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The Animal Crossing: New Leaf Letter Series
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The Animal Crossing: New Leaf Letter Series

July 11, 2013 Article Start Page 1 of 5 Next

There's already been a lot of ink spilled on Gamasutra about Animal Crossing: New Leaf for Nintendo's 3DS. We've run an interview with its producer, Katsuya Eguchi. Christian Nutt also wrote an in-depth editorial where he tried to capture exactly why he thinks it's such a well-designed game.

But we're back with another look at it because more perspectives on a game like this -- one that can stand up to the analysis -- are always useful. In this email conversation series, our UK editor Mike Rose and our news editor Kris Ligman join Christian Nutt for a wide-ranging discussion on the game. All three of have been playing New Leaf and each brings a different way of looking at the game, as you'll see. 

From: Christian Nutt
To: Mike Rose, Kris Ligman

I really loved the original Animal Crossing for Gamecube, but even the fact that I played it a lot never remotely prepared me for the amount of time I've devoted to this game in the last month, nor how much I both like and respect it. You know how sometimes before the year is up it's just obvious to you what your game of the year is going to be? Well, for me, it's Animal Crossing, and I think very deservedly.

I'd be curious to know what your thoughts were going in and, now that you've spent some time with it, how they align with the reality of having played it.

From: Mike Rose
To: Kris Ligman, Christian Nutt

Okay, so get this -- I didn't like Animal Crossing on the Gamecube. At all. I remember picking it up following all the hype, and both myself and my brother playing together in the same village -- yet he was clearly getting way more out of it than me. I just didn't get it; I'd boot the game up, look for some fruit, smash some rocks, talk to some ridiculous animals (and usually suggest that they greet me with swear words), and then turn the game off, wondering what exactly I'd accomplished, and whether it was a huge waste of time.

So why did I pick up New Leaf, right? Well, it was all Twitter's fault -- I just kept seeing devs and journos gushing over the game with rambling enthusiasm, and I'm the sort of person who hates feeling like I'm missing out on something big, especially when it's to do with video games. For the first few days I regretted the purchase... but then something inside me twigged, and now I'm grabbing my Nintendo 3DS each morning, bombing around collecting everything possible, upgrading this and that, worrying about whether turnips prices will be kind before the end of the week... it's fair to say that I've caught the Animal Crossing bug (although I haven't handed it over to Blathers yet.)

I think the huge difference for me between this version and the Gamecube one is that it's handheld, such that I can immediately jump straight into it regardless of where I am or what I'm currently doing. With the original, I had to turn the Gamecube on, grab a controller, sit down, navigate menus, you know the drill. Here, it's a simple flip of the lid and I'm in. It does make me wonder whether I would have enjoyed the Nintendo DS version (which I dodged due to my hatred for the original game, as you'd expect).

Article Start Page 1 of 5 Next

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Eric Geer
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I'm in the Mike Rose boat. I played animal crossing on GC and on DS. I really enjoyed the GC one because it was new and interesting. Then played the DS one. and it wasn't nearly as fresh. I haven't played new leaf...but I expect it is just bigger and more of the same--I compared the originals to work simulators, and I expect from what I have read that these are more of the same. Work to pay off a huge loan, buy a house, buy cloths, stuff and things to decorate a virtual world. I think I'm going to pass this one by--there are a lot of great titles out that deserve more of my limited time.

Joe Zachery
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Even though it came out on the N64 in japan. Animal Crossing GC is the first on for the Western Market. Wild World would be the sequel to that one, and New Leaf is Part 3. It's a brand new game that uses a similar system to the other 2 games. The game is similar, but there are so many new and fresh ideas in this game. You could almost consider it a brand new game.

Michael Pianta
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I'd never played Animal Crossing before getting this game (though I'd certainly heard a lot about the series), and I would say my reaction is mixed. I find the aesthetic charming, and I find the game relaxing, but I don't really play it in long sessions. More like, 15 minutes in the morning, another 30 in the evening, etc. It only takes about that long to run out of stuff to do. I talk to the towns people, I grab all the bugs I can see and dig up all the fossils. I shake the fruit trees. I take everything to the museum, because that's important, and I sell the rest. Playing in this manner I haven't completed my first public works project yet (but that's my own fault because I started with the expensive bridge) and I haven't upgraded my house at all either. I basically just grind for bells, fill out the museum, and otherwise check to see if anything has changed.

And yet I can't say that anything about the game is bad, or that I'm unhappy with it. I find it relaxing, which is definitely worth something, I don't play it for long enough stretches to get burned out on the admittedly simple mechanics, and I find checking in on the town just to see if anything new has happened is somewhat fun in and of itself. Also, I avoided all spoilers as far as what kinds of things were in the game, and now I am constantly learning new things. Every time a new shop opens on Mainstreet, it's like "Aha! What's this?" I don't even fully understand the mechanics by which those shops get opened up, which I think is good because it prevents me from just grinding towards a single goal. Instead I poke out in every direction - let's build a public work, let's flesh out the dinosaur exhibit, let's visit all the townspeople today and see if anything happens, let's go buy some new clothes, just because. Whenever something new happens, a new shop opens or whatever, it feels like an organic event and a little discovery, and that's fun.

My question though is whether this game will be able to compete with other games for my attention. Like, when Pokemon X/Y comes out, will I still want to play this? We'll see.

Christian Nutt
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I think it's quite deliberate on the part of Nintendo that you don't understand the mechanics of how the shops open up.

I'm not a big fan of people playing games with FAQs open, but in particular I think it runs entirely counter to the design of this one.

Christopher Furniss
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I played the Gamecube version religiously for a few years, every day, just to get that little checkmark on the calendar that said I logged in every day. I would leave the game on during the night and sleep on my couch to wake up in time to harvest mushrooms in the autumn mornings. I felt like I had to be the only person in the world playing the game, and it's been really neat to hear stories of other people who had similar experiences and who are enjoying this version. It's Animal Crossing perfected, perfectly crafted for its particular time period. I used to think that Nintendo didn't really understand "online" and that meant they didn't understand "social" and weren't capable of competing in this new era of gaming, but New Leaf shows that not only do they get it, they are the leaders of "getting it".