Animal Crossing has never been like other games. You can't win. You can't hit anyone with a club or shoot them with a machine-gun. You collect wallpaper and go for lovely evening walks. Nothing really happens.
It sounds like a bit of a snooze, but in reality, Nintendo's village simulator remains one of gaming's genuine classic series. New Leaf, which sees your village coming to the wonderful 3DS handheld console, may even be the best of the bunch. If you're an Animal Crossing veteran, you're going to be right at home in the biggest, most luxurious entry the franchise has ever seen. If you're new to it all, prepare to book at least a week off work - you've got some serious fun ahead of you.
Ya Filthy Animals
Animal Crossing games always begin the same way: you create a character - a boy or a girl - and then you move into a randomly-generated village, filled with a selection of loveable critters, and you set up your home and start mingling with your new friends. The twist is that the game plays out in real-time: powered by your console's internal clock - when it's 9am on Tuesday in real life, it's 9am on Tuesday in the game too. This means that the sun rises and sets as it does in the real world, and the seasons come and go in step with the real year. Check in to Animal Crossing in the middle of summer and the sun will be blazing and the bugs will be swarming. Check in in winter, and the snow will fall and the trees will be covered with frost.
The objective, meanwhile, is whatever you want it to be. You can beautify your house. You can collect matching furniture sets. You can spend your time chatting to the endless parade of animals who move in to town. You can net bugs, catch fish, and dig up dinosaur bones for display at the old museum. There's always plenty to do, in other words, and with New Leaf, there's even more than ever before: this time, you're the mayor of your town, and that brings plenty of new kinds of fun with it.
As mayor, you can decide which new buildings to construct - just as long as you can pay for them - which makes this the most adaptable Animal Crossing yet. You can lay new bridges across rivers, plonk down park benches and fountains, and even erect a coffee shop where you can drink lattes and work shifts behind the counter. On Main Street, meanwhile, the classic parade of Animal Crossing shops have been joined by new additions like a night club where you can go dancing, and a gardening centre, where a friendly sloth talks to you about the environment while selling you all manner of shrubs and tools. There's a lot to take in, but Animal Crossing paces itself beautifully: there's always something to do, and yet it's never overwhelming.
Weeding And Writing
The 3DS's stereoscopic depth ensures this is the prettiest, most tangible Animal Crossing yet, while the console's other features also make it the most connected. You can visit your friends' towns with either local wireless or wi-fi internet capabilities, you can share your houses via StreetPass - and check out other peoples' homes - and you can even gather a group of chums and head to a tropical island to play mini-games. There's in-game chat for your very best buds, and you can explore villages from other players around the world using a special Dream Suite functionality - but you'll have to work pretty hard to get that baby built!
Wherever you look, whatever you fancy doing, Animal Crossing: New Leaf has something fun for you, then, while the new pace of the game should keep you plugging away for longer than ever. There's still no way to win, there's still nobody to fight with, and there's still not much in the way of traditional video game action, but you know what? We wouldn't change any of that one little bit.
- Great visuals!
- Lots of collectables!
- Freedom to build new stuff!
- Your real life will suffer
- You'll have to work hard to pay your mortgage
- You'll be stung by cartoon bees quite a bit