When the series first debuted in 2002 for the GameCube, the Animal Crossing series has been a popular "second life" of sorts for Nintendo fans. However, after the disappointing release of Animal Crossing: City Folk for the Wii, it appeared that the franchise was at a standstill. Thankfully, the release of Animal Crossing: New Leaf on the 3DS represents a good step forward for the series.
What Is It?
Nintendo calls Animal Crossing a "community simulation" game, and that's really about as accurate as it gets.
The game begins with the player sitting in a train heading to his or her new home, while meeting a curious cat named Rover. Rover asks various questions, and this is how the game determines whether the player is male or female among other qualities of the main character.
In typical Animal Crossing fashion, upon arriving at your new home, players are given a roof to live under and have to constantly pay off debts to Tom Nook, the resident raccoon, landlord, and entrepreneur.
The primary form of currency in the game are bells, which players can get by doing virtually anything. When equipped with an axe, shovel, fishing rod, and bug net — items that are purchased from the Nooks — villagers can gather things like bugs, fish, fruit, and seashells to sell to the local shops for a quick bell. They can even be found in trees and rocks that can be hit with a shovel.
But the game is more than just gathering up funds to pay debts, though. Central to the game are the townsfolk and neighbors players meet, live, and interact with. On top of that, everything that happens is in real time. Playing the game in the day? It'll be nice and busy out. Playing at an extremely late evening? Everybody (except nocturnal animals) will be asleep. Even holiday-inspired characters rear their head in the game during specific holidays, so there's always something to do in Animal Crossing.
Why Should I Care?
The core gameplay has been intact since the original game, but the real selling point in New Leaf is the fact that the player is not just some average citizen moving into town. For some reason or another, players are also sworn in as the town's mayor, giving the game some much needed depth.
Aside from players picking where they want to live, paying off debts, and being friendly to neighbors, there is a whole lot more responsibility this time around. As the mayor, players can perform mayoral duties such as public works projects and enact city ordinances.
Public works projects allow players to create new things in their towns like build bridges, police stations, and other things to make the place more lively.
While ordinances might sound like a little much, especially for Animal Crossing, they really do enhance gameplay. One of the mandatory ordinances requires players to state whether they want their village to be one for early birds, or one for night owls. An early bird town is at its most bustling time in day, whereas night owl towns keep things going at night. This is a welcome addition, especially for players that primarily play the game at night and worry about things like the shops not being open and other citizens not being awake.
If mayor life starts to get stressful, another welcome addition in the game is the ability to take a break at an island owned by Tortimer–whom Animal Crossing veterans may remember as the mayor of virtually every other Animal Crossing game. At Tortimer Island, players can take part in different minigames (called tours) to unlock items and currency. It's also summer all year round at the island. Not that that's an issue now, but when winter comes along, players have the option of hitting the island during the colder months.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
While it has always maintained the same level of charm, the Animal Crossing series has seen little to no evolution for a little more than a decade… until now. The fact that players are now the town mayor and have more control over their town is a big step in the right direction, and the game's Wi-Fi capabilities really make visiting other players' towns a whole lot easier.
The Animal Crossing series is one that has a lot of potential, and if New Leaf is any indication, future entries could mean big things for both the series and Nintendo.