options that will really sell Animal Crossing: New Leaf to existing fans. The ability to add new features to your town, expand the Main Street or even refurbish parts of your furniture will all be appreciated by anyone who has begrudgingly paid off their mortgages to Tom Nook before.

Which leaves Animal Crossing: New Leaf stuck in a sort of middle ground. It doesn’t really do enough new to make it a must-have for those that have played the series before or enough to convince gamers who had previously overlooked the series either.

It’s hard to say really who this game is for, but then that kind of brings us back to our original point. Nintendo continues to focus on the franchises that work because – it seems – they are the games that sell the most.

If so, then the only relevant point you need to take from this review is that yes, Animal Crossing: New Leaf is the best, most fully-featured entry in the series yet, providing you're willing to give yourself to its unusual form of addiction all over again.

 

Score Breakdown
Graphics
8.0 / 10
Sound
8.0 / 10
Gameplay
8.5 / 10
Longevity
8.5 / 10
Multiplayer
TBA / 10
Overall
8.0 / 10
Final Verdict
With more to do than ever before it might seem a little strange to dock Animal Crossing: New Leaf for feeling repetitive, but in truth too little has changed to really celebrate this latest 3DS release. It'll eat your life whole in an instant, though, that much is clear.
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Game Details
Format:
3DS
Release Date:
14/6/2013
Price:
£29.99
Publisher:
Nintendo
Developer:
Nintendo EAD
Genre:
Simulation
No. of players:
1-4
Verdict
8.0 /10
The best Animal Crossing game to date, but a little too familiar to reward completely.
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