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.