So the other day I was just riding the train, when a cat got all up in my face and started pestering me. He was asking me all these personal questions about who I was and where I was going, which was annoying to say the least. When I finally got off the train, I was accosted by an assortment of various animals.
The dog among them, who I took to be their leader, started demanding I be the mayor of their freakish little town. The dog dragged me around, yapping all sorts of things about houses and rent and planning permits. I was in such a state of shock that all I can recall is a bizarre ritual that involved the tribe watching me plant a tree and being made to sleep in a tent.
It’s two days later and a kindly racoon has given me a house (for a price), but their seems to be no way out of this hellish world I am trapped in. There are no princesses to save, no world in peril and not the slightest sign of any danger. I love it.
At the time of writing this review, I’ve only racked up about ten hours of playtime. I am more than aware that there are many, many hours left in this game. The Animal Crossing series has always felt to me like a quaint little old British children’s cartoon. Nothing ever happens. The day is formulaic; catch fish and bugs, gather fruit and try and make enough money to pay off your loans all while occasionally chatting with the strange animal folk that live next door.
So what is it that makes a game about trading turnip with sheep so insanely addictive? Especially for me, as an avid hater of games like The Sims.
I think a great deal of it lies in the atmosphere. The whole game constantly feels like a hug, or a hot cup of tea. You can dip in and out whenever you like. The game never tells you to do anything or demands anything from you. The only thing gently pushing you along is the real time aspect of the game, meaning certain shops open and close, or certain things can be done at certain times.
But even this can be adjusted through your mayoral powers. A new aspect of the Animal Crossing and one which adds on another few dozen hours of playtime. You also feel more invested in the town than you might have in previous entries. Jobs like weeding and watering the plants feel like less of a chore now you are actually the boss instead of just some guy.
Being the mayor also affords you the ability to build bridges, benches, streetlights and all kinds of other stuff. I wouldn’t know yet, as I haven’t gained the approval of the villagers. It seems easy enough however, as I’m on 85% at the moment. The extra level of customization is a welcome touch.
Of course while every day generally follows the same outline, there are enough differences to make you actually want to return again and again. The town receives new visitors and passerby every now and again. The most recent of which for me was a chameleon who held a bug catching contest in the town, obviously so he could eat the entries. Something I thought was a nice comedic touch.
The shops also offer new stock each day and I haven’t even come to close to upgrading and fully unlocking every shop on the high street. I really enjoy the fortune cookies, which can be exchanged for various Nintendo items. On my first two tries I got Link from Zelda’s clothes and boots, which sent the fanboy in me into a slight frenzy.
Then there are the changing seasons. Since the game moves in real time and we’re mid Summer, I won’t be seeing this for a while. I refuse to adjust the clock and time travel because it completely defeats the object of the game and besides, even if I have stopped playing by September, this means I’ll still boot up the game just to see how things have changed and I’ll probably get sucked right back in till Christmas.
The game is absolutely crammed full of charm and humor. You actually want to talk to the NPC’s because they are genuinely funny and engaging characters, each with their own personality. My personal favorite at the moment is a dog I taught to say “pass the weed”. I’m easy pleased.
I’ve managed to write this much about a game I have barely scratched the surface of. I know I have dozens upon dozens more hours of play ahead of me and so much more to see and do. Animal Crossing: New Leaf is more than worth the tawdry price of thirty quid considering you’ll be playing it for months. I couldn’t recommend a more engaging, relaxing and downright enjoyable game if I tried.