Review by discoinferno84
You wanna go where everybody knows your name...
Moving to this town might have been a mistake. When you first arrive, it barely resembles civilization. There are only a handful of residents, a few run-down shacks selling their wares, and sparse vegetation. No pavement or lighting. The river has more garbage than fish. An old dock is rotting away on the beach. The desperation is palpable; the villagers nominate you as their new mayor almost the second your feet touch the ground. Thats a bad sign. Your predecessor must have been a horrendous leader. Its such a shame. All the potential this town had to offer, and this is the best they could do? Your new neighbors deserve better, and youre the only one who can make it happen.
You have to take care of yourself first, though. You dont have a place to stay, but a generous fellow named Tom Nook offers to build a house and gives you an unlimited time to repay him. It seems fine, until you get the bill. Theres a lot of zeros involved. Thankfully, New Leaf provides several ways to make money. Much like any Animal Crossing game, it starts off small and humble, usually with seashell collecting or fruit harvesting. Take whatever youve scrounged up over to the nearest shop and sell it for pocket change. Meet the neighbors, do a few odd jobs. Furnish your little home one piece of furniture at a time. Get some spare clothes. Put the rest in the bank account, and watch the numbers add up. Rinse and repeat, hour after hour, day after day. Its just like real life, except with talking animals. Eventually, you get enough cash to pay off the house, but Nook will coax you into renovating it further. Then the whole process repeats itself multiple times, culminating with you running out of floor space for your massive hoard of items. The transition from flea-ridden tent to a six-room mansion takes many hours and over 7.5 million dollars, but it is worth the effort.
While every Animal Crossing game is structured in the same way, New Leaf adds several new aspects to keep things interesting. Aside from the Happy Home Academy grading and the hidden Feng Shui decorating systems, Nook now runs a home exterior customization service. Various doors, fences, pavement, and entire architectural makeovers are available. The bland, generic houses can be tricked out with fairy tale-style spires, humongous modern windows, or even Japanese Zen Buddhist temple rooftops. The upgraded furniture list now boasts over 1,200 collectibles spanning multiple sets and motifs. If youre a completionist, prepare to be in for a long haul; items appear randomly in the store, so getting full sets requires some patience. The process is mitigated by the new Happy Home Showcase. By utilizing the 3DSs Streetpass system, you can view other players houses and order nearly everything inside. Though its only limited to five shipments per day, its immensely useful in finding obscure items and sets. However, theres no in-game list that shows what you already own. If youre not careful, you could waste thousands on extra furniture. Even something as simple a checkmark on an objects description wouldve saved a lot of hassle. Once youve loaded up on stuff, you should indulge in the newly-implemented refurbishing service. With some expensive gemstones and patience, your furniture can be redone in more stylish colors. As nearly everything in your home can be altered, crafting your dream home is easier than ever.
That goes for the clothing options as well. There are hundreds of shirts, dresses, skirts, shorts, pants, hats, eyewear, and shoes to collect. You can be a ninja, pirate, doctor, mummy, ballerina, witch, wrestler, schoolgirl, steampunk noble the possibilities go on and on. Thats just with the clothes you can find in the stores; thanks to the games impressive pattern-making menu, its possible to make and share complex designs. Its a feature that debuted in Animal Crossing: City Folk, but the touch screen makes it much easier to handle. Since your work is converted into QR codes, uploading and giving out designs online is a simple process. Just a quick Google search results in intricate, stylish designs and countless cosplay outfits. Its amazing how much can be done with such a simple editing tool. This is one of the few Nintendo games to utilize the 3DSs camera and Internet functionality so well. The ability to wear any clothes and hairstyle regardless of gender is a neat addition as well; my avatar rocks the Street Fighter Chun-Li look.
The game isnt just about you, though. While its easy to forget that youre mayor, paying attention to the town is important. Your patronage upgrades the shops inventory, eventually unlocking a stylish boutique with rare furniture and clothes. Even if its just to access the pattern-maker, theres something heartwarming about visiting Sable every day and getting past her shyness. Youll eventually get the tools needed to plant trees, catch bugs, and go fishing, all of which become the cornerstone for your financial success. The whole landscape can be converted into a huge, profitable fruit orchard. Many of the collectibles can be donated to the local museum, which results in a massive aquarium, insect garden, archeological exhibit, and art gallery. Getting that last part is particularly tricky; the art have real-life counterparts, so you need to able to tell which ones being sold are fakes. Its a clever nod to art and cultural fans, and its nice having works like The Great Wave off Kanagawa and the Winged Victory of Samothrace on display at home. If youre not obsessed with collecting, you can spend more time developing the town with sidewalks, benches, fountains, and a slew of other public works projects. If youre creative and hardworking enough, you can turn your town into anything from Hogwarts to Silent Hill.
Getting that far, however, requires more than just cash and imagination; it requires time. New Leafs in-game clock runs on real time, which means things change depending on what hours, days, and months you play. Depending on the time of year, the trees will change colors and different species of wild animals will appear. Most real-world holidays are celebrated, too; even if you play sporadically, you might stumble across a special event. If you play long enough during the day, youll notice how the games lighting, background music, and weather gradually change with each passing hour. If youre up too late at night, youll find all the stores closed and the townsfolk already asleep. Speaking of whom, your neighbors enjoy some one-on-one interaction; be it chores, giving items, or sending letters, they appreciate the attention and will warm to you accordingly. There are over 300 different characters, but only a handful can live in town at a time. They have a small range of personality traits; some are upbeat and peppy, while others are cranky or lazy. Its charming at first, but it wont take long to see the extent of their quirks. Compared to Tomodachi Life - a technically inferior game in every other way - New Leafs character interactions are boring and shallow. Aside from acquiring specific public works project requests and rare items, theres no reason to interact with them. If you ignore them or alter the clocks settings long enough, theyll eventually leave town. Unless youre obsessed with keeping inhabitants, losing one isnt going to matter much.
Instead, youll probably spend more time with real people. You can invite other players into your town (or visit theirs) via WiFi or local wireless. Its mainly used for item trading or auctioning off certain townsfolk, but the process is tedious. Theres no way to transfer objects or money directly from the menus. You have to dump everything out on the ground and hope the other person doesnt steal. Itd be much easier to have a trading system in Pokemon X/Ys style; there could be a preview image and a price attached to it, as well as a way to back out of the transaction. Also, the game only lets you communicate via the touch screen keyboard. Youre limited to short phrases at a time, which gets annoying when youre trying to hold a conversation. The lack of microphone functionality is a huge oversight, especially considering that the last Animal Crossing featured it. After the business is handled, you can ride out to the games tropical island and play mini-games. Stuff like balloon popping and item collecting is fun the first couple of times, but theres a lot of room for development. During your inevitable solo sessions, youll likely spend most of the time on the islands shores, catching the rare and valuable insects that spawn there year-round. Doing so makes money a non-issue, allowing you to quickly amass a nearly endless fortune.
It wont last, though. If you dont have enough friends or interest in designing your own stuff, youll eventually burn out. With no ultimate objective aside from earning money and collecting items, the experience feels increasingly hollow over time. Its easy to forget to log in for days, then weeks, then months. By the time you remember and come back, youll find the town covered in weeds and inhabited by complete strangers. You might catch a fish or dig up a fossil, only to realize that youve already found everything and have more cash than youll ever need. Youll fondly remember when the game seemed fresh and new, when you felt the rush of finding some rare furniture, or the satisfaction of creating something unique. With the sheer amount of items and customization options, those moments can be plentiful and rewarding. Its a reality brimming with potential, if slightly flawed and inherently limited. In the end, Animal Crossing: New Leaf is only as great as the effort you put into it. It truly is a simulation of life.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Animal Crossing: New Leaf (US, 06/09/13)
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