For many gamers, the 3DS was sold as soon as Nintendo announced the Animal Crossing series was coming to their new handheld, way back at E3 2010. However, nobody quite expected it would take this long for the eagerly anticipated life-sim to make it's way into our hands once again. The Animal Crossing series undeniably has the power to shift games consoles, and it's more than likely to be the next big reason to pick up Nintendo's already soaring 3DS.
We're not going to spend long however, reflecting over how long it has taken for Nintendo to bring this title to Western gamers, because there purely isn't the time! Animal Crossing is here once again to absorb our lives, but this time in shiny new 3D. Although, 3D graphics really aren't the star of the show here, as Nintendo have thrown in a ridiculously large amount of new features and for us, that can only be a good thing.
It's going to be almost impossible to mention every new feature in this review, because there is purely just too many. However, you may wish to follow my weekly New Leaf Journal (which launches today), in which I will explore new features of the game as they become available in my town. Still, I plan to squeeze just about as much Animal Crossing goodness into this review as I can, even if we do receive complaints from the site hosts for the article being stupidly long.
The initial premise presented by the game here is quite simple and strays little from other titles in the series and we're pretty sure everyone knows how that works. After a short train journey with the ever so lovable Rover, you'll arrive in a scenic and untouched town, this is after having chosen the layout of your town from a selection of maps. Upon you're arrival, you'll be greeted by your secretary, Isabelle and a selection of other townsfolk. Then, much to your surprise and dismay, you'll be greeted as the new Town Mayor. Yes, they finally put down Tortimer, or well, he's on a long "vacation" as the story tells.
After visting Tom Nook in his new housing venture, you'll choose the ideal location for your new home and the generous old chap will provide you with a tent to stay in whilst you pay your debts. As with every Animal Crossing game, after this, you're pretty much free to do as you please.
Naturally, one would head up to the brand new Shopping District, which conveniently places all your favourite shopping destinations on one handy street. Tom Nook will be here in his brand new housing shop, leaving Timmy and Tommy to hold the fort in Nookling Junction. Whilst the Post Office finds a new home on the street and the Mable Sisters' trusty shop returns once again. Talking of the Mable Sisters, they have now expanded with Lable from Gracie Grace for their new accessory outlet.
Returning shops and outlets aside, the high-street also plays home to a number of new establishments. Most of these will open up over time as your town develops, including the late night party gig that is Club LOL, with KK Slider rocking his tunes all night long. Furthermore, Leif has opened up a quaint little gardening store and there's also other newbies on the street that we don't have the time to mention.
Leaving the prominent Shopping District, there's just about as much to explore in the rest of your little town. The usual bunch of residents will come and go, with a few new animal varieties thrown into the mix. You'll find the little furry friends interacting with you alot more now, as they continue to ask for favours, exchange gifts and the like. As always, it's greatly rewarding speaking and exchanging compliments with the animals and it continues to be a true highlight of your Animal Crossing life.
However, as much as we'd love to, you can't just live a simple life of chatting with the animals, you'll need to make some serious money. You'll be able to collect a variety of resources from around the town, including, fruit, fossils, fish, bugs and alot more. Then you can head over to the new Flea Market shop, RE-Tail to sell your newly found goods, you can either sell these direct to Reese or list them for villagers to buy. Furthermore, RE-Tail will see you buying goods from other villagers and using their services to customize just about any piece of furniture you can find.
You'll then be able to spend these precious bells on upgrading your house over at Nook's Homes, however, this isn't the only place that will drain your hard earned bells. As the new town Mayor, you'll need to head over the Town Hall and carry out your Mayoral duties. From here, you can work on Community Works Projects that can add a large number of features to your town, from new Shops to Bridges to Camp Sites and just about everything you can imagine. As Mayor, you'll also be working on Town Ordinances that change the way your town runs and your produce.
If you fancy escaping from Mayoral duties, you'll want to head down to your Town's beautiful and inclusive beach, here you can kick your boots off (literally, you now have boots) and have a run in the sand. Not forgetting that you can now actually go for a swim in the sea and pluck up some treasures, providing you have a wet suite of course. However, what's more exciting is that you'll now be able to jump on Kapp'n's boat and he'll whisk you away to a beautiful little holiday island. On this Island, you'll be able to compete in a number of activities and challenges, hosted by Tortimer, with friends or on your own.
If you don't want to play on the island with friends, then there's still plenty more opportunities to interact with other players. The online infrastructure is as solid as ever here, with the game allowing your 3DS friends to visit your town, allowing you to enjoy the town together. On top of this, you'll also be able to elect a selection of favourite friends, so you can chat with them any time.
Online functionality is extended further with regular DLC items being sent by Nintendo over Spotpass and of course, the new Dream Suite. This feature will eventually pop up in the Shopping District and will allow players to visit the towns of rand players. Also in the Shopping District, you'll be able to view the towns of players you've encountered via Streetpass.
Club Tortimer is also an exciting new addition to the game's online infrastructure. It comes at the small price of 50 island tokens, but it will allow you to visit the island and partake in it's activities with other gamers across the world, it's essentially one big exclusive club for Animal Crossing: New Leaf owners.
With all these brand new features to talk about, it's easy to forget the much improved aesthetics and presentation. From it's early trailer, we were blown away by New Leaf's natural beauty and this is conveyed through it's detailed environments and now much more realistic characters. The graphics here are presented much more vibrantly and presentation is a huge step up from previous games in the series, especially in direct comparison with Wild World.
Our favourite classic Animal Crossing tunes are present throughout here and you'll be humming away as you make your way through your little town. KK is back to present some more rockin' tunes for you to dance along to in your own home aswell.
In conclusion, Animal Crossing: New Leaf is the most complete game in the series to date, infact it's one of the most complete games of all time. This Animal Crossing title is mindbogglingly expansive and content packed, it's also easily the most addictive game on the 3DS and a serious contender for the best game on the platform. It may have been over three years since Nintendo first showed this one to the world, but we'd be foolish to say it hasn't been worth the wait. + Josh Moorcroft-Jones
10/10 - Animal Crossing New Leaf is by far the best game in an already incomparable series. You'll be stretch to find a game that offers this much content, whilst oozes such a wealth of charm. Prepare to give up your being to this enslaving life-sim once again.
Review copy provided by Nintendo