Animal Crossing: New Leaf Review

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There are some things I don’t understand, like how Nik Wallenda could possibly bring himself to walk across the Grand Canyon with nothing supporting him but a two-inch wire.

Though I don’t think a video game could ever be quite as extreme as aerial stunts, Animal Crossing: New Leaf can be quite perplexing to some. What is the appeal? Why would anyone want to immerse themselves in a world so repetitive? Why would anyone put up wit limiting themselves to only 8 characters for the name of their villager or town? Why can there only be one save file per cartridge? Why, why, why?!

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For me, Animal Crossing has always been an escape. Since this game was the first title I ever played on my GameCube, I had little to no expectations. Since the first title, each new installment has provided features and gameplay uniquely quirky that makes the series fresh. New Leaf is no different.

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From the updated graphics, to new layouts and improved controls, New Leaf is the title that the Animal Crossing franchise needs to stay appealing to a wide variety of audiences. Those twenty-somethings recalling their childhood well spent on catching insects and children checking it out for the very first time can each make this game their own. New Leaf provides the kind of experience anyone can enjoy.

The in-game chat feature for people players register as a best friend isn’t useful for  drawn-out, intelligent conversations, but it is handy for asking friends about turnip prices or letting people know that the town gate is open. The game will also alert players when any of their best friends sign online. The integration of social interaction in Animal Crossing: New Leaf is more seamless than previous installments, though it has always been important. Animal Crossing is not the kind of game meant to be played alone; it is best enjoyed with friends, acquaintances, or even strangers halfway across the world.

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New Leaf is unarguably a vast improvement upon the last handheld title in the series, Wild World for the Nintendo DS. The top screen on Wild World featured a view of the sky while players could move their character via the stylus or d-pad. This layout was clunky and inconvenient. On New Leaf, a map is shown on the touch screen when not viewing what’s in the player’s pockets or any other selection window. The top screen is devoted to showing character movements. Players can easily use the circle pad or stylus to choose dialogue options, select items and more.

Play on this  title feels much more natural for the 3DS than the DS. Even the 3D effect adds to the charm, although it isn’t a necessity. Animals, weather effects, and scenery look better than ever while maintaining the stylistic, cartoony feel fans have grown to adore.

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When first introduced to the town—the name and layout of which players have carefully selected prior—the secretary Isabelle informs them of their mayoral status. This is acquired by a happy accident. From them on, as mayor, players can choose to customize the town and their home to their choosing. Opportunities for expression of  creativity are only limited by the extent of the imagination in New Leaf, as this is the first title to allow players to shape the town exactly to their liking. Not only that, but patterns can also be placed on furniture in the Recycling Shop.

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The first day seems to end quickly. After finishing all of Isabelle’s requests and putting the down payment on the player’s home, there isn’t much else to do. I’ve never time traveled in any Animal Crossing game, so I was forced to wait until the next day in order for the shelves to restock and more debts to accumulate.

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As always, the mainstay to earning money in New Leaf is collecting the natural resources the town provides. The island holds many opportunities for earning bells, as it is summer year round there. The island (where ex-mayor Tortimer has chosen to live out his days of retirement) offers many enjoyable activities for players. For example, there are fun mini-games, called tours, that players can participate in that range from catching fish to hitting robotic animals with giant hammers. Every tour provides players with medals that can be exchanged for items in the gift shop. The island is staffed by lovable Kapp’n and family: daughter Leila, grandmother Grams, and wife Leilani. They operate a small store, man the gift shop, and run the boats to tours and back home, respectively.

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Even though some can’t wrap their heads around it, I have always found solace in playing Animal Crossing. Catching fish and insects, watering flowers, and talking to villagers has always entertained me. It continues to do so with New Leaf in an infectious manner. Having the opportunity to play for a few minutes, no matter where I may be, adds to the addictive nature of the game. The idyllic lifestyle presented in the series encourages players to slow down. The animals encourage them to take a break when they’ve been playing for an extended period of time, and they’re penalized for only one action in the game: running. Grass wears away faster, flowers wilt, fish are scared off, and bugs fly away. The game offers the option for the player to run if they so choose, but encourages them to leave the stress-inducers of city living behind for the relaxing atmosphere of Animal Crossing. The population is growing.

If you’ve never been a fan of Animal Crossing, this title is probably not going to change your mind. However, for the series, it introduces new features that make playing that much more addicting.

9.25

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