Thursday, June 13, 2013

Game Review (Animal Crossing: New Leaf - Nintendo 3DS)

What's THIS? A review of something other than food for once? I guess it's about time. I've had my 3DS since Christmas of 2011, but I haven't gotten a game for it since January of 2012. I was kind of pissed that Animal Crossing took so long to come out for the 3DS, but I was willing to wait. I really only got my 3DS for a few games -- Mario Kart 7, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, and the new Super Smash Bros. game. The inevitable question is, was New Leaf worth the wait?

I got the original Animal Crossing for the GameCube on a whim after seeing commercials for it over and over again. The idea of the game intrigued me, and I got it with birthday money one day after school in sixth grade... it quickly became one of my favorite games ever just because it was so unique to me: Play in real time while doing tasks for talking animals that move in and out of town, and experience events around the year, with changing seasons. It's a rare game in that it has no story, and it doesn't end. In Animal Crossing (all the ones up until this game), you're a human moving to a new town. The only real goal in the game is to pay off Tom Nook to get your house to its largest size, and collect as many items as you so desire. New Leaf has a slightly different twist, as you move to a town and become mayor, which actually changes the game quite a bit more than you might initially expect.

As the mayor in your town (beware, the name can only be 8 characters long...), it's on you to make the citizens of, in my case, Riverton happy. This is accomplished by creating a town flag and town tune, planting trees, posting on the town message board, donating to the museum, recycling garbage that you fish out of the water to Re-Tail, pulling weeds, doing tasks, visiting townspeoples' houses, and, maybe most importantly, do public work projects and pick an ordinance... among other things, believe it or not.

After you earn an approval rating of 100% in New Leaf (it shouldn't take you too long), you can finally really take the duties of mayor by, for instance, signing an ordinance. There are four ordinances to choose from, and only one can be used at any given time. You can change whenever you'd like, but it costs 20,000 Bells.

1.) Beautiful Town: This ordinance is great for people that take pride in a sexy looking town, and is the one that I picked. With this, flowers don't die, weeds are more rare, and villagers are more likely to plant and water flowers. Unfortunately, this doesn't prevent the dreaded Animal Crossing grass wear, but it saves you the hassle of running around town looking for and pulling weeds.

2.) Early Bird: This one simply opens all shops 3 hours earlier. This is probably an obvious choice for people that play the game early in the morning. Additionally, your neighbors will be more likely to wake up earlier in the day. On the flipside, everybody in town is more likely to hit the hay earlier, and the shops close sooner as well.

3.) Night Owl: The same thing as the Early Bird ordinance ... but the opposite.

4.) Wealthy Town: I don't understand this one personally, but it makes the town rich. Items sell for more, which is great, but they also cost more to buy -- this confuses me about this ordinance. If it changes the economy entirely, then wouldn't everything balance out? I think that it'd feel like no ordinance was in place at all.

Perhaps the biggest thing about being the mayor in New Leaf though is the ability to build public works projects. With these, you can build a bridge over a river in a heavily trafficked part of town, can put a bench down, can opt to put a fountain somewhere, and much, much more. This is all great because you can choose exactly where you want to put these things, but it's not without a fault. While Isabelle (your secretary at Town Hall) lets you know that neighbors can chip in to help build whatever you're building, they chip in a negligible amount of Bells, so you can expect to pay the brunt of the bill. So if having to pay Nook off for house upgrades wasn't enough, you have to deal with that! Incidentally, maybe that's why it seems so much easier to catch fish/insects that were more rare in previous games.

Another thing New Leaf boasted about was its multiplayer. After having spent quite a few hours mingling in peoples' towns online, I've decided that it's a decent, but flawed experience. It's fine and good, but there are some pretty big issues that I have:

1.) You can't do tasks for neighbors in a foreign town -- from what I can tell. You can talk all you want, and they gossip, give you tips, and ask about your own city, but they don't tell you to make deliveries, don't trade you items, etc. This may not be true, but in my few hours in others' towns, I haven't been asked once.

2.) The way of communicating is ancient. You can communicate through text, but you can't just use the D-pad to maneuver the keyboard and type. Instead, you need to press the individual little keys on your touch screen. If the D-pad could be used, it would be way, way improved.

3.) If you're in a friend's town, or if a friend is in your town, you are majorly limited on what you can do. You can't really talk to Isabelle at all, you can't move or pick up furniture if you have people in your house, and most annoyingly, you can't help a pal out my donating to his/her museum. What? Alright then, I guess all of the donations to my museum will just read "Alex" then.

4.) It's not related to online play, but the 3D in this game is pretty pointless to turn on in most situations. I've found that the best time to use it is when at the aquarium in the museum. When you're checking it out, zoom in with up on the D-pad, turn the 3D on, and look around the room. The 3D when just wandering around town is so very subtle that it's not worth draining your battery over -- and believe me, your battery will drain fast enough with it off when you're playing this game.

On the plus side, there is an island that you can visit either alone (lame...) or with (a) friend(s). At this island, there are mini games, and island-only bugs, fish, and items. It's not somewhere that you're likely to visit often, but it's an awesome option to have. The mini games aren't awful, but they're not as exciting as some publications would lead you to believe.

There are still dozens and dozens of things to mention about New Leaf, but this is its core. If you've played Animal Crossing at all or read up on it, you know most of what I haven't mentioned. As I'm sure you've read elsewhere, New Leaf is a game that anybody that's a fan of the series ought to buy. If you haven't played an Animal Crossing game before, but have an interest, definitely try it out. If you're burned out on the series, or are unsure whether or not you'd like it, you might want to pass on it. This game is essentially the same game as those before it, but with more content... the gameplay hasn't changed at all. Although I didn't play City Folk, New Leaf is definitely my favorite game in the series. As great as previous games were, this game expands on it in every way imaginable. If you own a 3DS, this is a must-buy, as far as I'm concerned.