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REVIEW: Animal Crossing – New Leaf (3DS)

Nintendo 3DS / Rated E / $34.99 / released June 2013 OFFICIAL SITE: animal-crossing.com/newleaf PURCHASE LINK: Amazon FINAL: You NEED this game. 5 out of 5 star...

Animal Crossing: New Leaf” is a must-have game that has gripped 3DS owners. Just check out the Twitter hashtag #ACNL to see unbelievable amounts of screenshots and comments about the game.

You see, Nintendo has figured out that “Animal Crossing” is a socially-driven game. This rustic, almost-Farmvillian experience is magnified by interacting with other players. I do not mean in literal online play, but in simple chats with other players about the game. People WANT to talk about this game. In 2002, when the first “Animal Crossing” game hit North America, Nintendo referred to it as a “communication game.” Back then, we had no idea what that meant. Today, it summarizes the concept as perfectly as can be: you uncover secrets, you collect items, you participate in holiday events… and then you talk about all of it with other “Animal Crossing” players. In “New Leaf,” the ability to snap screenshots and post them to Twitter or Facebook makes that conversation even easier to join.

New Leaf” begins with you moving into a forested village where you are cheerfully installed as the town’s mayor. This gives you, eventually, the freedom to decide what special exterior decorations are constructed (ranging from park benches to Egyptian pyramids) and to change the hours that shops are open. In the meantime, you can dig up fossils, get to know your neighbors, or start filling your empty house.

Eventually” is a great word for “Animal Crossing,” because this is not a game for immediate satisfaction. Trees grow fruit over days – actual days, because the game takes place in real time – and that fruit can be sold for meager amounts of bells, the game’s currency. Clothing, furniture, and other small trinkets can be bought with the bells you generate each day, but the stores only stock a few random items at a time. Large-scale purchases, like home expansions and exterior construction can cost hundreds of thousands of bells! This is a game that rewards patience and perseverance.

New Leaf” also rewards cooperative play, by allowing for players to visit each others’ towns and share items. There’s a deceptive depth to the game, as players are free to develop in whatever direction they desire. Maybe you want to focus on growing rare flower cross-breeds, while I want to create sidewalk paths using the game’s drawing tool. Our two towns will end up looking completely different as a result.

Wise to the notion that “Animal Crossing” players want to collect special in-game items, Nintendo has already provided multiple avenues for extra content. Using the 3DS’ built-in Play Coin system – where gamers accrue Play Coins according to the device’s pedometer count – players can collect Nintendo-themed items. Nintendo has also made free items available via WiFi download or by visiting retail Nintendo Zone locations.

Animal Crossing: New Leaf” is about commitment, yet you are never punished for slacking off. It’s about you deciding what you want to collect (artwork? rare gems? chairs made out of balloons?) and how you want to decorate. It’s about doing whatever you want in the limited time you give to the game, with no expectations or demands. It’s refreshing, relaxing, and an experience you will want to share with others.

This review is based upon product supplied by the publisher. Image courtesy Nintendo of America.