Animal Crossing New Leaf review: Welcome back my old friend

I should try to explain to in this review why all the repetition in Animal Crossing: New Leaf doesn’t hurt the game. But then I’d have to put into words an accurate description of the “magic” you feel while transforming your town with new projects, conversing with fellow residents or sneaking up and catching that illusive golden stag. I just don’t think I’m going to be able to do that.

For everything that Animal Crossing lets you do, you will end up doing the same core tasks over and over again. This is not a knock against the game whatsoever. Catching fish in your village or at the new island is a blast and doesn’t stop being fun. Hunting down rare bugs to sell for major bells at the little Nook store gets better everyday. Searching for fossils and building up your museum’s exhibitions doesn’t stop being interesting.


If you’ve played Animal Crossing before you know how this series can suck you and never let you go. New Leaf is a whole new monster in that regard. In about 2 months of play I’ve logged over 85 hours, paid off half a dozen public works projects (the Cube sculpture being my favorite so far) and paid off my home loan more times than I can count. I have all the rooms your house can get and now I’m focusing on simply upgrading the floor space in each room. With all of these already accomplished I see no signs of slowing down.

What is weird is the idea that there is a sort of end to your Animal Crossing experience. Most users will play the game a little bit everyday and not put 2-3 hour long marathons daily like I did. I’m about to pay off the last public works project and have only three house upgrades left. What will I think when I finally finish paying off everything worth paying off? Will my hundred hours be well spent or will it be bittersweet knowing I put so much effort into a virtual life that I will abandon due to not having anything else to strive for.

Only time will tell. My guess is Animal Crossing isn’t a game people often “finish” per say. There isn’t an “end game” to it but you can run out of house upgrades. One feature that would increase the replay value of the franchise would be letting the player control the real estate market.

It may seem like a lot to ask since we just now got the role of Mayor in New Leaf but buying and then renting out virtual homes to NPCs or even people on your friends list seems like the next big step in the franchise.

This is the type of mileage people usually get out of deep RPGs, not sims like Animal Crossing. Calling the series a sim isn’t doing it justice because it is interactive in a peaceful but addictive way.

Additions to the Animal Crossing formula are found in the new island which you can sail to for 1,000 bells. It is best to go there at night when rare bugs and fish appear. You can take 40 items back from the island to your village so you should stock up on sharks and rare bugs. Each trip to the island netted me anywhere between 150,000 to 500,000 bells. Former mayor Tortimer is now running this island resort if you were wondering what the old coot was up to.


You can put into effect city ordinances to increase the amount of bells you get for items you sell or to make villagers plant/water flowers more often. If you want to take a break from paying off your mortgage you can build projects in your town and have villagers help out with donations. That said, the player is usually the only person who will pay off these projects but that isn’t too much of a bell burden since each project usually costs between 30,000 and 300,000 bells. You should push for new town projects regularly to keep your villagers happy since you’re the mayor. Though I don’t believe they become any more likely to move out if you don’t do that. It is up to you to change your town how you see fit.

You can design clothes now and exchange/receive clothes via QR codes. Streetpass is used effectively by adding houses of people you’ve passed to a large plaza. You can visit their homes and buy certain items too. Online play is still limited to four players sadly but it is still a relaxing affair. You can partake in recreational activities on the island (like bug catching/fishing challenges) with friends or play those challenges solo to earn medals to purchase rare content from the island shop.

The Dream Suite allows you to visit the towns of people on your friends list without actually doing damage to their town. You can take items, destroy trees and flowers and your friend’s town will go unharmed the next time they play the game. Its a great way to explore your friends towns and get supplies while avoiding the annoyance of people messing up your stuff.

Graphically New Leaf isn’t much of a looker but the ground textures surprised me. It looks on par, if not better than City Folk on the Wii. Audio wise it is filled with dozens of charming tracks, each changing every hour in your town. The music is supremely relaxing which is important since you can get lost in the game for hours on end.


There aren’t any unnecessary touch screen or motion controls. Control wise New Leaf plays out just like Wild World did and that is not a problem. I wouldn’t want it any other way. Sure, more could have been done with the 3DS’s gyroscope or touch screen. Especially in the island challenges, these mini-games would have been a fine place to experiment with some different controls. Ultimately this doesn’t detract from the game, just seems like a minor missed opportunity.

Animal Crossing’s charm is inescapable. If you’ve never been a fan of the series I’m not sure if New Leaf will make you a believer. It does the same things past entries did but much better and far more fleshed out. That said, if you’re looking for an engrossing game that oozes character and constantly presents an attainable goal in front of you this is your game.

The saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” applies here. While some fans have wanted an overhaul to Animal Crossing, New Leaf doesn’t go too far in changing things. It has the same core game play of all other games in the series but adds more on top of that foundation. Some critics may be harsh on it for sticking to its virtues so much but I don’t believe Animal Crossing fans want a reinvention of the wheel. We just want cool ways to pay off that wheel and then customize it to suit our own personal style.

Gameplay 95%
Visuals 80%
Entertainment 95%
Intangibles 95%
Value 100%
Final Thoughts

Animal Crossing New Leaf takes the core AC formula and makes it even more fun and addictive. Nothing eats away at your free time like Animal Crossing

Overall Score 93%