This past Friday, I picked up two brand new games–Animal Crossing: New Leaf for 3DS and The Last of Us for PS3. Three days later, The Last of Us in still in the shrink wrap, and I am completely addicted to Animal Crossing. There is something about this game, man. The more I play it, the more I want to evangelize it.
The crazy thing is, I had never played an Animal Crossing game until Wild World came out for the DS in 2005. I put a few dozen hours into the game, before I got distracted by something else. When City Folk came out in 2008, I tried to get into it, but the awful WiiSpeak killed any excitement I had for multiplayer, and I kind of realized that for me, Animal Crossing is a handheld console experience.
So along comes Animal Crossing: New Leaf, and from the moment I started the game, I’ve been completely hooked. In the first several hours I’ve spent with it, what strikes me most about the game is how well designed all of its systems are. When you arrive at town, you find out that you’re the new mayor, and from that point forward, you get introduced to all of the game’s systems in a very methodical way. Before you can start your mayorly duties, you need to buy a house, which brings in Tom Nook and the notion that you’ll be owing him money for the rest of eternity. Then you learn about how to make money through fishing, bug collecting and farming. After that, you find out that you need to interact with residents to raise your approval rating as mayor, giving you a run through of the social system in the game. And so on, and so on.
I love the way the game brings you in and just layers all of its systems in a way that makes perfect sense. There are some hadcore simulation aspects to Animal Crossing, but they are never presented in that panic-inducing type of way that takes away from the relaxed feel of the experience. I want to engage with all of the systems, instead of feeling compelled to try and manage them.
I’ll post more when I get farther into the game, but I thought it was worth mentioning what a great job Animal Crossing: New Leaf does of educating new players about its many systems. I think that the technical excellence of this series often gets overlooked because of it’s cute exterior. It really is amazingly well designed.