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February 10, 2014 / Jett

Animal Crossing: New Leaf Review

There was a time in my life when Animal Crossing seemed like the best thing ever. During its Gamecube days, I played that game religiously for about a year. I was fully invested in growing my house into a home I wanted to live in, building relationships with the townspeople and collecting all of cool items that world had to offer. But since then, Animal Crossing has been ported to the DS and Wii with barely anything changed or updated.

To its credit, New Leaf represents the biggest shift forward for the franchise yet. It’s also a game that managed to stay in my rotation for a long time. But did I like it? I don’t know.

The game immediately hits you with a curve ball as soon as you step off the train. Though you were just looking for a place to stay, it turns out that you’ve actually been appointed as the new mayor. As part of your mayoral duties, you can choose to improve the city through a number of different construction projects, such as the creation of benches or bridges. Of course, you’re expected to help fund some of it with your own money, but the others in your town can donate as well. I think it’s a great idea to have more long-term goals to work for, but I do wish my neighbours were more forthcoming with their money. If you were to leave it to them to fund any project, it would take you months before you could even afford a park bench.

One other benefit to being the mayor is your ability to set ordinances. In the past, you were a slave to a store’s schedule. Once you purchase the ability to set them, you can control when stores are open among a number of other variables. Having options like this available for you at a cost goes a long way towards making the game fit your real-life schedule.

Besides the public projects, your big goal is to build up and trick out your house. In this game, you start out in a measly tent. You can work your way up to a multi-storey house, though it’s going to cost you. As with every other Animal Crossing game, you can earn funds by selling items you collect along the way, whether it be fruits, clothes, or turnips, which basically act like shares in the town’s stock market. Having access to the island to take part in new mini-games or to collect exotic fruit for the purposes of selling does add a bit more variety, though the gimmick wore out on me pretty quickly.

One aspect of the game that continues to surprise me is the dialogue with all of the characters. They have so many different things to say and you interact with them in a number of different ways beyond standard dialogue. You may be called upon to invite someone over to your house, give someone a gift on their birthday, or play Hide and Seek. Each time I boot up the game, I make sure to talk to everyone, as I value the interactions I have with them.

I get that if you change Animal Crossing too much, it becomes something that isn’t Animal Crossing anymore. For newcomers or those who haven’t grown tired of the formula, I can see how New Leaf is the best one yet. I appreciate many of the things the game does to mix things up. However, I’m so burned out on the core formula that it was very difficult for me to fully jump in. But for a game that I seem lukewarm on, it still kept me hooked for many hours, none of which I felt were wasted time. I don’t really know if I had a good time with it, but I know it wasn’t bad, either.

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