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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Animal Crossing: New Leaf - Review


Animal Crossing: New Leaf is the newest entry in the long running Animal Crossing series, and is the first (and most likely only one) to be released on the Nintendo 3DS. Originally announced back at E3 2010 as "Animal Crossing," New Leaf was an obvious improvement from the get go. Although this game is still in fact AC, it is quite a bit different form previous entries, and its content has been greatly expanded.

Now, before I go any farther let me explain something. Animal Crossing is not your typical game, and because of that this review will not be like other NGR reviews. The game does not have a plot, it runs COMPLETELY in real time, and there really is no goal; so, please keep that in mind as you read the following review. Now anyway, lets get started!

Moving to a New Town (Possibly Again):

The moment you start up Animal Crossing: New Leaf you will find yourself on a train. As you sit there and view the game from a first person point a view, a purple cat named "Rover" will walk over to you and sit down in the seat just across form your very own. At this moment Rover will introduce himself, and begin asking you a series of questions. He'll ask you about your name, how you feel about your name, and even ask you the name of your town. While it may not seem like it, these questions are actually very important, and they decide what you will look like in the game. There's a wide verity of different hair styles, as well as faces for you to start out with, and because of that you will have to watch what you say.

After you have answered Rover's questions, he will then ask you about the new town you are moving to; at this point you can name your town just like in past Animal Crossing games, but this time there is a twist. As soon as you name your town, Rover will pull out four maps and ask which of the "local" towns your town is. For the first time in Animal Crossing, instead of just being given a randomly generated town, you actually get to pick from one of the four randomly generated designs. However; this isn't all that is different this time around.

This time around towns are actually on plateaus meaning that the town is leveled with slopes that lead down cliffs to the beach area. While in past Animal Crossing games there were in fact split levels, this time the lower section of town is nothing but a beach, and the beach even wraps around the town. Some towns have a beach that goes down the left side, while other towns have one that go to the right. This really doesn't change anything, so feel free to pick whichever you like best.

On top of all of that, there are a few other changes you will notice as well if you have played previous entries in the series. Now the shop, clothing store, as well as the museum have been moved out of town, and put into a new area just north of town. This frees up space to do as you wish with your town, and also improves on the city aspect that was introduced in the Wii release called "City Folk." Although these buildings have been moved, a brand new store has been added to the town; which I will cover a little later on.

Once you have answered all of Rover's questions, named your town, and picked the town layout, you will arrive at your destination.

Becoming the Mayor:

The moment you step off of the train and walk out of the train station, some of the animals from town will be there to greet you; yes, you heard me right, animals. If you didn't know, Animal Crossing is a game where you are the only human in town, while everyone else is a human like animal, but this time around they all look different. In Animal Crossing: New Leaf, the humans have been made taller, and the animals have been made taller or shorter based on whatever race they are. For example, while elephants will be taller than most, frogs will be pretty short. This helps add scale to the world, but it also opens up new features as well.


Well, after the animals greet you and welcome you to the town, you find out something shocking. It turns out you aren't just moving to this town, you are now going to be the mayor of the town! At that moment you are pulled to town hall by a little dog, and the game's tutorial will begin. You will learn to explore the town, learn about talking to villagers, learn about going on "quests" for them (which normally involves taking an item to someone), and you will also learn about how to be a mayor. During this section of the game, things do move quite slow, but it helps you get up to speed. If you have never played an Animal Crossing game before this part will be very useful, but long time fans may just want to rush through it as fast as possible. I mean how many times do you need to be taught to catch fish?

Your House:

When you first become mayor, you will be asked where you want to place your house. Unlike in other games of the series where there were predetermined areas for your house to be located, this time around you can build it ANYWHERE you want; as long as it meets a few requirements. As long as your house isn't too close to a river, cliff, on sidewalks, or on the beach, you can build it right where you are standing. This is actually how most of the game will play out from now on, so you better get used to deciding where to put things. Once you decide where to put your house, a small tent will be built in place of it. It'll be one full day before you actually get your house, and you will have to pay a fee if you want to pay it off and upgrade (or do anything else to your house).


In Animal Crossing: New Leaf, Tom Nook (who used to run the store) has finally broken off into the real estate market, and he can now provide quite a few expansions and upgrades for your home. After your house is built and the tent is replaced, you can start paying back your loan, and start upgrading. Whenever you pay off your loan, Nook will ask you if you would like to expand your room size (all rooms can now be expanded on an 8x8 grid) or add new rooms (you can build three extra rooms on the main floor, an upstairs, and a basement), or you can also pay him to change the outside of your house as well. There are different themes your house's outside can take on now, you can change the mail box out front, or you can even change the concrete or fence that surrounds it. This allows you to not only completely customize the inside of your house, but the outside as well; however that isn't all that is new!

Up until now, there has always been a limit to how far you could turn the camera in your house, and because of that you really couldn't show off all of your furniture as you might have liked to. For example, you might have a really cool picture or statue to show off, but there might only be room at the south end of the room. This is a problem because you could not turn the camera angle around to see it, which meant you would have to turn the actual picture around to face the "wall" so YOU could see it. While this solved the problem of not being able to see it, it doesn't quite look right, and the HR would give you lower points for it (yes, your house is graded in Animal Crossing, and prizes can be earned by getting a high score). Well, that is no longer an issue.


For the first time in Animal Crossing history, you can now turn the camera in a full 360 degrees while in most buildings! Now you can put cool pieces of furniture against the southern wall without having to worry about not seeing it, and to top it off, you can even hang objects on the wall now! From pictures, to clocks, to shelves, to just about anything else you might want on a wall; you can now do it! To go along with all of that, you can also change the color of some objects, or even use your own custom patterns/textures on them as well. This time around you truly can customize your house how you want it, and you no longer have to use "stock" objects like everyone else.

Another improvement for houses (and buildings in general) is the fact that when you play online, all four players can now enter a single area. This was an issue in past games since the limit was two, and that would often exclude the other visitors in your town.

The City:

As I said before, the city that was introduced in City Folk has made a return (somewhat), but this time around it has been greatly improved. In City Folk the city was an offline only area, meaning that you could not access it when you were playing online; however now the city is actually a part of your town, so anyone can enter it at anytime. Also unlike in City Folk, the city has now been greatly expanded, and it will begin growing from the moment you start the game. Here are just some of the features you will be able to find there as you continue to play.


The Store -

Now that Nook no longer is running his shop, his nephews have come to take it over. Just like in past Animal Crossing games the store will start out quite small, but it will upgrade over time. By spending cash, and waiting so many days, the store will once in awhile be remodeled which will greatly improve their selection. While at first they only carry a few objects, soon they will be carrying many different types of furniture, different tools, and even special items like musical paper to mail your friends with.

The Garden Store -

Unlike in past games, the Garden Shop is now its own store. Here you will be able to buy flowers, axes, watering cans, and even trees for you to plant in your town. Over time their selection will grow as well, and you will even be able to unlock some special tools.

Able Sisters -

Able Sisters is a clothing store, but it servers quite a few purposes. While the main room of the shop is where you can buy shirts, and pants, the second room is where you will be able to buy hats, wigs, and other accessories such as glasses. Although, these are only two of reasons to visit Able Sisters. Here you can also make your own designs to use around town (such as town flags, your furniture at home, or even on the ground as custom tiles), or you can even design your own shirts/dresses/hats/umbrellas and put them up on display. These are called "Pro Designs," and they allow you to customize just about everything about each shirt, dress, or hat. You can customize their front, their back, and even each sleeve (that is if you decide to even have sleeves on them), and you can even share them in the form of QR codes.

The new major feature that was added to Able Sisters is the ability to turn your designs into QR codes to share with the world. By using Nintendo's official upload site, you can create your QR codes, upload them to Twitter, Tumblr, or Facebook, and then share them with all your friends online. You can also find other people's works as well, and scan them into your game for future use. Although there are only so many slots for designs to be saved on your person, you can also use Able Sisters to save other patterns in storage as well.

Shampoodle -

Shampoodle is the hair salon in the Animal Crossing world. It was originally added in for Wild World on the DS (up until then your character always wore a hat), and it allows you to change your hair style and color as well as your eye color. Whenever you go into Shampoodle, you will be asked a series of questions just like when you started up the game, and this will decide your hair style. Although you can only change your hair once a day, you can change it as many times as you want so it really doesn't matter if you mess up or not. As for the eyes, it works the very same way. You will be asked a few questions about what you might want your eye color to be, but its a little bit easier to tell what color it'll be. These questions involve things such as the trees and the ocean, so if you want brown eyes all you have to do is talk about trees, and then their trunks; it is basically common sense.


Kicks -

Kicks is a newly added store where you can buy shoes as well as socks for your characters. Since characters are now taller in New Leaf, your socks can be clearly seen (depending on what type of pants you have on), and you can even choose to wear shoes or socks or not.

Dream Suite -

The Dream Suite is another new feature introduced, and it allows you to visit random towns in a "Dream World." By going into the Dream Suite, you can upload a virtual world of your town, or you can enter other virtual worlds as well. These worlds are not real, and changes you make in them will not be saved; the only thing that can be saved is the patterns/designs that person may have up for trade. If allowed, you can take their designs back to your town if you wish.


To visit towns, you can either search for them, go to a random one, or if you know an address you can enter one in yourself (For Example: 4400-2136-8337 will take you to my town Bruhl).

Club lol -

Club "lol" is yet another new addition to Animal Crossing, and it serves three purposes. During the day you can go to Club lol to earn emotions for your character to use (this time around you can actually learn them ALL instead of being limited to a few), the dog K.K. will show up as a DJ at night, and on Saturday you can show up at night to request a song from K.K. that you can then bring back to your house to play. Although normally K.K. will just play a random song, you can request one if you know the name of it.


Museum -

Like Nook's shop, and Able Sisters, the Museum has also been moved from the town to the city section. At the Museum you can donate fish you've caught, bugs you've caught, you can donate dinosaur bones you dug up in town, or you can also donate artwork such as paintings as well. For the most part the Museum is just for show, but now it does have a few new features as well. If you donate enough and meet set requirements, the Museum can now be updated to a second floor. There you can buy special objects and tools, as well as rent out rooms to show off your own exhibits.

Other -

There are other features that can be unlocked in the City as well, as well as a street pass area. In this section of the city, houses from users you have street passed will show up, and you can even go in their houses to get new items for your own.

New in Town and Town Hall:

Although the City is where you will find a lot of the new features, the town itself has some new aspects as well. A lot of these aspects are ones that you can actually control, but not all of them are.

Re-Tail Shop -

The Re-Tail shop is a newly added shop located in town. Here you can sell items just like at Nook's store, or you can put your own items up for sale for the animals to buy, or for out of town visitors. To put it simple, the Re-Tail shop is basically a "Player Shop," and that is its main purpose; however it does have a few other features as well. Each day the Re-Tail shop will be buying different items at a high price, so it can be used to make money faster as well. For example one day it may be buying shirts at a higher price, but another day it might be buying specific fish at a higher price. Each day its daily special is picked at random, so there is really no way to tell what they will be buying next.


The third main feature of the Re-Tail shop is to change your furniture. You can change the color of furniture, or you can even use special gems, found by breaking rocks around town, to give them special color effects.

Town Ordinances -

Town Ordinances are a new feature added into town hall. By paying 20,000 bells you can set the town ordinance to whatever fits your style. For example, if you like to play the game early in the morning, you can set it to early bird so shops will open sooner; however if you play at night, you can set it to night owl to keep them open longer. There are other ordinances as well (one that keeps flowers from dying and one that increases sales prices), and it is completely up to you to decide which one you want to use. It's just another way to make the town fit your style.

Public Work Projects -

Another new, and MAJOR, feature in New Leaf is the Public Work Projects you can take on. Since you are mayor it is up to you to decide what is built in town, and where to build it. You can build more bridges, fountains, wells, street lights, a cafe, a police station, park benches, a camp ground, and much much more. All you have to do is take on the project, and come up with the money to build it.

The Island:

In the original Animal Crossing you could visit an island which had coconuts you could bring back to plant and grow in your town, as well as an extra villager for you to get to know. Although this island really didn't add too much to the game, it was a nice little extra, and it was one of the few uses for the Game Boy Advance link cable. Well, after two games, Nintendo has brought the Island back, and it is better than ever!


The Island in Animal Crossing: New Leaf is quite a lot different from the Island in the original game. Here you can find more types of island specific fruit to bring back to your town, and you can also play mini games alone, with friends, or even with random players. These mini games range from bug catching games, to fishing, to hide and go seek, to even smacking a RC car over the head with a hammer. Depending on how well you do in these mini games, you will then earn medals, and you can then spend these medals on island exclusive prizes. Among these prizes is the diving suit which actually allows you to go swimming, as well as dive for undersea life.

Fishing, Bug Catching, and Diving:

The final main feature in Animal Crossing: New Leaf is the fishing, bug catching, and diving system. Just like in past games bugs and fish will show up in the water, and you can catch them. Different types of both will show up during different times of the year, and sometimes you have to get a bit creative when it comes to catching them. For example some bugs may show up on flowers but fly away as you get close to them, and some fish may only show up at night or when it is raining. To catch every type of bug, fish, and sea creature (found from diving as mentioned above) you will have to really do your research, and look for any sign that may point you in their way. (Don't forget, Mole Crickets live underground, so that means you'll have to listen for their cry and dig in the correct spot!)


To catch bugs you'll need a bug net, and you have two ways of going about using it. You can either just swing the net down as fast as possible, or you can hold it above your head and creep toward your target. As for fishing, fish will always show up as shadows, and all you have to do is cast your line out in front of it, and pull the fish in the moment it takes the bait. Although you cannot catch undersea life with a fishing pole, you can simply use a wet suit to dive under water, and run into the shadow to catch them; it's as simple as that.

Other Features:

The world of Animal Crossing is an always expanding world, and there are a few other features you have to keep in mind. First of all, your grass can actually die. Running on grass will slowly kill it, and over time dirt paths can form. To fix this problem you can actually plant flowers, and water said flowers to keep them healthy and help grow back the grass. On top of that, flowers can be bread as well. By putting two flowers of the same type next to each other, but with different colors, you can create a hybrid of said flower. Although by using basic Biology you will be able to create specific colors (by knowing which genes are dominate and which are recessive), all it really takes is putting flowers next to each other.


Trees and bushes can be grown in game as well. By burring fruit, or planting bushes from the island, you can create your own orchards of fruit or create paths to help structure your town. While it does take quite a few days for plants to grow, in the long run the wait always does pay off.

Holidays and Events:

As I've said many times already, Animal Crossing is an always expanding world, and it even has holidays and special events. During these holidays you will be able to receive special holiday related items, or even unlock special prizes as well. If you truly want to see everything this game has to offer, you will have to play it for a full year; if not longer.


Online and Other Towns:

Although I'm sure you've already figured it out based on what I've been saying; Animal Crossing: New Leaf features an online mode. With this mode you can either invite up to three other people to your town, or you can visit your friend's towns as well. Really one of the major aspects of Animal Crossing is the fact that it is sort of a social game. While the original game simulated a social world with its animals, now days it truly is one. You visit your friends, hang out, take part in town events with them, stay up late hours into the night talking, and basically just flat out have fun. You get to show off your town and hard work to them, and you can even help others build their town as well.


How you play the game online is up to you, and it is completely up to you if you even want to use this part of the game. Although I would like to say that the game is a LOT better when playing with friends; I strongly recommend it.

The Good and the Bad:

Well, here's the truth. Animal Crossing has no good and has no bad points; it all depends on you. The simple fact is, the game is LOADED with content, and is built to last you for MANY years without ever ending. In fact, if you wanted to "100%" the game, it would take quite a few years, and a lot of luck to find every single item. Nintendo has always made Animal Crossing a game to last, and the same can be said for New Leaf. This time around the game has been greatly expanded however, and because of that it could easily last twice as long as earlier entries in the series.

The only bad thing about the game is the fact that it isn't for everyone. Not everyone likes games that runs on real time, and some people prefer to actually have a set goal other than building a town and house. If you are one of these types of people, I recommend that you at least give the game a try (possibly an early entry in the series), but there's also a pretty good chance you won't like it. That's really the only down side to this series, and that is something that will never change.

As for everyone else, Animal Crossing: New Leaf truly is a great game, and it is sure to be a must have for all Nintendo 3DS owners. The art style is nice, the music is great, the taller character's are a welcomed change, the new buildings and areas are a great addition, and the fact that you can actually build your town is more than any AC fan could have hoped for! The game is a very solid entry in the series, and after playing it you will NEVER want to go back!

I give Animal Crossing: New Leaf for the Nintendo 3DS a perfect 10/10!