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Animal Crossing: New Leaf (3DS) artwork

Animal Crossing: New Leaf (3DS) review

"Private Universe"

On the one hand, Animal Crossing: New Leaf is a game about nothing. On the other hand, it is a game about everything. Animal Crossing is life. How do you review a life? You look at the person, their deeds, their accomplishments, their relationships. But that is just one person. How do you review life in general? You can’t. Every life is unique, different. Some people make the most of their lives, others don’t. People have different goals – love, wealth, a legacy.

Animal Crossing is an intensely personal experience. It will be different for everyone – it has something for everyone.

New Leaf even has something for veterans of the series – this is not a port, like the last two “sequels” have been. This feels new, like it has been built from the ground-up. You are now the mayor of your little village. This means you can initiate public works projects, allowing you to customise the look and feel of your town in a way the previous games never allowed. Aside from the obvious things like building bridges, you can add little features throughout town, from simple things like park benches, unlockable buildings such as the café or police station, and even more exotic wonders like your very own Stonehenge or pyramid. You start with a few choices, but others become unlocked as you spend more time in the game.

And as you spend time in the game, you learn a lot about yourself. What will you focus on?

Animal Crossing: New Leaf asset

Some people focus on making money on the weekly stalk market. You buy turnips on a Sunday morning at one price and then you have the rest of the week to sell them, hopefully at a massive profit. When someone discovers that their town is offering a high buying price for turnips, they will open their gate for others to come in and sell – at a price. Even if you didn’t buy any turnips, if you’ve got a good price, you can invite people in and ask for a cut of the profits. Their idea of success is millions of bells (in-game currency). They define their status by it.

Animal Crossing will also appeal to the hunters and collectors. There are a multitude of insects, fish and deep sea creatures to be caught and sold (or donated to the museum, an empty box which you can fill). You can also collect fossils and artwork, and the museum now lets you create your own exhibits so you can show off other parts of your collection. Or if you’re a hoarder, you can use it as extra storage.

There’s so much furniture to be collected and “catalogued”. There’s a huge online trade in trying to complete a furniture set. Because your shop only sells a few items per day, trade is necessary if you want a nice looking house in your first month or so. Animal Crossing has always let you be an interior decorator, but this is now taken even further with customisation options. You can change the colours, add your own patterns to item surfaces, and even use ores (such as gold) to spruce up your possessions. The golden toilet is a particular favourite.

If you’re a social butterfly, Animal Crossing once again has you covered. You can talk to your villagers and run errands for them. You can write letters. Some villagers might even become your favourites, while others you will come to loathe. You can visit your friends in other towns (either locally or over the Internet). The Animal Crossing experience is definitely enhanced by having a few good friends who are as obsessed with it as you are. You’ll find yourself visiting each other’s towns frequently, helping each other catalogue furniture, and when a villager moves out, they might move to your friend’s town and they’ll still remember you.

Animal Crossing: New Leaf assetAnimal Crossing: New Leaf asset

You can visit a special island to play with random people from your own country or internationally. You can play mini-games with them! You can meet some absolute jerks who block your exit and try to extort money out of you. Like real life, most people are inherently good, but you do sometimes run into people who are rotten to the core. Life simulator imitates life.

Most players will try to find some balance with the things they like to do in the game. Some people might even try for all of them. Personally, I don’t care much for gardening and breeding hybrid flowers, but some people can’t get enough of it. If you decide to travel to a small town and become mayor, you’ll find something that appeals to you.

Maybe you won’t. There’s a possibility you won’t enjoy this at all, or you’ll get bored after a month or two. I can’t tell you if you’ll become a permanent resident of the town you create. That’s up to you.

Animal Crossing can be relaxing, tiring, competitive, mundane, exciting, and addictive. If it grabs you, it will become part of your daily routine for a long time (I’ve currently clocked over 300 hours in the last 7 months). The weather in the village will become almost as important as the weather outside. You’ll smile at the things your villagers say, and you’ll groan when you catch yet another sea bass. You might share stories of your in-game day with fellow players. Then again, you might not.

Animal Crossing is your private universe.

jerec's avatar
Community review by jerec (January 19, 2014)

On very rare occasions, Jerec finds a game that inspires him to write stuff about. The rest of the time he just hangs around being sarcastic.

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honestgamer posted January 19, 2014:

I'm glad you reviewed this. I enjoyed the game too, but I only was able to play a few weeks before I got a pile of other games I had to play and that weaned me off of keeping Animal Crossing part of my daily routine. I likely need to go back to it and refresh my memory a bit and review it. I kept meaning to do that, actually.
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jerec posted January 19, 2014:

I can't believe I've played this game every day since June 14. I lost interest in the first game after about 2 months...

And somehow, despite getting hooked on other games, I seem to always find time for this one.

Damn, I misjudged HG time. I meant for this to be on the 20th. Now I have 2 reviews in one week. :(
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EmP posted January 20, 2014:

Nuke and resub!

Man, you're on fire right now. Those little jabs about you winning the Alphamarathon must feel like sand in Joe's throat right now.
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jerec posted January 20, 2014:

Only if I can keep it up and do another 24 unique letters.
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yamishuryou posted January 21, 2014:

I'm disappointed. This review wasn't a phoenix metaphor, describing the rebuilding of Jerktown from the ashes after it was destroyed.
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jerec posted January 21, 2014:

I honestly wanted to go with that angle, but I decided to go with an accessible, stand-alone review rather than a sequel story. But yeah, Jerktown was definitely reborn.
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yamishuryou posted January 22, 2014:

Jerktown is forever.
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Aquas posted January 23, 2014:

Nice review and defining what Animal Crossing is! I... never played them personally myself >.< only briefly.

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