NOTE: I DO plan to update this blog as we get farther into the year. This blog, as it is written now, only accounts for 2 weeks worth of gameplay. Thank you for the understanding.
, 2013 is an important date. No, there wasn't anything that involved the fate of the world, or some great discovery that would benefit mankind. No, June 9th
is the day that I became mayor of the little forest village of Moonlit. Not by choice mind you, I was kind of screwed into it by the real successor, but I took to the position in stride. June 10th
was just as important, as that was the day my job as mayor began, when I would claim the chair in Town Hall as my own and make Isabelle my personal secretary. It has been two weeks and 3 days since I became mayor, and I thought I would share my first impressions on my new life and the discoveries I have made.
The Mayor has good eyes and ears
I’ll start with the first thing anyone will really notice upon turning on the game, the presentation. The first five minutes were weird to me, I wasn’t used to seeing my old friend Rover the cat having…well fur. I also wasn’t used to having thighs either, but now I can’t see myself without them. After getting used to things, the game looks great for an Animal Crossing game, much better than City Folk in fact. There are new textures that add things like fur, fabric, and even a nice shine on the grass in the distance. Water has also seen a nice bump in graphical appearance, looking more realistic in this game than the almost cell shaded look in the past. Other nice environmental looks are the clouds; they roll in, blot out the sky and hang there until the weather changes.
In 3D, the rain effects look great as well. (Please note two things here, this is my opinion in terms of the 3D effect, your mileage will vary on this. Also, I have not seen any other weather effects, obviously.) The rolling world effect used since Animal Crossing: Wild World on the DS also really looks appealing when the slider is bumped up. Animations are what one would expect from the series (seriously, this is the one game where the simple animations add to the charm).
On the sound front, the new theme is very nice and inviting (although I will hold WW/City Folk’s theme forever in my heart.) and many of the new hourly songs are nice. Some old favorites return, like the catchy Able Sisters theme, and the Museum’s relaxing loop that changes depending on which exhibit you are visiting also makes a return. Along with the classic K.K. Slider song performances (and the versions played in a music player) all new remix versions exist, and the songs I have personally heard sound like great new additions to the New Leaf soundtrack.
Sound effects are well… to be honest there’s nothing really new here, Animal Crossing has always had a distinct sound, and nothing really changes here, but that’s not a bad thing, like the simple animations, the sound adds charm,. The villager voices may get annoying to you though, and I have yet to find a way to disable it, so just be warned there.
New Leaf, new stuff
I’ll avoid going into too much detail on the new items (as there are WAY too many to count) so we’ll stick with the new features. Being mayor means the town is built the way YOU want it to be. The opening moments have you choose from one of four town layouts (though resetting the game and starting over gives you four new choices). After some initial stuff (involving the new tutorial that Isabelle helps you through, and then getting to 100% approval rating, which will take a couple days), the player can then start building public works wherever they want, even their house is built where they want it. Along with the building aspect, ordinances can be put in place, things like keeping the town beautiful, raising the prices on everything (and thus giving you more bells for sales as well), to changing the hours of the businesses for those who play at odd hours.
Another new feature is Re-tail. Re-Tail is a combination of the auction house from City Folk and a flea market. The player can put items up for sale for other villagers, or visitors to purchase at a price set by the item’s owner. You can also sell items directly to the pink alpaca that runs the place. After some requirements are met, the blue alpaca, Cyrus, allows you to change some furniture’s colors, as well as make furniture from gems you find from special rocks.
On Main Street, you will find all the essential businesses. Nookling Junction is the main shop in your town, and sells a special item that uses play coins to buy, fortune cookies. These magical little cookies give you a fortune that when given back to either Tommy or Timmy, nets you either a Nintendo item (like the Master Sword or Triforce) or a random item. Naturally, this shop is upgraded as you buy items from them. The Able Sisters shop is also here. Mabel, Sable and Label work here and this is where you can make and get clothes and accessories.
Nook’s Homes is where you will upgrade and customize your house. The Museum needs no explanation, and then there’s the post office. Later on, new businesses become available, like a flower shop, Shampoodle, Kicks (shoe store) and the wonderful Club LoL, where K.K. Slider performs as normal on Saturday nights, and DJs with remixes on weekdays.
Being on the 3DS, New Leaf also has features that use the system’s features, like the above-mentioned Play Coins. There is a megaphone that allows the player to speak into the system's microphone the name of a villager, and will (usually, the game keeps thinking that I’m calling for a snowman when I say “Penelope” so I have to shorten the name) have that villager respond to you so you can find them, if they are outside.
Online and StreetPass features are used well on this game. StreetPass gives you access to the Happy Home Showcase, where you can see (and even order items from) houses of players whom you swapped data with. On the online side of things, multiplayer returns and is, at least in my tests, lag-free. A new feature for online is called the Dream Suite, a building which you must pay for that allows you to visit a dream version of someone’s town, and wreak as much havoc as you want without damaging the real town. (I haven’t built this yet in my town, so I can’t actually test it. I’ve got a couple projects I want to do before the Dream Suite.) In addition, fruit stacks (of 9) are now possible, freeing up tons of room in the inventory, which holds 16 items.
The island also returns, and you can play minigames here for medals that will get you exclusive stuff, like the wetsuit so you can go swimming.
It's the little things that matter
A lot of little details have been added here and there as well. Things like your character nodding or shaking his head when you answer a question. The events that happen around the year (so far I've only experienced the Bug-off) also saw a nice little bump, with more characters appearing for the awards ceremony to applaud the winners.
Possibly the one thing that still gets me to smile though is the reactions of the villagers when you pay them a visit. You enter their house, talk to them like all other games, however when you leave the house, the villager may either wave goodbye (and smile) or bow respectfully to you. It's little details like this that give this new Animal Crossing more life.
At $35 USD, Animal Crossing: New Leaf is an adorable little debt simulator that wriggles its way into your heart. There is so much to see and do that it doesn’t get old as long as you pace yourself, remember, Animal Crossing plays via the 3DS system clock, meaning when someone says “Come back tomorrow” they MEAN come back the next REAL day, unless you cheat and change the clock on your system. If you have a 3DS and want a game that you can just hang out, relax, fish and see your pals (points for anyone who gets that reference), then I can recommend this title based on what I have experienced.
If you don’t yet have a 3DS, well if you’re interested and have games coming out later for the system that have you thinking of getting one, this will keep you occupied for quite a while. If you have played any game in the series before, the gameplay is just as solid, with the new features listed above, and features I haven’t even experienced yet.
Being mayor never felt so good.