by Brian Robbins

 Imagine a world full of talking animals, an atmosphere that resembles a Willy Wonka paradise and a bunch of random fruit trees and dinosaur fossils littered across the city. This is Animal Crossing, and it’s fair to say it’s wildly strange. You know what though? It’s downright fun. If you’ve been looking for a great handheld game or even a reason to own a Nintendo 3DS this could be the title that you’re looking for.

Once you begin the story, you’ll be notified that you’re the mayor of a randomly generated town! This is exciting because you as a player can make choices that affect the look and feel of your new found destination. Want to make your own town jingle? Feel a need to kick out a pesky resident, or even create your own town flag? Well, you can do all of these activities, and more. Animal Crossing: New Leaf is all about giving the player choices on how they want to play, without ever making them feel overwhelmed.

Animal Crossing is a cross between a game like The Sims but with a bit of Minecraft mixed in there as well. The main appeal of this title is that it’s ever changing. The world evolves with you, you can catch new fish or insects in your village depending on what time of day or even what month of the year it is. This is a great way to keep the player coming back, as there are certain things you can only do at certain times.

Whenever I logged into the game, there would always be something that I had to do. I always feel like I have to harvest all the fruit from my town’s trees, and destroy all the weeds that have been collecting around the town. Animal Crossing makes you feel responsible in a good way without ever making the gameplay feel like a chore.

 What I found really addictive was decorating my house. There’s a plethora of items you can use to make yours feel unique– almost unlimited customization. In fact, you can use the Nintendo 3DS step-counter to get exclusive coins that you can use in one of the shops. You can buy these fortune cookies that will reward the player with a unique item from the Nintendo universe. It’s completely random what you’ll find in them but again, it felt rewarding and never like a carrot on the stick gimmick.

Sometimes Animal Crossing‘s coolest features can also be it’s lamest. Take for instance, I’m a pretty busy guy and the only time I can play the game is really late at night. Well, most of the shops in my village are closed after 9 or 10 pm. Granted, you can eventually switch how the town functions, and how late stores open and close but for a while I felt like I was being punished for not playing the game.

Another fault that plagues Animal Crossing is of course Nintendo’s online network. It’s not entirely the game’s fault but Nintendo’s incredibly annoying friend-code system is outdated and actually holds the game back. It would’ve been really impressive if New Leaf could implement an actual living and breathing online community in the game itself, without the need of the silly friend codes. Nintendo’s general paranoia with online gaming hurts one of their best franchises on the system.

  That being said, if you do have friends on your Nintendo 3DS, the online functionality was amusing at best. The only real reason to use it is to gather things from their town that isn’t available in yours. For example, my town only has cherry trees but my friend has apples. I can take his apples and plant them in my town and get extra bells (Animal Crossing‘s currency). They could have done a bit more with it.

Other than some design choices, I found Animal Crossing: New Leaf to be a very enjoyable experience. It’s rare to have a game that will keep you coming back day in and day out, especially when it also creates new experiences for the player. If your Nintendo 3DS hasn’t been played in awhile, this game will keep the handheld in your hand for years to come. If you’re looking for a game that will keep you busy for some time to come, Animal Crossing: New Leaf is it.