Some games are short but sweet, concluded after a single, glorious play session. Others require a few sleepless weeks of dedicated play to unlock all of their mysteries. Then there are the very few games that take on a whole digital life of their own – that become a part of the player’s daily ritual for years to come, with more to gain and accomplish than you could ever truly quantify. Animal Crossing New leaf is one of the latter. It’s also one of the most charming, addictive games I’ve ever played.
There’s a whole lot of “new” in New Leaf, but before I get to that, rest assured that the core mechanics that have kept gamer playing for years after the release of prior installments are as strong as ever. The main idea behind any Animal Crossing game is that players move into a new town and spend their days building up relationships with villagers, harvesting fruit, fishing, catching bugs, decorating their house, and tackling the almost innumerable other activities that comprise one’s Animal Crossing life. It doesn’t sound like a to-do list that would necessarily make for the most enthralling game, but that’s exactly what it amounts to.
Animal Crossing New Leaf Game Play
There’s something about the relaxing rhythm of each activity that keeps you coming back for more, bolstered by the subtle yet effective way the game incentives you to keep playing, keep collecting, and generally keep on keeping on.
Evolving your stomping ground in this way is irresistible, as over time you watch it grow from a simple collection of houses to something truly amazing and unique. Having this freedom to shape your village to reflect your personality like never before truly enriches the experience. It’s always been easy to fall in love with your village in Animal Crossing games, but now it really feels like your village, like a place you helped build from nothing, somewhere you really have a personal stake in. You’re not just a museum patron, you’re the one who funded its growth and filled its halls with fossils, fish, and bugs. You’re not just a club-goer, you’re the one who spear-headed the campaign to bring the music venue to your village in the first place. It’s a delightful improvement that makes the experience impossible to put down, as there’s always another project you can help fund and another thing you can do to set your village apart from the rest. The brilliant thing is that Nintendo found a way to expand upon the game play of past entries without compromising the simplicity and charm that made the series so beloved to begin with. This is the evolution of Animal Crossing, and it’s an absolute wonder to behold.
Then there’s the multiplayer, which is far beyond anything the series has ever attempted previously. As expected you can visit your friends’ houses either online or locally – dropping off gifts if you’re a good friend or chopping down their trees and messing up their flowers if you’re a big jerk. But that’s just the start. You can also visit “dream versions” of other villages in the Dream Suite. This allows players to upload their town for friends and strangers alike to visit. The genius part is that nothing visitors do actually affects the person’s real town since it’s just a dream. So you can go crazy stomping flowers and pissing off neighbors without paying the consequence of never being invited over again. Getting to be so bad without any negative repercussions is cathartic to say the least, and is a great way to encourage you to open your village to outsiders without the risk of a rude visitor ruining your town (and your day).
While the customization, variety, and multiplayer are certainly the highlights, pretty much everything in New Leaf has been refined to make this as delightful an experience as possible. The simple graphics have been touched up so that fuzzy animals are now actually fuzzy and larger animals tower over the smaller ones. Little things like being able to group fruit together in your inventory so you can carry more, donate multiple fossils at the same time, or tell which flowers you’ve watered thanks to a new sparkling effect go a long way towards making the small chores that pack your day-to-day life easier than ever. These might seem like small details barely worth noting, but anyone who has ever played Animal Crossing will likely agree that, much like in life, it’s all in the details.