In its GameCube debut, “Animal Crossing” showed the world that Nintendo can contend with the best when it comes to the life simulation genre.
A laid back atmosphere, colorful NPC interactions and simple, yet addicting gameplay helped the title become popular despite competition with games such as “Harvest Moon” and “The Sims.” Since the original game’s release, there have been three more installments, and even after four iterations and 12 years little has changed in the wild, creature-filled game that is Animal Crossing.
As “New Leaf” is much of the same, it makes more sense to speak about what sets it apart from the rest of the Animal Crossing games.
Will this game’s additions set it apart enough to give it a distinct personality, or will the new elements even make a difference to a series this popular?
The first obvious change players will notice is the role he/she will take within their respective towns. Upon arrival, villagers will greet players as the town’s mayor. Although it takes a few days to begin mayoral duties, it doesn’t take long to learn how to fulfill your duties. As mayor, public works projects and ordinances can be built and enforced to personalize the town to the player’s liking. For example, towns only start with one bridge to cross the river that splits the city into two. The player can then start a public works project to build another bridge. Lamp posts, fences, store upgrades and many other projects can be taken on in the same way to create a more advanced town. Project funds are acquired by a donation system that can contributed to by players, NPCs or visiting players. The system is a small detail, but what is Animal Crossing but a bunch of fun, tiny details that create a game filled with personality?
Ordinances allow the player to create laws that change the town specifically to suit his/her needs. The “beautiful town” perk cleans the town up in many ways, including getting rid of cockroaches, eliminating all trash in the ocean and river and lowering the chance that flowers will wither. These ordinances are wonderful additions because they allow the player to interact with their town in the way they choose. If a player works an early morning shift in real life they can create an ordinance that allows them to enjoy “New Leaf” when they have more free time. Again, it’s a small change, but it shows the developers want to give players more bang for their buck, and these changes definitely do just that.
A new mechanic brought to “New Leaf,” comparable to fishing and bug catching, is swimming. By wearing a wetsuit, players can take a dip in the ocean and dive for underwater treasures such as seaweed and sea stars. These items can be given to the museum to display and can also be sold to the store for a few extra bells. While it might not be the most fascinating mechanic, it’s something for players to do when they get tired of the same old song and dance that previous games offered.
Speaking of the same old song and dance, “New Leaf” has at least expanded upon the number of fish and bugs that can be caught by 12 respectively. Veterans and newcomers can both appreciate an update like this, even if it is just a couple extra bug and fishy faces added to the mix.
Last, but not least, the museum is a facet of Animal Crossing that has always added extra challenge to the game. In “New Leaf,” the museum can be given a second floor after certain conditions are met and a specific public works project is presented to the player. Once the second floor is built, players can then display items of their own choice, so when other players visit their museum it will have its own unique feel, and no two museums will be the same. “New Leaf” may not be a major series overhaul, but in this case why fix something that isn’t broken? Players are given more options in the latest Animal Crossing installment, and despite how small those options are, they assist “New Leaf” in being the most wholesome title to date. If gamers enjoyed other entries in the series there is no reason they shouldn’t give “New Leaf” a try. It’s just as addictive, personal and enchanting as the rest, with a few new touch-ups to boot.
So grab your bug net, fishing rod and shovel, and get ready to be bell hunting for months to come in this have-it-your-way game.