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New Leaf revives Animal Crossing

Jul 2, 2013

By Daniel Barron - G4 Canada

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Animal Crossing: New LeafAnimal Crossing: New Leaf may borrow a lot from its predecessors, but it also has pushed the boundaries of a little-known gaming genre - the Miniature Multiplayer Online Tree-Shaking Game (MMOTSG). You, of course, can describe it however you'd like, but one thing is indisputable - New Leaf's endless charm is matched only by its addictive gameplay.

To be fair, the previous two games in the Animal Crossing series - Wild World (DS) and City Folk (Wii) both had online capabilities, but things are expanded on tenfold in New Leaf. Nintendo is still extremely hesitant to open the Animal Crossing floodgates - which we'll explain in better detail in a few moments - but it's one small step for man, one giant leap for Animal Crossing-kind.

For the uninitiated, Animal Crossing puts you in the shoes of a character who moves into a small town full of animals who walk, talk, and catch bugs as well as any human. Your days are filled doing, well, pretty mindless stuff: you can sell items strewn about town to earn bells (the game's currency) in order to upgrade your house, you can fish from the shoreline of your nearby beach, or you can deck out your character in the latest fashion.

Of course, it all sounds terribly boring when you're reading it off a computer screen, but I've seen the magic of Animal Crossing win over countless people of all ages. There really is no better way to describe it than as addictive, and New Leaf does an absolutely spectacular job of keeping players coming back again and again.

Animal Crossing: New Leaf There are too many changes and additions to mention in this review, but some of the highlights will be included below.

In New Leaf, you're not just a citizen of the town you move into, you actually take the role of mayor. Fret not though - you won't be stuck sitting behind a desk pushing papers. The deadlines for any outstanding projects are as laid back as Luna's spa-like Dream Suite.

You have the ability to establish public works projects - such as building a new fountain or an additional bridge - as well as enacting ordinances, which allow you to shape the vibe of your town. For instance, mine is a night-owl town where residents stay up longer and stores remain open later.

The best part about your mayoral duties is that even when you do need to take a break from planting fruit trees and visit the office, your trusty assistant Isabelle puts all your demands into effect. You just have to garner enough bells to get everything finished.

And bells really are the key to a lot of the evolution within New Leaf. Upgrading your house, completing new public works projects, and earning new furniture and clothes all require a whole lotta cash.

Animal Crossing: New Leaf That said, the beauty of New Leaf is that random events are constantly happening, whether it's a new store opening on the game's strip mall-like Main Street, a wandering psychic's tent appearing in the middle of town for one day, or a stray pelican washing up on the beach with wild stories of how he got there.

And while there is a staggering number of things to do solely in your town, New Leaf introduces features that break up any monotony that may begin to set in. For instance, there's an island you can visit that lets you play numerous minigames (most of which are quite fun), buy hard-to-find items, and catch rare critters that will net you a pretty penny at the local Re-Tail recycling store.

There's also the aforementioned Dream Suite, where you can visit towns from all over the world.

While these things certainly do add some pizzazz on those rare days when there just isn't much to do in town, both the island and the Dream Suite bring to light the still-limited online functionality in New Leaf.

Animal Crossing: New Leaf In the Dream Suite, for instance, you can do whatever you'd like in the towns you visit - chop down every tree in sight, catch fish you've never seen, find all sorts of goodies strewn on the ground - but it all gets erased the moment you leave. Besides being able to keep user-made fabric patterns, there's not a whole lot of reason to view the towns.

Sure, it's neat to see what some people have created, but you can't even communicate with them by writing on their public town message board, or buy something from their Main Street.

The island, meanwhile, can host up to four people from around the world who get randomly matched up, but once again, you can't do much here. You can exchange Dream Suite codes and chat using the somewhat cumbersome chat function, but as further proof of Nintendo's paranoia over online functions, you can block players met, but you can't add them as friends.

It's commendable that Nintendo seems to be looking out for the more innocent younger Animal Crossing players, but for the mature players who want to expand their friend list, it's extremely difficult to do so.

StreetPass functionality is interesting in that once you've exchanged date with another player, you can then go to a section of your town that shows off that players house. You can then order anything they own (for a set number of bells of course), making it a little easier to pick up items that don't appear in your town's stores.

Animal Crossing: New Leaf Like the last two games in the series, New Leaf allows up to four friends in a town at once. There's plenty of fun to be had when several people get together, although it's still slightly annoying getting friends into town, as you have to "open your town gates" before anyone can be let in.

It would be great if you could have your gates automatically open every time you start your game, and designate certain friends who are always welcome inside. One feature that is particularly welcome is the one that lets you message "best friends" when both are online, even if they're not in the same town.

Like every game in the series, right back to the original version that was released in 2002 for GameCube, New Leaf mimics in real time the time of day and the seasons, so if you fire up your game at 3:00 a.m., most town residents will be asleep and all the stores will be closed. Similarly, playing in February will see snow on the rooftops, while walking out of your house in the summer will cause your character to sweat because of the extreme heat.

If anything, it's a small reminder that you have a life outside of Animal Crossing, one where you can't earn hundreds of dollars for selling a peach to your local store, and where you can't find several dinosaur fossils every day.

Animal Crossing: New Leaf New Leaf may have some limitations, but it's still the definitive Animal Crossing nonetheless, and is further proof that the series works best on handheld systems. Being able to swim out to sea or try on a new pair of socks may seem like trivial changes at best, but it's these countless charming little additions that make it so much fun.

It's also a game that's just as easy to get wrapped up in whether you're a veteran of the series or a complete newcomer.

Don't be fooled by New Leaf's cutesy aesthetic. In fact, it's best to embrace it as you lose hours and hours in the most enthralling MMOTSG ever created.

 

Animal Crossing: New Leaf
Format: Nintendo 3DS
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo
ESRB Rating: E for Everyone
Official Site: http://animal-crossing.com/newleaf/

Rating: 9 / 10

 
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About G4 in Canada
G4 Canada (formerly TechTV Canada) launched in September 2001. G4 is the one and only television station that is plugged into every dimension of games, gear, gadgets and gigabytes. Owned Rogers Media Inc., the channel airs more than 24 original series. G4 is available on digital cable and satellite. For more information, see www.g4tv.ca.