Animal Crossing: New Leaf review

  • Social gaming at its finest
  • Developing your town as mayor
  • Steady flow of new content
  • It's too similar to previous entries
  • Still a lot of busywork to earn money
  • Expects a significant investment of time

If video games are all about escapism, there are few nicer destinations than Animal Crossing: New Leaf. The most pressing matters in its breathless community are "Shall we have a game of hide-and-seek now or a bit later?" and "Will this wallpaper go with my house's flooring?" It's pretty much a perfect world. However, real life sadly isn’t that straightforward.

The main problem here is that the core gameplay is ostensibly the same as that of all the other iterations dating right back to 2001, so returning players will take some persuading if they’re going to move in and start all over again. Fortunately, there's a lot more to do this time around, thanks to a steady flow of new features over time and several multiplayer-friendly additions to the tried-and-tested Animal Crossing formula.

For newcomers, the main reason to choose New Leaf over any of the other versions is surely the fact you are now the town’s mayor, taking over from Tortimer who has semi-retired from work and now oversees activities on the Tropical Island. With your new title, you have the power to develop the town however you see fit. That means you can add practical objects like a second (or third) bridge over the river that runs through your town, or add aesthetically pleasing scenery elements like fountains or a lighthouse.

"...there's a lot more to do this time around, thanks to a steady flow of new features..."

It may not sound like much, but it’s very rewarding to unlock a new element, even if each requires significant grinding for cash by finding and selling items. Just like in life, if you want something in Animal Crossing, you’ll need to work for it. Mind you, that’s way better than the contemporary alternative. Nintendo deliberately stayed away from microtransactions and the game is undoubtedly better for it.

The best of the big new features doesn’t even require grinding to unlock. The Tropical Island simply becomes available some five days after you start playing. There you can enter ‘tours’, which are essentially timed minigames that range from scavenger hunts to dragonfly-catching competitions. They're all rather simplistic but a welcome break from the rules-free gameplay of your main town.

"Nintendo deliberately stayed away from microtransactions and the game is undoubtedly better for it."

Local multiplayer is available right away when you reach the island, but you can also join in with gamers across the Internet once you’ve earned a Club Tortimer ticket. Even if you can’t understand a Japanese gamer’s text chat, the gameplay is universal enough for everyone to have fun.

Back in the town itself, you’ll find new things to see and do throughout the course of the real-life calendar year. New shops open and expand, a Dream Plaza allows you to view anyone’s town across the world (as long as they’ve uploaded a version to the server), and bugs and fish come and go with not only the sun, but the seasons too.

Everything is tied to the internal clock, meaning you need to keep playing at different times of the day and week in order to maximise your item haul. It’s such a simple mechanic, it’s amazing more games don’t utilise it--especially as it works so brilliantly here. There’s literally a year’s gameplay waiting for you, and that’s if you’re rinsing it to collect everything as it appears first time round.

"...the gameplay is universal enough for everyone to have fun."

Despite all these new gameplay features, there’s no denying there are too many recycled elements. From the cat at the start that looks like the same one from the Nintendo 64 Animal Forest to the "fill the museum with bugs, fish, fossils, and art" collection mechanic, there's a tangible sense of déjà vu that some gamers may not be able to get past if they’ve played Animal Crossing before.

One thing that has definitely changed is the colour palette, which is now a mix of pastel tones compared to the relatively neutral and bold palette of Wild World. That said, the graphics have received a notable upgrade so it’s undoubtedly a much prettier game overall.

"Despite all these new gameplay features, there’s no denying there are too many recycled elements."

Animal Crossing: New Leaf is a beautiful thing. A charming, innocent piece of software that features no acts of violence (aside from hitting the townsfolk with your bug net, which they get sad about very quickly) and which doesn’t care whether you spend your time improving the community or just chasing butterflies.

If value-for-money is what you look for in a game, then look no further. This review stems from 73 hours (in one month) of play, and moving on doesn’t look likely any time soon. It’s incredibly addictive. And unlike other games that sap that much time, it never feels like you’ve been playing very long.

Surprisingly, a massive percentage of your time will likely be spent alone. But it’s not really ‘single-player’ gaming. It’s just the time and busy-work you put in between social visits. It’s fun and relaxing, sure, but if you never share what you’ve made with someone else, you’re undoubtedly missing out on one of the game’s biggest emotional payoffs.

If only New Leaf had taken a few bolder steps forward from its predecessors, this would be utterly essential. As is, it’s ‘merely’ one of the finest social games ever made. Get involved, and you’ll be forever bragging to your friends about your latest item. For instance, a tarantula. Bet you haven’t got one of those.

More Info

Release date: Jun 09 2013 - 3DS (US)
Jun 14 2013 - 3DS (UK)
Available Platforms: 3DS
Genre: Puzzle
Published by: Nintendo
ESRB Rating:


  • Shnubby - November 19, 2013 8:30 a.m.

    It's sitting in a drawer in the bedroom but I'm not allowed it until Christmas D:
  • BackwaterRifle - July 14, 2013 8:10 p.m.

    Why is this game listed as a puzzler, when its clearly an RTS.
  • Hobogonigal - June 7, 2013 7:49 a.m.

    Excellent, can't wait til it releases! Definitely gonna get it, and not ashamed one bit ;)
  • pokepark7 - June 6, 2013 4:14 p.m.

    does anyone even play though the whole game?
  • bluigi - June 5, 2013 12:40 a.m.

    In City Folk, you could move your Wild World character into your Wii game and thus, retain your entire catalog. Does New Leaf have something similar to this?
  • GR_JustinTowell - June 5, 2013 2:01 a.m.

    It doesn't connect with City Folk, but *if* an Animal Crossing Wii U gets announced at E3, I'd say there will almost certainly be some compatibility.
  • Swedish_Chef - June 5, 2013 12:23 a.m.

    While the Animal Crossing series may not be something that I enjoy, that's just my personal taste and I can still respect what a well put together game/series this is and understand completely what makes it so popular/addictive. So kudos to you Nintendo. Keep doing what you do best.
  • db1331 - June 4, 2013 11:13 a.m.

    I'm going to pick this up for the missus. She loved the last one on the DS. She doesn't follow game news at all, but recently saw a commercial for it and got pretty excited.
  • KishouTenpi - June 4, 2013 9:54 a.m.

    Okay, I really cannot wait :D
  • TheMcFinder - June 4, 2013 9:50 a.m.

    those dates in the game are in may T-T i have been absolutely DYING to get back into the crossing.
  • GR_JustinTowell - June 4, 2013 12:44 p.m.

    We've had the game for a month! You can't review the game in a day or even a week so it's necessary to play it for a long time. But like I say, over 70 hours in one month in my case. That's 'quite a lot'.
  • TheMcFinder - June 4, 2013 1:21 p.m.

    i figure. i'm just also extremely jealous of that fact haha. any gamesradar "community crossing" planned for release? that'd be pretty shweet
  • GR_JustinTowell - June 4, 2013 3:58 p.m.

    Well... we might release our Dream Plaza codes soon. I'll see what everyone wants to do :)
  • Thequestion 121 - June 4, 2013 9:34 a.m.

    Gah! I can't wait till it releases on Sunday! This will definitely hold me over for the next year and into 2014 :D
  • garnsr - June 4, 2013 9:22 a.m.

    Nintendo games are like annualized franchises, just spread over generations instead of coming out every year, and they seem to change even less than games that come out every year. They're kind of comforting if you'r ein the right frame of mind, otherwise they're jus tthe same old crap being pushed out over and over.
  • Arobadope - June 4, 2013 9:27 a.m.

  • BladedFalcon - June 4, 2013 9:30 p.m.

    So... you're saying that Mario Galaxy is the exact game that Mario Sunshine, and that is the exact kind of game as Mario 64, and that is also the same thing as Super Mario World? And boy! Metroid Prime sure is the same thing as Super Metroid! And other M is just another rehash! Am I right? I don't entirely disagree in that other franchises can tend to feel samey, that is pretty much the reason why I don't care about Zelda games too much anymore. But making such generalizations for all of Nintendo's properties is kinda unwise.
  • g1rldraco7 - June 4, 2013 9:06 a.m.

    Man I want it already!!!!
  • Lindsaaayerin - June 4, 2013 8:29 a.m.

    I cannot wait for this game. Time is going by too slow!! This game being similar to previous entries is not a con for me. I love this series so much.
  • shawksta - June 4, 2013 8:21 a.m.

    NICE. Animal crossing is meant to immersed in its world and damn does it do a good job at it

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