I have a bit of a confession to make: I have a little gaming addiction problem. I recently got over a long dependency on the horrible wonderful Nimble Bits' game "Tiny Tower" - something that was spurred on by Multiplayer's former Editor. Everyday I would open up "Tiny Tower" multiple times, and build another floor, try and get everyone their dream jobs, and then build another floor, until I ran out of things to do. That's right, I effectively beat "Tiny Tower" - that is, until they updated it.
A few days later I had "beaten" it again - until the next update. This happened more than a few times. I would keep going back every day to collect coins and Tower Bux to build more floors, until I topped out at 179 floors, and that's when I had to stop. Even as more floors became available, I had to give up - I kept going back, but had nothing to do.
So, what does this have to do with "Animal Crossing: New Leaf"? Nothing? Try everything.
Another confession: I have never played an "Animal Crossing" game. I've dabbled with them a bit in the past to see what all the hubbub was about, but I never fully committed. I count both the GameCube and DS versions as part of my collection, but they find themselves as part of that subset of games that I've never really played. Open world games are intimidating to me, and since they lack a real ending it's hard for someone who reviews games to know when enough is enough and move on. But, "Animal Crossing: New Lead" is different - one aspect of this release makes it have more in common with "Tiny Tower" than any of its predecessors, and its this one thing that makes a world of difference.
"Animal Crossing: New Leaf" is the first "Animal Crossing" game that's downloadable to a portable device. This is effectively a game changer for the series.
While Nintendo has a long-established rocky relationship with digital games, they are finally finding their sweet spot, and "New Leaf" should really be the game they use to showcase that. I liken it to the 3DS' StreetPass Mii Plaza, a game that allows you instant access to anyone that you have StreetPassed with, and features (another addictive) game, "Find Mii." Both of these games allow for, and encourage players to check in quite often, and having this software installed on the system makes that exceptionally easy.
While my full review of the game will be up next week, I can say that a lot of the mundane tasks from the previous "Animal Crossing" games have returned. Watering flowers, digging holes, and writing letters to townsfolk are all pieces of the puzzle that make of the full experience of the game, and when you find something you like, it hooks you.
"Animal Crossing" Director, Katsuya Eguchi, told us at a recent interview that the game sinks its hooks in when the player finds something that appeals to them.
"This game actually offers the opportunity for the player to find what they like to do, instead of games forcing them, 'Okay, this is what you can do in the game.' But the player, himself or herself, can find what he or she likes to do, or collect, or create. Whatever they want to do, they can find it in this game, and then they can also showoff to other people, so they can express their personality in this game to other people, and to themselves. That's the point."
In fact, as I'm writing this, I'm secretly thinking about how I should be harvesting my lemons and mangoes to pay off my Dream Suite public works project.
This is where "Tiny Tower" and "New Leaf" intersect. Since I carry my 3DS with me as much as my iPhone, I have the ability to check on my town almost as often as my tower, although the 3DS is a bit more conspicuous if you take it out during a boring meeting. With this "Animal Crossing" I can pop in and pop out of my town on a whim and check on the progress of something or just dig up some fossils if I have the time.
"Animal Crossing" was designed to suck you in on a daily basis, and has been doing so since 2001, making it a pioneer of the daily gaming genre. "New Leaf" Producer, Aya Kyogoku, elaborated on the secrets of making mundane tasks compelling on a daily basis.
"For example, digging fossils, you can just do it one day, but you actually have to do it many times to collect one set. Then there's flowers - you want to keep watering the flowers every day, and people that are interested in taking care of the flowers, can water the flowers, and make different, unique types of flowers by doing so every day. By doing those things every day, you can achieve something bigger, and you can also get a sense of satisfaction from it. By doing those everyday things over and over, it will deepen your experience in this game, creating a deeper, more meaningful life in the town."
Ms. Kyogoku also agrees that digital is the way to go for "New Leaf," saying as much in a recent Iwata Asks interview. This is clearly an acknowledgement that the digital landscape has changed, and Nintendo seems to be catching on. On top of releasing a limited edition 3DS XL, with a digital version of the game pre-installed, they are also discounting the eShop release. By pricing the downloadable version of "New Leaf" at $34.99 instead of the typical $39.99, someone at Nintendo clearly recognizes the game is best experienced in an ongoing manner, on the go.
It's this unique play style that makes "Animal Crossing" the first retail Nintendo game that actually has its experience enhanced as a download that lives on your system at all times. This easy access makes it something that players are much more likely to pour hours their lives into, simply because they don't need to worry about swapping the cartridges to do it. The daily grind of "New Leaf" should keep players reaching for their 3DS over their phones if they're committed enough to making their town a true extension of their personality.