There’s no denying the addictive appeal of Animal Crossing. Five minutes of collecting seashells nearly always turns into an hour, and a measly debt of 5,000 Bells (the in-game currency) turns into 200,000 after you’ve discovered the joys of remodeling and expanding. It’s got a strange allure – you’re completing tasks that are extremely boring in real life, yet spending hours in Animal Crossing with them. This isn’t a new concept for the GameCube-borne series, but it is the first time it’s appeared on the Nintendo 3DS.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf is a triumphant and charming return to form. If you didn’t have a good reason to purchase a 3DS before, perhaps becoming mayor of your very own AC town will persuade you.
For the first time you’re holding a very influential position – you’ve been hired as the new mayor of your Animal Crossing town. As a neophyte, you’re even given your own bright-eyed and bushy-tailed assistant to keep you on track and groom you to be the best mayor you can be. Isabelle is a helpful addition and star citizen of town, always available in her office to answer questions, help conduct mayoral business, and offer counsel when needed.
Of course, even as mayor you’ve got obligations as a citizen to fulfill. That means you need to buy a house, interact with the locals, and make sure to keep on their good side. So once you’ve chosen a plot of land for series regular criminal Tom Nook to build your new house on (more like a shack initially) and cheat you out of thousands of Bells, you can get the ball rolling as mayor. Your duties include keeping townsfolk happy, creating new projects, and keeping the town safe and clean – trying not to become a dictator, you know. More so than ensuring your own house is excellent and furnished with awesome decor, you’re responsible for the whole town.
Though it doesn’t truthfully feel any different, aside from the constant reminders of villagers that you’re an awesome new mayor (cluckadoo! me-wow!). You can still collect bugs, seashells, fossils, fruit, and other items to sell for cash, visit friends in their towns, and customize your look with hundreds of accessories, articles of clothing, and even personalized patterns. You can befriend your loyal townsfolk and exchange letters and gifts, participate in events that appear in the town bulletin board, and even change the town tune to suit your tastes.
There’s always something to strive for, whether it’s a personal achievement like paying off your latest loan for Tom Nook or a mayoral achievement like achieving your fundraising goal for a fountain in the middle of town. This is the rare game that actively engages the player on many levels – there’s not an “end” in sight, but you can always keep improving and co-existing with your neighbors. There’s a quiet dignity to this, and that’s why you soldier on even in the dead of night when all the shops are closed and you need to unload some junk for some cash. You hoard it in your house and come back tomorrow, for the good of your town.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf is a seasoned addition to the Animal Crossing franchise, only with more social elements, entertainment, and value than before. You’ll be compelled to pick it up and play every day, even if just to see what your chicken neighbor is up to or what the Able Sisters got in for sale that day. That’s the mark of an excellent game. Come on in and have a look around. Just don’t think leaving is going to be as easy.