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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Review: Animal Crossing: New Leaf (3DS)

A video game doesn't need a compelling storyline or a realistic tone in order to be an enjoyable experience. Animal Crossing is an addictive simulation game where you, the player, are the centre of the universe with a utopia of carefree duties and colourful friends to live with. It's a stress-free game that never pressures you, continues even if you're not there and features some real life holidays and events in a cutesy, fantasy sort of way.

New Leaf has set the bar for the franchise in terms of variety and game-changing mechanics. As the mayor, you're not entitled to fill out taxes or pass laws, but rather, develop the town the way you've always dreamed of. Isabelle, your newly founded secretary, is the key to your door. She offers advice, options for specific changes, and a list of structures for to choose from and to place wherever you please.

I found the new structures to offer a new interest in the series. Bridges, street lights, camp sites, benches, and so many more, are available from the get go for you to choose when building up the village. After choosing, Isabelle follows you to the direct location you want for your new structure. Then, she gives her advice and gives you a foreshadowing picture of what it's going to look like when it's finished. After the final decision, a gyroid named Lloid is placed and allows donations to help reach the designated target.

Another option is to change the mood of the town. I went for "night owl" so now the stores stay open a little longer and the villagers are still up and about well after the sunset, reporting misbehaving citizens, changing the town flag (or town tune), asking for advice, and even offering citizen satisfaction scores (a neat feature).

The shops and locations are on Main street which resemble City Folk's city substantially. Rather than riding a bus, talking to Kapp'n, and suffering loading times, Main Street is connected to the town via a railroad crossing. This convenience allows for more room to build and helps develop your very own town. Though, few locations remain such as the police station (optional to build) and the new recycling building: Re-tail.

Everyone's favourite raccoon, Tom Nook, returns as a real estate agent. Disappointing, I know, but I've quickly grown to like him in this position moreso than a shop keeper. Tom still manages your loans (which now feels appropriate), but also offers customized designs for your house. These options include siding, fencing, doors, and entire skins for the outside of your home.

His children - Timmy and Tommy - now maintain the shopping business and offer even more in terms of variety. Their neighbors, The Able Sisters and Leif's plant hut, offer other goods not found in Nook's shop. Leif sells flowers, watering cans, axes, and tree saplings while The Able Sisters still sell shirts, headgear, accessories and pre-designed patterns to wear.

As Mayor, characters will offer their businesses to move into Main Street's vacant buildings which offer new possibilities. So for instance, Shrunk (a pink shrimp looking fellow), sets up a place called club LOL (that sentence doesn't read well to me....). K.K. Slider shows up on Saturdays, too!

Blathers' museum is unexpectedly unique this time around. The fossil exhibit and art display may pale in comparison to City Folk's magnificence (in that aspect), but the aquarium is by far, the neatest one, yet. Whereas the insect ecosystem is fairly identical to the GameCube original. Though, the best improvement is the clean and quick menus of the museum. Instead of handing every fossil individually to Blathers, he can assess every fossil and receive multiple donations in one swing. He doesn't talk for hours at a time now, either.

When the time comes, Tortimer will invite you to come visit his tropical getaway. A lot like the GameCube's GameBoy Advance link up, you visit an island you normally couldn't access. Kapp'n picks you up on his boat for a thousand measly bells, and you're off. The charming songs he sings absorbed my interest as I was waiting. It's an innovative loading screen that does more than what was intended, it seemed.

The variety to do on the island isn't ground breaking but it's definitely appreciable. Walking outside is a small island where a sufficiency of bugs and fish wait to be casually caught. Some rare, some not so rare. Mini-games, in the form of "tours", are the side quests of Animal Crossing. After completing one, you're rewarded with medals that can be used for exclusive goods such as shirts and headgear. Playing the mini-games with friends is chaotic enjoyment. This rewards with even more medals due to the higher difficulty.

Speaking of multiplayer, connection issues damages the experience as my brothers and myself tried to play. It didn't happen often, but sometimes we had lost everything we had done because of a sudden bug with the servers. Once that's been fixed, the multiplayer will be even more fun. It's nothing innovative compared to previous instalments but it's definitely remained enjoyable especially when considering all of the new features.

As far as I can tell, there aren't very many new items to utilise. You'll still be shovelling, axing, and netting (yeah, I said it), until your face is blue. The only new item I found (correct me if I'm wrong), is the obscure megaphone. It's only purpose is to call villagers far away from you to come closer to chat. This can be accomplished by actually saying their name which, may be fascinating during first time's use, but is an ultimately lazy and useless item to carry.

If you have watched any videos on New Leaf, you're probably aware of the new swimming mechanic. During my time with it, swimming was a fun passtime as I collected a lot of exquisite objects in my baby blue swimming trunks. Though, as pleasant as collecting was, I found being able to listen to the ocean and exploring parts of the town I never thought possible, were the best factors of the new feature.

What will easily be the first aspect of New Leaf every fan will notice, is its graphical update. Unlike City Folk (where there was literally no difference between it and Wild World), New Leaf actually utilises the hardware to its advantage. Animal Crossing isn't the game to have attention to detail, but this is an exception. Everything is crisp and attractive, yet still remain true to the series. The aesthetics are nothing short of enthralling and is quite possibly one of the best looking games on the handheld.

When it comes down to the nitty gritty, New Leaf is the game City Folk should have been. Its offerings, traditions, and accessibility, are astoundingly gripping and ridiculously addicting. It may not be a perfect game, (with the multiplayer being a little buggy and minuscule things might add up for some), but it's the best the 3DS has to offer.



- Joseph L
Contributor

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Review: Animal Crossing: New Leaf (3DS)
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