I’d never had the chance to play an Animal Crossing game in the past, but I always understood the basic gist of the series. I just never “got it”. Well, now I do having played Animal Crossing: New Leaf for the past couple of weeks. It’s a different experience, to be sure, but one that anybody in your family will be able to enjoy if you go in with the right expectations.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf isn’t what would be traditionally considered a “game” by many. It’s an ongoing and evolving world that doesn’t really involve a traditional endgame. You start off by moving into a new town and all of a sudden you’re the mayor of that town. Dodgy political systems aside, your new town is a bare bones place which you will play a large part in shaping by speaking with townsfolk, going on fetch quests, fishing, picking fruit, and engaging in other activities. You’ll be able to build town infrastructure and pass ordinances that not only help grow the city, but also benefit you in terms of how you play the game.
See, Animal Crossing is played in real time, and the world changes as the time does. Depending on the time and season that you play, you’ll see differing daylight and weather conditions. But you’ll also notice that sometimes people are home, something they’re not. And stores are only open during certain hours. This is where town ordinances come in, as you can pass a law that makes stores stay open at hours more conducive to when you tend to play. You’ll also see differences in the world like fish and bug availability. It really makes it feel like your little section of the world is living and breathing, even when you don’t play it (I’ve had new people move into town while the 3DS slept).
My kids almost immediately took to the game. It’s not complicated (though reading ability is absolutely essential), and the characters and dialogue are all various shades of adorable. There’s also a surprising amount of exploration to be done. Every day you’ll be able to dig up fossils, gather seashells, shake fruit from trees, and find various surprises. There’s also a heavy customization element, whether it be your house, your wardrobe, or the town itself. There’s lots to do, and it’s got the expected level of charm that you expect from a Nintendo title.
I also liked how you don’t necessarily have to play for a long time on a daily basis. You could check in for 15-20 minutes at a time (maybe a little longer if there’s a special event going on like the Bug-Off) and do most of what you want. The game is more designed to be played in these small spurts over a long period of time. Like, months to years.
Of course, growing a town isn’t cheap, and there’s a neat little monetary mechanic in the game. The currency in Animal Crossing is Bells, and you can get them in various ways. Sometimes you can shake them out of trees, though most of the time you’ll have to earn them by picking fruit, catching bugs, fishing, and selling these and other items that you come across by various means. You’ll need money to build your first house, furnish it, and build out the town. It’s rudimentary, but it can help teach kids about the value of money and what it sometimes takes to earn it. You’ll have to make tough choices about how to spend the money and/or work harder to make more.
One other interesting thing is that when my sons and I shared a cartridge, we all lived in the same town. As the first player, I was mayor (having more than one mayor obviously wouldn’t work), but they moved in as citizens, which allowed me to interact with them indirectly. For example, one of them wanted a fishing rod so they could fish when they played, so I was able to buy one from a store and send it to them by mail, which they received when they logged on the next time. Another wanted an electric guitar which I buried in the ground outside his house. It’s a cute way to play together, even if it’s asynchronous.
The GamerPops Recommendation
While Animal Crossing: New Leaf may not fit with your typical view of a video game, it’s one of those games that you might have a hard time putting down once you play, no matter what your age. There were times I found myself saying, “Why am I still playing this?” and then I’d muck around the town doing things for another 15-20 minutes, then ask myself the same question. And the kids couldn’t get enough of it either. While I can’t necessarily explain in words why it’s so appealing (so, so appealing), I also know that there’s very little, if any fault to find with it. It’s a truly family-friendly title that gamers of all ilk will find themselves enjoying.
A review copy was provided to GamerPops.
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