When you boot up a game these days, the majority of them focus on you as the player introducing someone to the business end of your gun/sword/MacGuffin. Aside from a few select titles, games are all about getting from point A to B with as much death as possible. Animal Crossing New Leaf is the exact opposite of that. It’s sunshine, hugs, kisses and pointlessness. And dammit, I kinda dug it.
To start off with, I’d never really played an Animal Crossing game before. It looked too cute, too adorable and too furry. So, with that point noted, I downloaded the game and started playing. With a handy insulin drip nearby, just in case.
To start off with, your main character is thrown haphazardly and without qualifications into a job as mayor, like a recently deployed member of the ANC. Once you step off that train, you’ve got a small town to run, and citizens who need you.
As the mayor of Animal Crossing, you’ll find yourself in a world populated by strangely cute citizens and creatures, as you juggle various responsibilities and tasks. And in a nutshell, that’s the game. It’s not about saving the day or even finishing the experience.
It’s about growing, exploring and discovery. You’ll find yourself engaged in all manner of activities that you want to do, from fishing through to dressing up, like a version of the Sims but with more responsibility at the end of the day. You’ve got a main street to grow, a section of tarmac that increases with business as you work on public projects, attracting new shops and networks.
And at the same time, as you accrue wealth and items, the game encourages you to give back, like a benevolent leader before the inevitable lust for power kicks in. You don’t just want happier citizens in this game, you want a town that reflects back on your administration. And you have all the time in the world to do so.
Sharing the wealth brings in more folks to increase your population count, citizens with their own habits and quirks, as they converse with you and reveal more about themselves in the process. Throw in a ton of mini-games, some real-time activities on which your city revolves around and swimming to a tropical island that was reserved for older entries in the franchise, and it’s a well rounded experience.
And of course, this expansion is also open to friends in the real world, who can visit you in your town, so that they can see just how different their ideal town is compared to yours. Some of your mates may have chosen to build bridges, while you focused more on solar panels and flowers. The variety is there.
And yet, this game has no real point whatsoever. It’s a time sink of a title, as you engage in activity after activity. But I like it because of that. I like that I can take my avatar to go get some virtual grub and watch him sit there and eat it. It serves no actual gameplay function whatsoever, but the option to do it is at least available.
And it’s activities like this that are actually useful for the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Want to catch some fish before a meeting starts? Done. Want to plant some flowers before your lunch break is over? Done.
Playing with that mindset keeps the game constantly fresh. It can be agonizingly too cute at times, inflicting a sugar rush of activities on players, but it’s also the kind of game that will be ideal for children. It’s innocent to an impossible degree, filled with plenty of diversions and with a sly joke hidden away for adults.
I’m still not completely sold on the franchise, but I can appreciate the scope of what has been created here, that will appeal to long-time fans. The visuals themselves are once again offering a strong pop here in the 3D department, while the sound complements it with some weird backwards talk and soothing background music.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf was reviewed by Darryn Bonthuys on a Nintendo 3DS