Animal Crossing: New Leaf (Nintendo 3DS) Review

By Javier Jimenez 17.06.2013 10

Review for Animal Crossing: New Leaf on Nintendo 3DS

The place? Townvill.
The mayor? Mr. Mayor.

Today's Political Agenda: Fishing, catching bugs, digging up fossils. Sell everything for bells. Pay off house loan. Make that penguin change his ugly shirt. Check turnip prices. Redecorate.

As popular Nintendo series for years, can the latest Animal Crossing game expand on the series' roots or is the 3DS experience more of the same?

This is the gritty, dystopian world of Animal Crossing New Leaf, a world of bleary, red eyed obsession, in which the player whiles away hundreds of hours of their lives hunting each and every bug, fish, fossil, and furniture set over the course of an actual calendar year. Or maybe it's the most light hearted house decorating simulator you've ever seen, full of fluffy bright eyed villagers. Or maybe it's a design tool, letting you create your own clothing sets right down to the cuffs and buttons. Or maybe it's a new kind of multiplayer experience, where you can visit your friends' persistent state towns, trade items and play minigames together for prizes.

Well, actually Animal Crossing New Leaf is all of those things. It's really anything you want it to be. It could even be a grieving simulator, as you visit the towns of your friends and dig up all their flowers and knock down all their trees.

Screenshot for Animal Crossing: New Leaf on Nintendo 3DS

That's the beauty of Animal Crossing New Leaf, an experience that really isn't duplicated anywhere else, not even in EA's popular The Sims franchise. New Leaf is a beautiful little town simulator packed to the brim with content, a full real year's worth, and free form gameplay. Want to dedicate your time to beautifying your village? You can do that. Want to spend all your time playing with friends? You can do that too.

Since its inception on Nintendo 64, which was ported to Gamecube outside Japan, Animal Crossing has made both small and large refinements to the package, while maintaining the core gameplay of gathering items, spending on clothes and furniture, and playing with friends. Animal Crossing New Leaf hasn't radically altered the fundamentals of that formula. You still arrive in town on a train and choose a place for a house. You still wake up poor and in debt to Tom Nook. You still collect bells, the currency of Animal Crossing, to buy things.

Screenshot for Animal Crossing: New Leaf on Nintendo 3DS

However, all the little and big changes of each game up til now represent a fairly big change to the way the game plays. And New Leaf is easily the biggest step so far. No longer are you a hapless citizen of this strangely magical world. Now you're the mayor, and as mayor you have power over your town. Decide how the town will be built, change the town's theme song, redraw the town's flag and even boss around the villagers. New Leaf invites a much needed improvement to the randomly generated villages.

The biggest change, though, is the multiplayer. While you can still visit your friends towns, you can also now play minigames with them. They're good minigames too, Nintendoland-esque minigames, both cooperative (everyone has to cooperate to achieve a goal) and competitive (the player who performs the best is rewarded the most) and always frantic. It's easy to while away an hour or two just playing with friends.

Screenshot for Animal Crossing: New Leaf on Nintendo 3DS

It'll be a pleasant hour or two, as well. New Leaf has received the first major makeover of the series. While City Folk and Wild World had touchups here and there, they were both running on what was, essentially, the original N64/GC engine. New Leaf has heavily upgraded/rewritten that base rendering engine. Immediately evident are modern textures, new polygonal models, and even some quite nice bump mapping, evident from the scaly skin of a chameleon to fluffy snow on the ground. The result is a modern looking game that perfectly captures the series aesthetic.

We could talk for hours about the additions and changes of New Leaf. They are numerous. For instance, QR codes for clothing can be exchanged on the internet. Daily fortune cookies give super swank and unique Nintendo themed furniture and clothing. The player can get another job, serving coffee at a café. There are many more holidays and even birthday parties. Oh, and perfect fruit types, that sell for a ton more bells in your friend's villages… and the music is pure intravenous candy… and… and…

Screenshot for Animal Crossing: New Leaf on Nintendo 3DS

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 10 out of 10

Masterpiece - Platinum Award

Rated 10 out of 10

Well, we could go on and on, except, to be honest, we'd rather get back to playing it than talking about it. After all, we just need a few more bells to pay off our house and start on an expansion. So we'll just say that Animal Crossing New Leaf is the best of its franchise and highly recommend it.

Also known as

Tobidase Doubutsu no Mori









C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  10/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10 (46 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now    Also on Also on Nintendo eShop


It's amazing how such a seemingly simple game can be so damn awesome.

I have New Leaf and am loving it! It's definitely an all-around upgrade for the series.

A good review, but I think a 10 is generous. I love Animal Crossing, but I always feel the games don't rise to their full potential. New Leaf is easily the most ambition title in the series, but I still have problems with it.

  • All my villagers ask me to do in terms of "quests" is get them a piece of fruit or take something to a different animal. I've kinda stopped talking to them because I'm tired of this (perhaps the result of this being my third time through with the series, old tropes wear thin over time).
  • The endlessly repeating dialogue of the shop NPCs is still tedious as ever.
  • Interface feels clunky in a lot of ways and I also feel like my inventory is too small.

The pace is off too. Been playing for a over a week and still don't have a watering can. I feel they've staggered the release of the tools too much to try to draw out the opening days. I know the end goal is to keep the player occupied for the duration - that's what Animal Crossing is about after all - but they've slowed down the front end to the point where I haven't quite been hooked yet. I'm running out of steam already because the game is feeding me new tools too slowly. I would love to get started on my fruit grove for instance, but alas, I have no axe. Would be great to get going with a garden, too. But again, where's the watering can? And I have no slingshot to shoot down those enticing presents. Knocked one down with my net once, but that was a unique circumstance. It's an excellent little game with unending charms, but alas it still frustrates me with its design choices.

Still, they've made progress. Being the mayor with the ability to modify the town is genius, and they've done a good job of filling the calendar with activities. In nine days of play I've had a bug hunt, had a visit from the fortune teller, talked to that NPC who sells carpets, and been to a birthday party. Not bad considering events were few and far between back in the GameCube days! Love that your house can be modified in more ways too (that you can't have multiple modifications done at once though is another frustrating attempt to draw things out).

Number ratings are always tricky business. I prefer talking about the good and the bad, and I feel the bad is very minor compared to the overwhelming amount of good content and the large step forward for the franchise.

Yeah, I understand. It's a tough business messing with number assignments, and ultimately people often get too worked up over them. As I said - good review. Smilie

Thank you! Hope you're enjoying the game.

@Jacob - You're doing it all wrong, I got a watering can on my first day. Keep talking to Isabelle on the first day and she will give you small tasks in the form of a tutorial. Doing this can get you a fishing rod and a watering can.

Totally agree with this review Javier and I genuinely think that it deserves a 10. Whilst it starts off relatively slow, I'm finding myself getting hooked and I can't wait till I unlock some of the new stuff. The first game I played was City Folk and this is even a HUGE improvement over that.

( Edited 18.06.2013 01:56 by Mush )

@Jacob - You're doing it all wrong, I got a watering can on my first day. Keep talking to Isabelle on the first day and she will give you small tasks in the form of a tutorial. Doing this can get you a fishing rod and a watering can.

She told me to water some plants, but didn't offer me a watering can. I've spoken to her quite frequently too, considering I've gotten my building permit and built a new bridge, so don't really know how I missed out on the free can! I suppose I didn't really bother with her much on the first day -- having done this move into a new town thing several times, the last thing I wanted was a tutorial. Either way, my frustration with the tool selection remains, and haven't had any other options from Nook. Still only have a fishing rod, net, and shovel. Enough to get to work, sure, but still missing crucial pieces.

As for this being a huge improvement over City Folk though, I think this its fair to say this is the first Animal Crossing since the original to really break new ground. City Folk was merely an iterative release over Wild World which was itself mostly just an evolution of the GameCube version (hence why a great deal of the press slated City Folk for being stale). Big credit is due to New Leaf for finally mixing up the formula in significant ways; I just think they've made missteps with the pacing, and have had some oversights in fixing other problem areas.

Steven (guest) 21.06.2013#8

You're right, should not have gotten a 10...should have gotten an 11!  It's an amazing game experience and everyone single one of your gripes is invalid.  I love the fetch quests, I got watering can fast cause I traveled to other towns day one, I love the way the game unpeels like a fresh onion.

GOTY thus far!  Bravo for the perfect score on the perfect game!

anybody got japan,best buy,U.S or eroupe dlc's?

( Edited 25.11.2013 00:48 by Acnlpro )

One of the top games I've played on 3DS!

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