First Impressions On…Animal Crossing: New Leaf

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So this morning I bounded downstairs to find my copy of Animal Crossing: New Leaf had arrived! I have been eagerly awaiting this game for months. I’ve played AC on the Gamecube, on the DS, and a little bit on the Wii, so I’ve long been a huge fan of the franchise. I know the games are largely the same, but I really don’t mind because it’s a simple, addicting formula and it’s a game I like to play regularly in short bursts. Anyway, this blog post will be about my first impressions on the game. First impressions meaning I’ve literally just picked it up and I can’t definitively give an in-depth review of it yet. So at the time of writing, I’ve played the game for about an hour, and established a few things (covered more below). Remember, this is not a definitive review, so please feel free to comment on my commentary!

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Anyway, I first open up the game and of course, I’m met by Rover, the talking dog who establishes the basics like what time it is, what my name is and what town I’m going to. I must admit I got stuck on the name of my town and just decided to name it Erebor – yeah, I know, I’m so creative. I liked the cute callback to Animal Crossing on the Gamecube when he says he’s been on trains since 2002. Of course being an European gamer, Animal Crossing for GC didn’t come out until 2004. I’ve played every version of Animal Crossing, some more than  others, but my Gamecube save has definitely racked up the most hours. I’m pretty sure I legitimately played every day for at least a year, if not two. I was obsessed with the game, and I wish I had that much time now to devote to the newest instalment in the franchise. One thing I really liked was the ability to choose from a few different town presets so your town layout isn’t entirely random. I went through and chose one where all the villagers were situated close together, because I figured it would make the inevitable fetch quests slightly less tedious. However I kind of regret this because now I only have one bridge across the main river which cuts through town, so travelling between the two halves of my town can be a bit annoying. Anyone know if I can change that later?

At any rate, I got off the train and was immediately greeted by an assortment of furry critters who are all very excited to see me, thinking I’m their new mayor. Despite my protests, they’re insistent on it and whisk me off to the town hall to establish my mayorly duties. But oh no, I don’t have a house yet, so I must go to Tom Nook and stake out a new nest in this mysterious new town. All very familiar things to old-comers of the series but the ability to now choose exactly where to set up a house is really handy. I did get told off by Nook for putting mine too close to a cliff originally but moving a few feet over apparently satisfied his requirements. I put mine slap bang in the centre of town, within easy access of the beach and the river bridge. Then I was asked to participate in the Mayor’s Ceremony in which I planted a tree. I assume the tree sapling grows and that’s where all the cool events happen.

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From then on, of course, Animal Crossing is a largely open-world game which runs in real-time based on your system clock. For those who’ve never played but are interested, I’ll give a quick rundown of the sorts of things you can do. You can talk to the townsfolk, run errands for them, give and receive presents and just get to know the quirky, often nonsensical talking animals in your town. At the moment I have four townsfolk and I’m guessing, like in previous games, that number will grow as more people move to live in your town. You can also buy a shovel to dig up stuff, including fossils. You could buy a fishing rod to do a spot of fishing in the ponds, river and the ocean. You can get a bug net to catch a variety of bugs around town. Fish, bugs and analysed fossils can be donated to the museum. Or you can sell things to earn bells, the game’s currency, which can be used to purchase a whole bunch of things from decorative items for your house to upgrades for your house.

In New Leaf, all the shops apart from the Re-Tail shop (a kind of recycling shop) are located in its own little section above your town, called Main Street. I quite like the change because it does save on a lot of walking to and fro between shops. At the moment, I can see there’s another section to Main Street which is blocked off, and I’m wondering if that will unlock later. For now, I’ve been to Nookling Junction, run by the adorable Tommy and Timmy, who are much cuter than the previous shopkeeper in games Tom Nook.

Now, Tom Nook has moved into the property market and he sells everything to do with houses. I go into his shop to be informed that I need to make a down payment on my house for 10,000 bells before they start construction. To be honest, that’s not a huge sum, considering in about an hour’s play of fishing and picking up stuff, I managed to make about 15k, but I suspect payments to Tom Nook will only get higher and higher. Unlike in previous games though, it looks like you pay upfront for things rather than accruing debt. Whereas before, Tom would give you a house and then effectively swindle you into a large sum of debt, he’s apparently become more business savvy in this game. I’m not sure how I feel about this change. I quite liked feeling like I was in debt to be honest, because it gives you something very concrete to work towards. I mean, I know real debt is not a nice feeling, but Animal Crossing debt was always something that felt very progressive; Tom Nook didn’t charge interest or make you stick to payment plans, so it’s not like that aspect forced any kind of urgency into the world. I guess it doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. Anyway, I’m looking forward to my house being built tomorrow. This tent I’ve got temporarily is just not cutting it, I’ve already amassed an eclectic bunch of furniture from generous townsfolk and I need space to put it all down.

There’s also the clothes and accessory shop run by Mabel and Sabel. I saw some QR codes for clothing designs floating around on the internet. I take it you can somehow share designs using QR codes? I haven’t unlocked this feature yet as far as I can tell, but I’m sure it has something to do with Sabel who’s just quietly sewing away in the corner. If that’s the case, it’s a really cool use of the 3DS and I’m looking forward to pilfering the best designs from people who are much more artistic than I am.

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Another cool thing is the museum is located by these shops. Blather is back and he is as amazing as ever. I’ve always made it a point to complete the museum collections in my towns, because it’s a nice way to track all the different varieties of bugs, fish and fossils I get. I always donate the first of every kind that I catch to the museum, even if it’s worth a lot of bells, you know, because I’m a generous soul.

The other shop, Re-Tail which I mentioned, is located in the main part of town and not with the other shops. I really really love this addition. Having two shops to sell stuff to is really handy. The Re-Tail shop also has a feature where you can display items and set a price for them for people to come buy. I suspect this will come in very handy when trying to sell things to other people who live in your town.

Speaking of which, my younger brother is going to play in my town too. I hope there’s a lot of ways to interact with the other non-AI people in your town. I’ve seen there’s the bulletin board feature, I suppose you can send letters, and of course, there’s the display at Re-Tail. What though, happened to the recycling/garbage dump of previous games? My brother and I used to race to get up earlier in the morning and log into the Gamecube to get all the free goodies from the dump before the other. I suppose Re-Tail has replaced that somewhat.

So far today then, I’ve made enough bells to get my house built for tomorrow. I’ve caught about 10 different kinds of fish and dug up 4 fossils. I’ve talked to everyone in town and received a bunch of cool gifts from clothing to furniture. Some of it I sold, some I put up in the flea market. I took a photo of myself in the photo booth (I thought it would use the 3DS camera to actually take a selfie, but it turns out to just be a photo of your in-game character). I found Gulliver washed up on the beach and I don’t know how to wake him. I had a play date with PomPom in my town at 4pm and she gave me a tour of her house, though she was rather pompous about it and now I’m not sure if I like her. I wrote brief letters to everyone and mailed them. My tent has a cabin bed, a lantern and a rainbow divider in the middle, so it’s very cosy but quite cute.

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All in all, I’m very happy with my start. The game is just as addictive as I remember it, and I know I’m going to pour hours and hours into improving my character’s house, my town and just collecting a whole bunch of stuff. The changes so far look to be, for the most part, an improvement on the odler titles.

I’m looking forward to my role as mayor, as I heard you can put down public works and alter the appearance of your town. It’s something which I thought was seriously amazing as a feature when I saw it announced. If I had one complaint about the old Animal Crossing games, it would be that you sometimes towns got pretty boring and I’d often start a whole new town just to have a change of pace. Hopefully with the ability to totally customise your town, it’ll keep the game interesting and give you lots and lots of goals to work towards. In old games, it can get a bit stale once you’ve paid off all your debts, but it looks like New Leaf so far is offering a lot more stuff to spend your hard-earned bells on. Plus, I’m looking forward to visiting other people’s towns with all their cool customisations.

I’ll probably return to this blog and do a full review of the game once I’m fairly sure I’ve seen the majority of stuff this game has to offer. But of course, being a real-time game, that might not be for a while. For now, I’m sure there’s many of you happily playing and exploring the game, who should agree with me in saying that this game is so charming, joyful and all around, tremendous fun. If you were on the fence about buying it because it seems kind of dumb, don’t let the cutesy aesthetics distract you from what is a very addictive, simple but deep and involving game.

My friend code is 0473-7976-2590 and my name’s Michelle, if anyone’s interested in adding me as a friend by the way. Feel free to send me your friend codes using the form below and I’ll try to stop by your towns too! 

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