Animal Crossing: New Leaf isn’t your typical game, as you can probably already tell. The entire experience revolves around living a leisurely life in a village full of anthropomorphic animals, where your only goals are what you choose them to be. Pretty weird, right? Really, New Leaf is barely a “game” at all. There are no mandatory objectives. You can’t beat it. And you certainly can’t lose either. Everything just island for that reason, this isn’t going to be your typical review. Even though we’ve been playing it for almost a month, there’s still a lot we haven’t seen.
And that’s because the game actually plays out in real-time. So the village’s stores open and close one regular schedule, different insects come out at varying times throughout the day, and if you play in the evening, you can even catch the sunset. Hell, the seasons even change and there are different holidays and activities throughout the year. What I’m getting at is that just one month is a mere drop in the bucket for a game that never officially ends. And while it’s unlikely many will play it forever, I don’t think I’m anywhere close to my ending point. New Leaf is an experience that evolves by the day and meant to be played leisurely–it’s not intended to be grinded through in order to meet a deadline.
It’s all about the long-haul, and I simply haven’t experienced enough of it to give any kind of final verdict. And for that reason, this review can and will only speak to my first few weeks of the game and I won’t be giving out a final score. At last, not right now. But I do intend to revisit this review in the future with at least one more part that will. Okay, hopefully I haven’t put you to sleep with my boring explanation–let’s get to thereview! Now New Leaf is far from my first Animal Crossing game. I was completely hooked on the GameCube version back in 2003 for months, as its real-time casual style of game play was something I had never experienced before.
And when the sequel, Wild World, came to the Nintendo DS, I found myself hooked all over again…but only for a few weeks before I completely burned out on what was largely an identical experience. And I skipped the Wiki version almost entirely because I simply had no interest in doing the exact same thing again. But when Nintendo announced that they would actually be introducing some new elements in New Leaf, such as the ability to be the town’s mayor, it seemed like just the shooting the arm that the series needed. And it had finally been long enough since my last Animal Crossing experience that I was ready to jump back into the series.
And so how’s the first few weeks of life been in my personal town of GXVilles? I’d say pretty well! There’s just something about not having any goals to meet or deadlines to hit that make living a second life in Animal Crossing so compelling. Where else can you go fishing, bug hunting, and dig for fossils within just minutes of each other? And then there’s the level of freedom that empowers you to make all kinds of choices, such as whether to donate the things you find to the criminally under-funded museum or sell them off for money, which you can splurge on items for your house or help fund projects around town. And it’s actually these projects that lend the game a potentially more structured-feel than past Animal Crossing games–I mean, if you so choose to play way, that is.
Because you are mayor, there’s a giant list of proposed projects that you can choose to actually building the town–one at a time. And these projects serve as carrots to keep you coming back for more, as you watch your town grow and develop over time. It really helps add to the addictive nature of the gameplayNow as cool as this is, I should make it clear that most of these projects are mostly superficial in nature and don’t lend any real sense of change to your town. And this is perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the game. Even though you are mayor, you really don’t have that much influence. And that’s partly due to the inherent nature of the laidback game play–this isn’t SimCity, so there really isn’t that much for you to influence. But at least the changes you can make do certainly helps the town feel more your own, especially compared to past games.
But even then, I can’t help but wish the game went even further, because after visiting several other players’ towns using the online functionality, they still all sort of feel the same. They all take resemble the same square-based layout, with most major landmarks, like beaches, train stations, and the town center always being in the same place. And speaking of online, I found the game’s use of it to be fairly unremarkable. Yes, you can now visit other random player’s towns that you’re friends with via the new Dream Suite, but you can’t interact with them in any permanent or meaningful way, which makes the whole thing feel kind of hollow.
And basically the opposite of Animal Crossing’s inherent social nature But you can still interact with your friend’s towns, as long as they’re online at the sametime.And believe it or not, the game is actually a step back from the previous Animal Crossing games in that you can no longer send letters to other people’s towns, which is just silly in a game like this.
Hell, even the GameCube version allows you to send presents to other towns, and that game wasn’t even online! Really, in the year 2013, it’s hard to not be disappointed when New Leaf offers little new in terms of social interaction, and is actually a step back in some ways should mention that there is now an in-game instant-messaging system though, which you can use to chat with friends who are online at the same time, but it just feels kind of weird and tacked-on, as there’s no contextual reason for why you’re able to talk to someone miles and miles away. But despite my disappointment with the game’s lack of ambition, I still am having a goodtime. There’s been enough new so far that it’s kept me engaged longer than the DS version did–and there’s still plenty more for me to see.
Although none of the individual activities are really that fun, there’s something oddly compelling about the world taken as a whole. With that said, it hasn’t come close to capturing the magic that I felt with the original GameCube version so far, which was just such a unique and fresh experience But if you haven’t played any previous Animal Crossing games, you might very well experience that same magical feeling I did all those years ago. Though conversely, if you’ve tried playing a previous game in the series before and couldn’t get into it, I doubt there’s anything here that’ll change your mind.
And if you–like me–burned out on the series, this might just be the one that re-engages you. But remember, I’m only a few a few weeks–there’s still a lot more for me to play, so I’ll be back with a more complete review in the future–maybe a whole year from now–who knows? Thanks for watching and make sure to stay tuned to GameXplain.com for more reviews another things gaming too.
my review here