Review by theotherpromise

Reviewed: 03/19/14

Create Your Happy Place


Animal Crossing: New Leaf is the fourth game in the Animal Crossing series and is the second one I’ve played. Animal Crossing is an open world game where there are no goals except the ones you give yourself, though a large focus of the game is on designing both your house and town. Animal Crossing has the in game clock be synchronized to the real world time, so one day in Animal Crossing is one day for us too.

The Town:

The town in Animal Crossing consists of up to ten animal neighbors. While there are a lot of different animals possible there are only eight distinct personality types, four types for female animals and four for males. This means that if your town is at max capacity you will have at least two repeated personalities. Since the personality is responsible for how the animal talks and reacts to you this can be quite irritating for a game which is in part, a social sim. Nothing is quite so jarring as to talk to two different animals and realize that for all intents and purposes they are identical. It would have been nice if there were at least ten personality types so it could be possible to have a town without any repetition.

There is a main street to the north of town which contains multiple shops which sell clothes, furniture, or exteriors for your house. There is also a museum where you can donate the bugs, fish, fossils, or artwork that you find. As you progress through the game more shops will become available and a certain shop, Nookling Junction, will upgrade. There is also a store in your town where you can sell what you have for money which is vital considering you will need money… a lot of it.

A Tropical Paradise:

In addition to the Town and Main Street there is also an Island that opens up after a few days of playing. On this island you can catch summer bugs and fish as well as play mini games to get medals. These medals can be used to purchase Island exclusive furniture. There is also a multiplayer version of the island which contains exclusive items.

Create Your Happy Place:

At the beginning of Animal Crossing: New Leaf you are asked a few questions which end up altering what your character looks like, unfortunately these questions do not seem at all related to character creation. So without looking up a guide, you will have no idea what your character looks like until you actually make it to your town. I would have preferred an actual character customization, since the nature of this game makes it so that you would likely want to create a character who looks somewhat like you do. The way they did it limits your options to the point that it might not even be possible to create a character that looks like you. One nice thing this game does is allow you to pick between a few semi-random town layouts at the beginning; having a nice town layout can help improve how much you enjoy your town and thus the game as a whole.

Once you make it to your town your character becomes mayor of the town, though you have to wait a few days and complete a few activities in town, before you have access to what that means. As mayor you have two primary duties: Installing town ordinances and developing Public Works. There are four town ordinances which can affect the prices of items in town, the store hours, or whether flowers wilt and weeds grow in your town. Public works are structures which you can build in your town. These are, in general, fairly expensive and you are limited to only building 30 or so total in your town. There are over 80 total public works but when you start, only a fraction will be available to build. The rest will have to be recommended and the way public works are primarily recommended can be frustrating. The public works, with a few exceptions are recommended randomly by your animal neighbors. Due to this it might be likely that you get one public work recommended each day or you might not get one in months. In order to be more likely to get a public work you will have to play the game more each day than you might be able or willing to do. Like everything in this game you are not required to build public works however it is a large aspect of the game and can help differentiate your town from others. When you want to build a public work you have to talk to Isabelle, your assistant, in the town hall. While Isabelle is your assistant she has a lot of say on what you can and can’t do. For instance if there is an event in town you can’t do any of your mayor activities and while this doesn’t happen often it can be annoying when it does. Also there is a space buffer on where you can place you public works so a lot of times you will try to set it down somewhere only to have Isabelle tell you there isn’t enough space. While this is reasonable for most public works, certain ones (like the bridges) require an illogically large amount of open space in order to be placed.

In connection to having problems placing Public Works your animal neighbors can move in on random spaces so if you are one to plan out what you want your town to look like you will quickly become frustrated as an animal decides to plop his or her house in right where you wanted your fountain. Animals will also start moving out with regular frequency unless you can convince them otherwise. This might cause problems if you are the type to become attached to your starting villagers since they may move out without your knowledge if you don’t talk to them often enough.

A large part of the game will likely revolve around making your house look nice. You start off in a tent but can fairly easily pay off the down payment to get your house. Once you have a house you will spend a lot of time paying off home loans to expand it as well as buying furniture to decorate it. While most people will pay off their house until they have all of the upgrades there is also the option to stop with rooms only being a fraction of their possible size or not built at all. Sadly for as much customization as is available the first few upgrades are mandatory to get to later ones, so if you want more than one room you will need a fully upgraded main room and then you will have to build an upstairs before you can do anything else. This bothered me since the main room can end up with doorways to three other rooms which can make it difficult to deal with, so it might have been nice to keep it small and treat it as a hallway. This will likely not bother most people playing, but if you are playing for customizing your house this lack of option can be irritating. There is also a lot of furniture to place in your room, though sadly the way the furniture is designed means you will have to get extremely creative in order to create anything that feels unique. One benefit is that eventually you will unlock the ability to customize certain furniture pieces which gives more options on what you can do with your house.

In some ways it will be easier to landscape your town than to design your house, given public work choices and the ability to plant trees, bushes, and flowers. Trees and bushes have certain rules on where you can place them but overall you have a lot of freedom in your town. Another thing you can do outside is place patterns on the ground to create paths.

These patterns can be designed by yourself or scanned into your game from QR codes as soon as the QR code machine is unlocked. With these patterns you can not only create pathways through your town, but also create wallpaper or carpet for your house, patterns for certain furniture remodels, and clothes. The clothes have the option of long sleeve, short sleeve, and no sleeve shirts or dresses as well as hats and umbrellas. To have access to most of these options you will need to create your clothes using the pro design option at the clothes store. Luckily the clothes store will also allow you to save several patterns, though only the patterns in your personal storage space (of which there are ten slots) can be active in town. This limits how much you can do with patterns, though you can create up to four characters in town, who each have their own pattern storage (only the first character can be mayor).

Sweet Dreams:

Now with Animal Crossing: New Leaf it is easier than ever to see what others have done with their own town due to the inclusion of the unlock-able Dream Suite. This allows you to upload a dream version of your town, so that anyone can visit it by inputting its dream code, and visit others dream towns by inputting their dream code (it also possible to visit towns at random but it is generally better to input a dream code). This is one of my personal favorite additions to the series, because it can be a bunch of fun visiting other people's towns to see what they did without having to have their friend code and visiting their town in multiplayer. Use of the Dream Suite does require internet access similar to online multiplayer.

Fun with Friends:

Speaking of multiplayer, this game allows you to visit other people’s towns or invite others to yours. To do so you need the other person’s friend code. While in someone else’s town you can do most of what you did in your town: catch bugs and fish, check stores, or talk to animals.

The Sights and Sounds:

Animal Crossing: New Leaf is a very pretty game using a wide range of colors and a cartoony art style. This game has really nice graphics for the 3DS and utilizes the 3D feature well, though it looks great even without the 3D and so don’t worry about playing the game without ever touching the 3D slider.

As for sound, the music is decent though not necessarily memorable. A certain character is an in-game musician who can give you CDs of his music of which they are hit or miss depending on your taste. There is no voice acting in this game instead using what is called animalese which sounds mostly like very fast gibberish. But it gets the job done and gives each animal a different pitch to their voice. You can also customize the town tune, which plays when you talk to anyone or at the beginning of the hour. Though sadly it only is about 16 notes long, and while it is supposed to have hold notes almost everything treats them like a rest instead.

Your New Life:

Animal Crossing: New Leaf never really ends and its addictive nature can cause you to spend way more time playing it than you really should. So be prepared to play for a long time, especially if you have any actual goals you want to accomplish.

Final Recommendations:

I know for me, the best part of this game is how much you can design so I would definitely recommend it if you ever wanted to be landscape or interior decorator, or a fashion designer. It also is great for collectors since completing the museum can be long worthwhile endeavor (especially finding all the art which is based on real artwork). While Animal Crossing: New Leaf still has several limitations it is definitely a step in the right direction for this series, so I would recommend it to veterans and newcomers alike.

Rating:   4.0 - Great

Product Release: Animal Crossing: New Leaf (US, 06/09/13)

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