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Animal Crossing: New Leaf definitely offers unique gameplay in a charming world of its own.

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Developer(s): Nintendo EAD Group No. 2, Monolith Soft
Publisher: Nintendo
Genre: Life simulation
Platform(s): Nintendo 3DS

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The recently released and highly anticipated Animal Crossing: New Leaf, has made its way onto the Nintendo 3DS with you in charge of your new animal-inhabited town. New Leaf is a stress-free, relaxing adventure that’s friendly for all ages. The game definitely shines on the portable 3DS, letting you play even while on the go.

It can be a bit rough explaining Animal Crossing: New Leaf, especially to those who are unfamiliar with the series. You don’t kill anything, you don’t gain experience points, and you don’t even level up, really. In its own way, New Leaf is a simulation game, but even in that area, there are minimal requirements to meet. You don’t have to worry about feeding your character or sleeping, and there is no pressure to talk to your town’s residents unless you want to. Instead, New Leaf is much like a dream world that allows you to play truly at your own pace.

You may be wondering what exactly it is that you do in the game, then. Like the other Animal Crossing titles, some fan-favorite activities have made their return. Fishing, bug catching, and digging up fossils have all shown up again. You can donate these different items to your town’s museum in hopes of completing its collections, or you can sell them off to one of the local shops in exchange for bells, the town’s currency. If you’re the type who likes showing off trophies, you can also display your catches in your character’s home.

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A neat feature is that upon catching new creatures, you will be able to read a short encyclopedia entry about them. The entries are all factual, but written in a way that makes them fun and interesting. The game has included some of the most popular creatures from all around the globe, both old and new, so you’ll be sure to learn a new thing or two.

Along with new creatures, there are also new decorations and options for personalizing both your character’s appearance and their home. Your character’s eye shape, eye color, hair style, and hair color are all chosen by answering a series of questions, which will hopefully match you up with the look you want. Your eye shape is decided at the beginning of the game, but the others can all be switched after unlocking a beauty shop while you play.

Changing the look of your house is much more straightforward than this, though, allowing you to choose flooring, wallpaper, and furniture for the interior. A neat addition to New Leaf is that you’ll also be able to change the exterior appearance of the house, whether you change the door, fences, or mailbox, to name a few options. The Happy Home Academy returns as well, which is basically an organization that judges the look of your home based on different criteria, including feng shui. You can earn a lot of great prizes for decorating well.

New Leaf also has some fun multiplayer features. As with other Animal Crossing games, your real life friends who also own the game will be able to come and visit your town if you’re on each other’s 3DS friends lists. You can trade items, explore together, and chat thanks to the on-screen keyboard. New Leaf also features a tropical island, a place where you can find fish, bugs, and fruit not available in your town. The island also offers “tours,” which are essentially mini-games that you can play to win medals. These medals are the island’s currency, and you can use them to buy special souvenirs, such as exclusive furniture, clothing, or accessories.

The Happy Home Academy, mentioned earlier, also makes a unique multiplayer contribution that takes advantage of the 3DS Streetpass feature. If you happen to pass another New Leaf player somewhere in real life, their Animal Crossing house will be available to visit thanks to the Happy Home Showcase (or HH Showcase for short). This showcase allows you to visit the other player’s home where you can browse around and even order copies of their items for yourself. You can even get special gifts if you happen to streetpass with the same person more than once.

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The town’s villagers have also had some upgrades as well. Not only are there many more animal characters just waiting to move in as new residents, but they also come from a much wider pool of personalities. This means that each character will have their own quirks and things they like. Villagers are willing to play games with you, trade items with you, and ask you to run chores for them. They’re very grateful for your time, though, and will always reward you with some sort of gift. They also have some pretty interesting and comical things to talk about.

Probably the most notable part about the game comes within the game’s plot itself. Unlike other Animal Crossing games, where you’ve started as just another visitor to the town, New Leaf starts you right off the bat as mayor. Literally the moment you arrive in your new home, you’re greeted by a small crowd of cheering residents and your own personal assistant. This gives you some special opportunities for customizing your town. The other games have given players minimal control over the town itself. New Leaf, on the other hand, allows you to build, take down, and rearrange the structures in your village, whether they be simple bridges and lightposts or elaborate shops and services. Townsfolk can also help contribute to different projects, making them somewhat more affordable.

A favorite feature of many players is that the game allows you, as mayor, to enact different “ordinances,” which are basically different ways to run the town. A couple of these ordinances will change the times that different stores are open in your town. Because the game runs in real time, this is something very helpful for those early bird and night owl players who always seem to just miss the shops by a few minutes, or even hours.

Some have worried that gameplay may become too repetitive, or that they’ll run out of things to do when they want to play. This is probably an area where the real-time play comes in handy. Not only do the game hours correspond with your hours in real life, but the date and the seasons do as well. Just like in real life, there will be creatures, items, and even fashions you can only find at certain times, or in certain seasons. Also like in real life, there will also be special festivals and holidays that you can celebrate on certain days of the year. There are a bunch of reasons to keep picking the game up, even if you’ve only got a few minutes. If you have much more time, though, you’ll also be happy to hear that the game never truly runs out of things for you to catch. Sure, the fruit on your trees may take a couple of days to grow back again, but each time you run along the beach or the river, there will be new fish to catch. Each time you run through town, you’ll find another bug. Of course, there’s always the option to switch up a few things around town or play with the villagers.

The game is published by Nintendo and is available on the 3DS through both digital and hard copy.

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