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Animal Crossing: New Leaf Review – Limitless Pint Sized Fun

Animal Crossing New Leaf Review
Animal Crossing New Leaf Review

Animal Crossing: New Leaf (AC:NL) is the latest entry in the saga, and the first one made exclusively for Nintendo’s 3DS. This Sims meets Furries life management game has done so well for the Japanese game maker that it helped to raise the company’s stock even with the Wii U tanking. That accomplishment speaks volumes about Animal Crossing: New Leaf’s street-cred and word-of-mouth factor, which are the main reasons behind this mobile title’s success, and admittedly why I decided to pick it up well after its initial launch.

For all intents and purposes AC:NL is the exact same game as the first GameCube Animal Crossing. You’re tasked with taking over the Mayoral responsibilities of a small town full of walking and talking animal people, all while trying to build your own legacy through home improvements, hunting down museum pieces, and implementing public funding programs. Your town in AC:NL is essentially a sandbox with borders, and it’s your job to play in it without pissing off other residents.

Your town puts you to work the moment you step off of the train
Your town puts you to work the moment you step off of the train

To some this concept may seem monotonous, and too close to real life, but AC:NL is far from being a serious game. The kid friendly cuddly design is a clear indicator that this isn’t The Sims with animals. It’s more like an escape from the doldrums of life to a place where you’re the boss, and don’t have to take orders from anyone, not even Tom Nook, the game’s resident mob boss (not really in the mob, but him and his family do hold a monopoly over the housing and home goods markets.) There are no rules per se outside of the operating hours for the various stores, so your Animal Crossing: New Leaf town is truly your oyster to do whatever you please with it.

The beauty of this setup is its simplicity, and inherent addictiveness thanks to the “just a few more bells” mantra that this game so easily imparts to the player. Earning bells is single handily the main gameplay tactic of AC:NL, but it’s not as boring of a process as it may sound. Once you take over as Mayor the Nook family immediately puts you into debt for your first home, so the only way to pay it off is to hustle for bells so you can keep upgrading your home. To do so you can partake in bug hunting, fishing, fossil digging, clothes selling, turnip trading, and a litany of other activities to make some bells to pay off your debts, as well as work towards obtaining some of the cooler in-game items.

AC:NL is all about building a big  house and filling it with coveted collectibles!
AC:NL is all about building a big house and filling it with coveted collectibles!

Performing each of these activities becomes a daily routine, and one that is hard to not think about. The best part about this addiction is that the 3DS is a mobile gaming device, so it’s convenient to have with you wherever you go, and can easily be fired up for a quick gameplay session to break up the day. It becomes part of your real life, which may, or may not be a good thing depending on the type of person you are. The thought of owning the biggest and most lavish home packed full of hard-to-find items is a hard vice to quell, but oddly enough it’s a fantastic addiction to have, and one that will provide limitless fun and things to keep you occupied in short bursts. Sometimes, that’s all we as gamers can ask of a mobile title of this nature that really doesn’t provide action packed gameplay.

Fishing for big time sharks provides a thrill that keeps you coming back for more!
Fishing for big time sharks provides a thrill that keeps you coming back for more!

Animal Crossing: New Leaf is not without faults though. The biggest downside to it is the fact that its internal clock and retail store hours aren’t conducive to gamers who mainly play late at night. You can still get your hunter gatherer on, but there’s no way to sell any of your new found items for bells until the next day, which leaves the experience feeling empty. The game could definitely benefit from a 7-Eleven style store for those of us who can’t really game until well past 11:00 pm (can set ordinances to make stores stay open late, but requires hours of gameplay and bells.)

Selling and buying items is limited to set hours, which isn't ideal for late night gamers
Selling and buying items is limited to set hours, mainly during the day

The other minor issue is the incessant amount of load screens. Every time you enter a home or business the game needs to load. Every time you leave one of these locations the game needs to load. When you’re doing errands that require you to go into people’s homes, or your own to retrieve items for sale, the amount of waiting from load screens can get irritating. The art of wasting time is also evident with storeowners who have to immediately talk to you before and after you leave their shop. This is on top of talking with them to complete a sale, so it would’ve been much more streamlined if these chat happy entrepreneurs just kept their traps shut until spoken to.

The AC:NL residents are a chatty bunch
The AC:NL residents are a chatty bunch, but that’s OK for life events!

If you own a Nintendo 3DS and haven’t picked it up for a while, then Animal Crossing: New Leaf may just be the title to put that bad boy to use. The simple yet addicting gameplay of running a town full of Furries is surprising gratifying, and an experience that is only limited to your own patience. This game never truly ends. It may sport a few minor complaints, but overall AC:NL is one of the best mobile games of the year, and could easily be considered one of the best games period of 2013.

[schema type=”review” name=”Animal Crossing: New Leaf | Review Summary” description=”The Awesome: Limitless replay value, Addictive but simple gameplay, Perfect for short burst of gaming on the go | The Not so Awesome: No late night shopping without jumping through hoops, Too many load screens” rev_name=”Animal Crossing: New Leaf” rev_body=”Animal Crossing: New Leaf is the mobile version of the GameCube Animal Crossing, which is a great thing! The simple and addictive gameplay of managing a town full of Furries is hard to put down, and the replay value is limitless. The mobile package provides entertainment on the go, and will offer you an escape from the more dull moments of your daily life regardless of where you’re at. If you own a 3DS you owe it to your device to give this game a try.” author=”Matt Heywood” pubdate=”2013-07-31″ user_review=”9″ min_review=”0″ max_review=”10″ ]

The reviewer paid for a digital copy of the game for review purposes

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Matt Heywood

The author Matt Heywood

Matt Heywood is the founder and EIC of EntertainmentBuddha.com where he strives to make you a better geek, one post at a time! When he's not scouring the Internet for interesting nuggets of awesomeness he can be found in his secret lair enjoying the latest and greatest video games, taking pictures of toys, or talking Star Wars on EB's Star Wars Time podcast show.