Animal Crossing: New Leaf is the Farmville of 3DS.
I don’t mean it has microtransactions anywhere. I mean it features plenty of repetition of collecting items or harvesting fruit to sell, which allows you to buy new items or help the village out. It also features plenty of different outfits to wear to customize your character with, and even various animals in the game. Sure, they’re actually the citizens, but considering that’s all you had on the farm, its close enough for this comparison.
The biggest similarity, though, is that it’s hard to exactly pinpoint what’s the driving fun factor in the game. However, you’ll find yourself coming back each day to keep digging, fishing and harvesting away.
Plus, you get to be mayor, so what’s the worst that can happen?
The mayor is actually an accidental acquisition for your character. On your way to the new village, you’re mistaken as the new mayor and welcomed with open arms. Of course, you don’t contest this idea, and even the person who was supposed to be the new mayor is fine with it, so let’s roll with the punches.
While the mayoral function is the big addition to this game, a lot of the game is still the same as past titles. After some dialogue and a tent to start out, Tom Nook sweeps in ready to put you in debt for most of the game. Nook builds you a small house which you pay off with junk 30,000 coins later, and thus starts the chain of constantly buying a bigger house, working to pay off the debt and actually paying it off for a short time.
In addition, you can still dig up fossils, fish and collect bugs to donate to the museum, or sell them off if you already have one of that type in the museum. The museum also is willing to take pieces of artwork you find or get from Lyle the art dealer who occasionally pops into your town.
Money can also be used to buy various pieces of clothing, hats, sunglasses and more to make your character how you want. Shirts can also be customized with graphics, as can your village’s flag and music played every hour.
Outside of those tasks, your animal villagers that move in and out can give you tasks, such as finding an item or delivering something to another villager, and you can send them letters also. Holiday events, such as the recent summer solstice, are celebrated in real time and give various benefits, like having sunlight all day. There are also the occasional tournaments to participate in to get the biggest bug or fish.
For series veterans, this probably sounds like more of the same. And it is for the most part. There is the addition of the mayoral duties, though, that sets the game apart.
However, the mayor in the game seems to have about as much power as mayor’s do in real life. After getting your approval rating up to 100 percent and building your house, you can finally start doing mayoral duties such as ordinances, adding public works to your village and … that’s it. Sure, you can chastise a village you don’t like with a letter, but it really doesn’t do anything.
Ordinances can make some slight alterations in how a town functions. For instance, Night Owl keeps stores open much later, which is great for someone that plays at night like myself, while Bell Boom can make items sell to vendors for more and cost more to buy. Unfortunately, only one can be activated at a time, and each one needs 20,000 coins up front to start.
Public works, on the other hand, actually can make you feel like you accomplished something, although they are more costly. Besides making new buildings, you can sometimes commission new water fountains, bridges and more to make the town look how you want it to. Shops can also be upgraded through this, although expect to be collecting donations and donating as well for some time.
This may be my biggest disappointment with the game. With the subtitle New Leaf, I expected more. The mayoral duties sounded fun, but they seem to be fairly shallow overall. In fact, it feels like Tom Nook’s idea of putting players in debt has spread to a village level, making it so that you’ll never have much, if any, to spend or hold onto.
Now that I’ve said that, though, it’s worth noting that this constant upgrading is probably the game’s biggest strength as well. I always found myself wanting the next structure or next public works project started, especially to see some of the unique things in the game, like the Dream Suite.
There’s also plenty to do in town as you collect money. Tortimer Island, the former tropical island, is back to explore and play minigames. Players can swim, although it’s basically the same as walking on land but underwater.
An online mode is also available for players to upload shirts they have made or even their perfect home to show off. Players can also enter their friend’s towns to explore or cause trouble, such as putting pitfall seeds around the entrance to their house. Fun times.
Final Thoughts: Sure, Animal Crossing: New Leaf can almost seem like a chore sometimes while you constantly collect and sell, but the possibility of finding something new or getting the next big thing will always keep you going. It may not break any ground in the series, but it’s another solid entry that is a joy to play.
Final Score: 4.1 out of 5