Animal Crossing: New Leaf Journal: Week 1

animalcrossingnewleaflogoAs I began Animal Crossing: New Leaf, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Sure, the regular stuff was to be expected, along with a tweaked art style to make the characters a little bit taller, but what would be new? Animal Crossing: City Folk was as good as Wild World, but didn’t really feel new or different, aside from a few small touches. But before even getting into that, there is one thing to attend to which always drives me nuts…

The hardest part of starting a game of Animal Crossing is not only coming up with a good name for your town, but one which fits the measly eight-letter limit. Here are those I rejected for one reason or another, many because they were simply too long:

Angel Grove, New Iacon, Little Iacon, New Rogueport, Toronto, Mega City (though I suppose I could have omitted the gap), Kattelox, Mobotropolis, Turtle Cove, Mariner Bay, Corinth, Reefside, Abel City, Petalburg, Hill Valley, Dinohattan, and Mayberry.

It took some time, but I did settle on one which I felt worked well for me:

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As an aside, it should be noted that you can snap screenshots from the game’s top screen, which are then saved to your SD card. They can easily be moved over to your computer, making a project such as this all the more fun.

Speaking of the screens, the 3D effect is nice, for those interested. Moreover, the layout is different from Wild World on the Nintendo DS; all action takes place on the top screen, with your inventory and such placed on the bottom. As a result, you don’t get the top screen as a view of the sky, nor can you move and interact with things using the stylus. It’s a shame to see that stuff go, as I enjoyed those aspects as a part of my inaugural Animal Crossing experience (I played the GameCube game at some point after), but it’s a minor thing overall.

You can still look up to the sky, though, by pressing up on the Dpad. If memory serves, it’s mapped similarly to the Wii version, with left and right cycling through your tools, and down unequipping them. X opens your inventory, A talks to people, shakes trees, and uses your tools, Y picks things up, and B runs/speeds up text, as do the L and R buttons. As for taking pics, you just press L and R together. Simple and effective.

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After arriving in town on the train, I discovered that the whole “mayor” deal is basically a case of mistaken identity. The mayor was supposed to arrive on that very train, except he didn’t– only you, and no one will believe otherwise. As a result, I became the de facto mayor of Subcon. I might as well, considering I named it and all.

For those wondering, only the first player to begin a town gets to be mayor– as far as I can tell, any additional players on the same town are just ordinary citizens as in other Animal Crossing games. It would have been cool if all the players could form some sort of city council, perhaps, but that might be too complicated for these tiny burgs. In any case, other players are allowed to pack up and transfer their games to other New Leaf cartridges, but the mayor is not.

Speaking of transfers, I was slightly disappointed to learn that you cannot transfer any data from a previous Animal Crossing game to New Leaf as you could from Wild World to City Folk. Store catalogs aside, I did have my character looking the way I wanted, and there’s no way to change your face/hair to be more to your liking here– yet, anyway.

The town has a “Main Street” styled strip of different shops, but several are empty and unused, allowing new businesses to open later. Just today, a new flower shop opened in Subcon, so maybe Harriet will open up a new Shampoodle here in time.

Speaking of which, familiar faces do return, several taking on new roles. Tom Nook has moved out of retail, and is now a full-time realtor, and a little less pushy at that. His former employees run the Nooking Junction, the general store which rotates its stock (and staff) daily to meet your needs. Meanwhile, Labelle has apparently reunited with her sisters, though she has her own wing of the Able Sisters clothing shop.

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Back to Nook, though. While he spends most of his time in town at his store selling different doors, borders, facades, and other things for everyone’s homes, he accompanies you through town when you get here. Before you can assume your mayoral duties, you have to have a home residence, and unlike other entries, you can set up just about anywhere there is room, rather than choosing from homes situated in a square or choosing spots on a map. Just don’t expect to get any real beachfront property, as the sands are separated from the rest of town by a steep cliff, only accessible through a pair of ramps.

Once you’ve set your spot, Nook sets up a tent for you to live in. Make the initial down payment, and he’ll begin construction and have it ready for you by the next morning. From there, you can pay it off and– if you choose– go on to expand it into a bigger place.

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One of your other first orders of business in town is to plant a tree, symbolizing the beginning of your tenure as mayor. Before you can begin setting ordinances and erecting new bridges and things, you must first win over the people by gaining a 100 percent approval rating. It’s actually easier said than done, helped along by things like donating exhibits to the museum and talking to the people. I began playing last Wednesday, and over the weekend (if not before), I was in good.

Overall, things have moved at a pleasant clip– not too rushed, but not too slow. I also took the time to create a new town flag and tune to go with it:

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Following are some other observations I’ve made over my first week of playing, as well as a few tips.

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Isabella is your secretary, and happy to help out– and help she does. You can get objectives from her when you begin, such as talking to certain people (which, unfortunately for me, largely came when they were asleep and she wouldn’t budge), getting some seashells, and more. You’ll want to do these things, as at the end, she’ll give you a useful tool. Nooking Junction only sells two tools per day, and these can be recurring from day to day.

A shovel and fishing pole were easy to get, as was a net, and I got a slingshot on the cheap when visiting another town (more on that in a bit). But finishing Isabella’s list granted me the watering can, the first I’ve seen of one. Now, if I can only get an axe…

Additionally, she is the one who greets you each time you begin a session, and offers helpful info on when someone new has moved into town, or someone in particular is visiting that you might want to see.

One easy way to get money is by collecting fruit, of course, and I lucked out in the random assignment of my town’s fruit:

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Cherries! The downside is that I’ve collected much more than five, but have yet to receive a single Super Star for my troubles.

One thing I’ve wished would be added to Animal Crossing is something– a cart, a wheelbarrow, a sack, just something– to help carry fruit without bogging down my inventory. Nothing like that so far, but something of a new secret feature (shy of a villager telling you about it by chance) is the ability to stack fruit in your inventory. You can only stack the same fruit (even a “perfect” cherry is considered different from a regular one), but you can place nine into a stack so that it only occupies one slot. It’s better than nothing!

Now, if we can just get a tool belt function going, so that the shovel, fishing rod, bug net, watering can, slingshot, and axe don’t take up over a quarter of your inventory slots, we’ll really be rocking.

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Beehives are still a hidden menace, but now there’s a payoff. If you return to where one fell (provided you successfully escaped the bees), you can now pick up the hive and sell it for profit! Speaking of which, there’s a new place in town called Re-Tail, which is an auction house on the main side of the train tracks. They offer better prices for your stuff than Nooking, so that’s where you’ll want to take your goods. I imagine there is something out there that the Nook kids would pay more for, though, but I’ve yet to find it…

Speaking (again) of Nooking Junction, a new feature is that they now sell fortune cookies! This may not seem like a big deal, but it actually is– particularly if you’re a lover of Nintendo-themed items. For two Play Coins (the ones you get for walking with your Nintendo 3DS in sleep mode), you’ll get one cookie with a fortune inside. Trade it in, and many will reward you with items such as a 1UP Mushroom, a Super Mushroom, a Pikmin hat, a Koopa Shell, a triple red Koopa Shell, and the S.S. Dolphin from Pikmin. You can even get a clue as to what you might get from the fortune itself.

Today is the first day I didn’t win a Nintendo-themed– or any sort of item, but the shopkeeper (I forget whether it was Timmy or Tommy’s shift) took pity on me and gave me a free music stand… which I then turned around and resold to Re-Tail. It’s for the best, as you don’t want me anywhere near any sort of musical instrument.

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A handy new feature is that you can have Blathers assess multiple fossils at a time. The only small problem is that he gives them all back to you, only offering the option to immediately donate if you give him only one to look at. You can also donate more than one item at a time, but it requires going through his dialog again– a minor nuisance. It might not even be so bad, but they cut his scripts down considerably– no observations of the fossils given, even one at a time, nor any flavor text explaining why a particular bug freaks him out.

Getting bells from rocks is another feature which returns. For those who don’t know, striking one particular rock each day will yield an increasing number of bells with each strike. The way to maximize this is to dig some holes behind yourself to keep the recoil from knocking you too far. In past games, you can optimize this further by switching to the axe, allowing you more rapid strikes.

One other rock– which, like the bells, is in a different location each day– does something else. When struck, the entire rock shatters, revealing gold or some sort of gemstone. This fetches a good few bells from Re-Tail, though I hear you can eventually fashion furniture from them.

The Happy Home Academy returns, but I’ve not joined yet, as it requires a slot in your StreetPass. My 12 slots are all taken up, and I’m not sure how I feel about having them judge every room of my house on a regular basis, so I’m hanging on to my Super Mario 3D Land and Dillon’s Rolling Western: The Last Ranger slots for now.

Over the course of the week, I took the opportunity to visit my wife’s town (she’s had the game a few weeks longer than I have)…

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…she has her own way of running things, to be sure.

After running around for a bit, we went to the newly-opened nightclub, Club LOL, and listened to K.K. Slider… who has become a bit of a jerk. I requested “Go K.K. Rider!” in every possible form and fashion I could think of, and every time, he played something else instead, only revealing after that “he doesn’t have a song called that,” even though I saw it playing in one other person’s house.

I know the names need to be exact, but I have no idea how much more precise I could have been; I hope next time, Nintendo at least puts in something to try to understand what you’re asking for. Google can do it, iPhone can do it (even if badly sometimes), why can’t Animal Crossing?

Following that experience, we went out to the island, which former Mayor Tortimer opened up to me the next day. Turns out, the game has a third form of currency used exclusively on the island and earned by playing mini-games. You can use it to get exclusive items, including a wetsuit which allows you to go swimming.

There are also some unique fruits and bugs out there, which brought up an unfortunate point about the game. I caught one insect my wife didn’t have yet, but there was no way I could give it to her, nor would it allow me to donate it to her museum. Suffice to say, we were both disappointed by this.

One other handy thing about the train station is that it has a locker, which accesses the same storage space your cabinets and drawers use. If memory serves me correctly, you can even access it while in another person’s town, which is rather handy.

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So those are my thoughts and impressions from my first week of Animal Crossing: New Leaf, and I think future editions will probably be shorter than this. That said, I hope this gives you a good idea of how things differ in this installment.

I was surprised at the reveal that you would be mayor when they announced the game; prior to this, I thought maybe that should be some sort of end-game goal, after finding all the fossils, catching all the fish and bugs, etc. In other words, something you earn for all your hard work. But playing New Leaf and experiencing how they’ve incorporated it, it provides a most welcome addition which manages to freshen up the experience a bit (alongside other changes noted) without leaving behind the core of what Animal Crossing has always been about.

Put simply, if you enjoyed the original on GameCube and/or Wild World, but felt City Folk was too same-y, this might just be what you’re looking for. It improves and refines what came before with new elements, but still retains what everyone loves.

Previously: Animal Crossing: New Leaf Journal: Introduction

animalcrossingnewleafboxartAnimal Crossing: New Leaf will be released for the Nintendo 3DS on June 9th, 2013, at a price of $34.99 at retail and in the Nintendo eShop.

A review copy was provided by Nintendo of Canada.


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David Oxford

David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you're interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.