My Latest Addiction: New Leaf
By: Terra Clarke Olsen
Animal Crossing: New Leaf hit the States in June, 2013 (it was released earlier in Japan). That’s almost a year ago…and I managed to stay away all this time. Well, that is until about a month ago.
While visiting friends in PDX, I learned that my friend, Mikey, was playing New Leaf and he loved it. What?! How could this guy who has great taste in games love this bizarro game full of animals with weird voices? I was perplexed. But as Mikey proudly showed me his town while explaining the game, he sparked my interest with one phrase, “I love how whatever you do changes your town and the outcome” of the game. He went on to explain the personalities in the game and how he’s encouraging some b*tch to move so he can build a very important hammock. Mikey’s passion, and the diversity of the game, did it in for me. Yup, I decided to give the game a shot. It arrived a few days later.
The introduction was cute and lighthearted. You quickly learn that you’re the new mayor of a town (I named mine “TheShire”), and the town is relying on you to help it grow. My townsfolk were a bit strange (one guy had button eyes and another one kept telling me to take his picture because he is so hot o_O), but I like quirks. Okay, this could be a cute and amusing game to play for a bit. “A bit,” hahahaha. Oh how naive I was.
It’s been two weeks since I first started playing New Leaf, and my town is thriving. Thriving because of my hours of fishing, harvesting, bug catching, and fossil hunting. Hours! Two weeks ago, I would’ve been making coffee first thing in the morning; now, I “water” my plants first thing in the morning. It’s pretty bad. My husband gently makes fun of my “watering time.” How did this happen to me?! How has this simple, silly game sucked me in?! Well, I’ve been thinking about it, and I think it comes down to 4 main elements:
The game is not complicated. You quickly learn what to do and how to do it. And if you’re struggling, just talk to your lovely assistant, Isabelle, and she’ll guide you in the right direction. The simple actions also allows you to play a few minutes here and there (although it is easy to think you’re just going to play for a few minutes…just a few minutes. But a “few minutes” quickly turn into hours before you know it..), saving your game in between actions. In addition, no mechanical “skills” are required to be good at completing tasks, meaning the entry level is low (no quick thumb action needed). But don’t mistake simplicity for boring. One of New Leaf’s greatest strengths is its openness.
You can do whatever you feel like doing. Anything! Earning more bells (the currency in New Leaf), helping villagers, shopping, planting and watering plants, decorating your house, changing outfits, digging for fossils, swimming, visiting your friend’s town (one of my favorite features), etc.. And with this openness comes freedom to create a town and watch it grow. Which leads me to New Leaf’s other brilliant feature, a fully complete world.
The amount of content in this game is incredible. I quickly realized that I had completely different townspeople than Mikey. Curious, I looked up how many villagers there are….333! What!? And they also have different personalities assigned to them (ah, all of a sudden those strange comments make sense). The villagers are very interactive and enjoy when you talk with them or do favors for them.
In addition, the town’s complete design creates a mini-microworld. It’s all in real-world time, meaning there are seasons (there were pink trees symbolizing spring when I started playing), night and day light, and stores have closing and opening hours. But the real-world time is not just a visual feature, you need to pay attention to the seasons and time of day if you want to have higher chances catching a certain fish or bug (e.g. a shark, which you’re more likely to catch from June to September from 4pm to 9am). And then of course, there are the extra little details that really drive home the designer’s thoughtfulness in world creation (e.g. I left a piece a candy on the ground and a swarm of ants covered it).
In addition, the user interface is beautiful. It’s just a pretty game-buttons are where they should be; things hide away where you would want to hide them; the screens are not overwhelmed with information. I love it!
There are so many other wonderful little tidbits about this game, but part of the fun is discovering what you can do for yourself. I highly recommend New Leaf for people who are looking for a game that is playful and laid-back.