A Year in Games - Animal Crossing: New Leaf

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Going in an almost chronological order, we come to the latest installment of Animal Crossing. The game that everybody and their cat was playing at one point. In fact, a lot of the people I street pass are still playing it. 
This was the first AC game I've played, missing out on the previous titles (GameCube, DS, Wii), and perhaps the perfect time to jump in on the franchise. It's the best rated of the series and saying that everyone has it wouldn't be too far off. 

Animal Crossing is a great example of Nintendo's fun and simple game design. There's nothing complicated about Animal Crossing, and it's accessibility makes it a great game for just about anyone. There's no combat, no timer you're running against, no quest to save the world or a big bad enemy to defeat. You just go about your everyday life in your town - and the game gives you loads to do.

Beginning with visuals, the game has a fun, bright and vibrant colour palette that's very easy on the eyes. Your town is full of colour - green grass, blue sky and ocean and a variety of flowers. Your citizens come in a variety of colours - how about a purple and blue frog? The 3D for this game helps bring out the depth of the world, which is designed cylindrically. To get an idea of this, it's basically like walking along a really wide log. Things roll up from out of view, which is kind of neat. 

In New Leaf you play as the Mayor, giving you the additional stresses of having to choose what buildings and town projects get done. You also can choose your town's flag and the town tune, which plays when interacting with your citizens, going in and out of buildings and at the hour. 

Gameplay wise, there's lots to do in your town. As you purchase items from Timmy's, you can do more stuff in your town. There's fishing in the river and ocean, digging for fossils, and tending to town flowers, just to name a few things. You'll eventually unlock the tropical island where there are minigames you can play with friends, or exploit the island for hundreds of thousands of bells, which you'd use for either town projects (which can get really pricey) or expanding your house, which will cost a ridiculous amount towards the later expansions. The stuff you can find around town, like fruits, bugs and fish change with the season, so if you want to collect everything, you'll have to come back to it every season. In addition to stuff in the town changing with the season, the seasons have an effect on your town. Winter brings snow and Christmas themes to your town. The summer brings nightly firework shows, and those god awful mosquitoes. 
There always seems to be something to do in New Leaf. One week it might be a bug catching contest, the next could be a fishing contest. The most impressive thing about the game is how alive the town feels. Your townspeople talk to each other and do their own thing. They'll have their own problems, and who gets along with who. Some of them will move out and new ones will come in. The game gives an incentive to coming back to it often, and characters will talk about how you were gone for a while if you take an extended leave from the game. 

The game has a large roster of possible townspeople, and if you wanted, you could make citizens move out until you were happy with the population of your town. Characters fall into personality types, which effect their behaviour and how they'll interact with you and the other townsfolk. It leads to a wide variety of character possibilities in your town.

For me, the biggest motivating drive in the game is getting the coolest house possible. Racking up thousands of bells to constantly expand and customize my house while filling it with the coolest furniture (which I'll explain in a bit). I'm making my house to be as realistically livable while being outrageously extravagant and quirky. 
Finding cool clothing and designs in the stores and from QR code you find online is a lot more enjoyable than it sounds and you'd be surprised (or maybe not) as to what kind of designs you'll find around on the net. 
On to street pass. Passing other players registers their town in the HH Showcase, where you can see how other people have done their houses. You get to tour their house and order most furniture you see on display in the houses. It'll be where you'll primarily find cool furniture for your house. 
Multiplayer (via WiFi) will let you visit a friend's town or have them come over. Once you're together, you can run around the town, or head to the island and play the games (which are easier with more people). Once you have the dream suite built, you can pay a visit to an "offline" version of a random person's town. Like most of Nintendo's online play, it's not perfect. It saves when you activate WiFi, it saves when a friend comes over or leaves. I understand what it's doing, but all that time spent watching the save animation go round adds up.

Overall, Animal Crossing New Leaf is an excellent game for any age of player and for any kind of player. It's simple controls and systems make it a great game to relax to, and great for something before bed. It's fun by yourself (never alone with your townsfolk with you!) and a great time with friends. Plus, if you're in an area that gets a lot of streetpasses, you'll probably have a lot of passes on AC, because it seems that everyone was playing it, and a lot of them are still playing it.

Animal Crossing New Leaf was released June 9th, 2013 and is only on the 3DS.

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