Friday, 23 August 2013

Animal Crossing: New Leaf Review (3DS)

Fishing is incredibly dull. You stand by a river or sit in a boat and hold a stick until a fish bites some food and then you drag it to you. This process can be a long one and is often met with failure. 

Bug catching is also dull. If you see a bug on a tree you could try and catch it in your net to add to your encyclopaedia of bug knowledge. Or you could get a life. 

Gathering fruit and sea shells is perhaps the dullest thing ever. Who wants to spend hours scavenging for shells and fruit? Not me. 

Animal Crossing: New Leaf is a game which has you spend the majority of your time fishing, bug hunting or scavenging for items such as fruit or sea shells. Despite this it is both incredibly enjoyable and incredibly addicting with hours being racked up on the game without you even noticing. Somehow (read: Black Magic) Nintendo have managed to build a game based around menial tasks and create one of the most enjoyable experiences available on a handheld system. They've also pulled off their usual looks-like-its-a-kids-game-but-adults-love-it-too trick that they manage with games like Mario and Zelda. Before diving into much detail in this review I should point out that this is the first Animal Crossing game I have played. The reason I've kept away from the series is because of how childish it looked but the sheer amount of attention it's been getting has caused me to try it out and I am very impressed.

Like the other games in the series you arrive as the newcomer in town and must first acquire funds to get your first house set up. You raise this money (the currency is bells) via the aforementioned tasks. The crucial difference with this game is that you are not just an ordinary citizen, you are the mayor. So you name your town, can set the flag and write the theme tune, then you plant a tree and off you go. After sorting out your house you must win the people's affection and can do this via talking to them, selling them things, announcing things on the bulletin board and countless other ways. Once you have done this you are given a development permit and can truly exercise your mayoral power. As mayor you can do things ranging from dictating shop opening times to building bridges and changing the town. The town is your playground rather than just your home. Despite the kiddy aesthetic the gameplay is relatively deep and it is easy (and fun) to turn yourself into a tyrant. Once you have the mayoral powers at your disposal the game sinks its claws deep into you and won't let go until you have exhausted hundreds of hours into it. And if that isn't enough certain items and other things are only available during certain times so you have to keep coming back. 

This isn't to say that everything is rosy in animal land however as the game only truly begins when you acquire the development permit and earning the 100% approval rating you need to do so takes time and by the time you hit the 40% mark earning the people's love becomes incredibly dull. It's worth weathering for the fun of having the permit but it makes the start of the game far less fun than it should be and is a real black mark on the quality of the game. 

This flaw aside though, it's hard to fault New Leaf. From its well designed characters, lush greens, wide seas and cute houses to the cheery (fully re-write able) theme tune New leaf is designed to look, sound and play like an enjoyable getaway to a quaint country village. It's a game of calmness and tranquility and it really makes a refreshing change from the endless shooting, dragon slaying and car chasing that most games contain. Granted it looks like child's play but Animal Crossing, in true Nintendo style, is a game that can appeal to anyone and everyone and so I urge you to pick it up and give it a go and get your friends to do the same. You see, with a friend involved, you can visit each others towns, send gifts and even whack each other with sticks. 

Verdict: New Leaf is an incredible game. It isn't flawless thanks to a slow start but its a great trip to a paradise like land that will provide near countless hours of enjoyment for just about anyone.    

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