Animal Crossing New Leaf Welcome Amiibo is a life simulation role-playing game for the Nintendo 3DS. Some things to note with this particular review is that, while this is not the first game in the series, this is the first Animal Crossing game I’ve played. This may skew my perspectives one way or another compared to veterans of the series. Also, since there’s no real definite ending to the game, I just played it for a few months trying to do as much as I could. And also, in case you’re confused, Animal Crossing New Leaf came out, then got the Welcome Amiibo update for free BUT the later purchases may refer to it simply as Animal Crossing Welcome Amiibo… it’s all the same game, but I have no knowledge of what it was like prior to this free update, so that’s the last bit to keep in mind.
There’s not really a story so much as a premise here. You make a character, pick a basic town layout, and travel to the town. When you arrive, you are mistaken for the new mayor, and through this simple misunderstanding you end up in charge of an entire town! First you need to go through a lot of tutorial-esque tasks to make everyone in town approve of your mayoral status. This is largely just talking to everyone in town a bit to get to know them and get a feel for each of the unique animal residents of your town. You’ll learn how to catch bugs, go fishing, plant and harvest tress… all kinds of things. Eventually the tutorial phase will be over and you’ll be settled in as the mayor, with the freedom to shape your town as you see fit.
Your house is likely to be where you start with your customization skills and goals. You can buy or acquire furniture through certain tasks. Couches, tables, chairs, beds, wallpapers, carpets… all kinds of things can be used to decorate your home. You can even expand your home to have larger rooms and just more rooms in general. You can even change the exterior of the house. Doing most of these big changes will require you take out a loan which you will need to pay back before making any future developments on your home. How do you do that? Why, by earning the game’s currency… bells. They look like gold coins to me but… nope… bells.
You can get bells by selling items mainly. You can shake trees to try and get some fruit or possibly some other goodies to fall. You can catch bugs. You can catch fish. You can dig up fossils. You can do daily and weekly missions for MEOW coupons, which can either be sold or traded for special items. You can get fortune cookies that sometimes yield rewards. There’s even an island you can travel to for some extra stuff to do while you’re waiting for more stuff to pop up in your own town. But you’ll need bells for more than just buying items and paying back loans. You’ll also need them for your duties as mayor in bettering the town.
You may enact one town ordinance at a time for a fixed fee. These can change the times the stores around your town open and close, increase the value of all items in town, or make the residents more concerned about keeping the town looking lovely. The other power you have is to start public works projects. These are typically larger developments to place around town in order to make it livelier. It could be as simple as a bench or a sign, but it could be something as big as an entirely new building. Some of the more exotic options come in the form of suggestions from the townsfolk so keep your ear to the ground if you want to be able to break the norm. As these works are public, and usually quite spendy, the townsfolk will periodically donate some bells to the cause over time until the total goal is reached. Don’t be shy to put your own bells in there to speed up the process. You decide where to place most of these projects unless specifically stated otherwise. This, along with the ability to plant trees, flowers, and even place custom art tiles on the ground to spruce things up.
The customization of tiles is done in an editor in the game. You get a grid and a few tools to create, pixel by pixel, your own designs to tile across various things. You can place them as individual squares along the ground outside, tile the pattern along the walls and floor of your house, turn them into designer clothing, or even make your very own personalized town flag. You’re also able to make a town jingle that chimes every hour and has slight remixes at a number of other various instances in the game. You can get your own own sets of clothing to customize your character and give yourself nicknames as well. Of course, not everything in the game is so selfish.
A big part of the game revolves around maintaining relationships with all of the animals in town. You can talk to them as often as you’d like. Sometimes they’ll offer advice. Other times they’ll ask for opinions or favors. And sometimes they just have some flavor commentary. The more you help and keep up with the animals, the more friendly they become and the more likely they are to do things like give you presents, invite you to events, and stay living in your town. On the other hand, neglecting them or being mean will result in them being more distant and eventually they will likely want to move to another town. You can try to talk them out of it or let them go and hope for a new resident. If you’re looking for even more connection with your townsfolk, try sending them letters. You can have a back and forth of pen pal conversations with them outside of your everyday interactions.
On main street you’ll find a variety of stores, a museum, an area to check out other people’s houses via streetpass, the post office, the housing business, and even a club for live entertainment among a few other things. These slowly unlock as you play more, so I don’t want to give too much away. The surprises might just be the best part! But I do want to mention a few more specific things in my praises of the game, so let’s get to that and… well… sorry in advance.
So Animal Crossing New Leaf Welcome Amiibo has some things I really liked. For one thing, it was just delightful to play a totally new series I’ve never touched before and just experience all the things I could find. There are lots of little decorations for your home that have different properties. Some are solely decorations, but some you can interact with. I found myself especially fond of collecting instruments and fiddling with tapping A to make them play notes to the background music. There’s also a Wii U item that you can use to play a full-fledged survival board game type of video game within the game and I got pretty addicted to that myself. What a wonderful discovery. You can also get some type of music player for your house and select from musical tracks that are performed for you in the club on main street. I really enjoyed hearing the new songs and then listening to the different recorded versions afterward. Plus, it was a neat way to get you to watch the credits in a game without a real ending. Also, riding to the private island is always accompanied by a little song which always managed to put a grin on my face. I thought the museum keeping certain things you collect was a fun little way to keep you trying to find those items while also giving you some sense of accomplishment for doing so. Some of the characters have some surprising pearls of wisdom to tell you as well between the goofy puns and painful attempts at sounding hip. It got a little deeper than I thought. I think what really won me over was just the way the game felt so relaxed and open. It’s not about trying to finish a story or get to a goal or anything. It’s about living in a world. Not a world you create from scratch or anything, but a world that you have influence over. A world where your actions or inactions have an effect. This world lives on without you there and isn’t solely meant for you to experience. It feels more alive in that way, much more than I ever expected. Animals might move in or out, events can come and go, and the residents have their own day to day activities whether you’re there or not. There’s just so many new and different things to do and see and experience. Plus, it can be pretty dern coot at times. It’s definitely suited incredibly well to the casual crowd.
I guess my complaints come from me not being casual enough to fully enjoy it. If you don’t care about the animals and don’t find the stuff in the game to be cute… you’ll probably be missing a lot of the charm. If you’re looking to be more goal oriented, then you’ll end up spending a lot of time tediously grinding bells to get new house upgrades and public works projects done. Talking to the animals daily can yield new results, but usually you’ll end up getting them to repeat themselves after a few conversations, perhaps even doing so more frequently once you’ve exhausted all of their possible dialogues. You get new quests and activities to do in various places that all end up being slight variants on one another after a while. Writing letters to others turns into just another chore in a long list of things to do when you play, and with little reward for the effort it’s not really worth said effort to bother after a while if you don’t care about the characters. Once exhausted, the game feels like one big chore that has lost its magic and wonder. Replay value isn’t real high as you’ll want to take long breaks from ever starting a new town and the only reason to keep upgrading is the feeling of wasted time if you don’t. It’s an obligation that never ends and really relies on your continued interest in completing personal goals or just experiencing the wold. If you have other games you want to get to or other games that you need to play daily, then this one feels like an annoying timesuck.
So Animal Crossing New Leaf Welcome Amiibo is a nice way to check out Animal Crossing for newcomers as it has tons to offer in the palm of your hand for just 20 bucks! It’s highly aimed at casual and/or younger players and it a great one to get if you only get one game for quite some time. However, if you’re not into the casual, cutesy stuff or want to play more than just this game… maybe give it a pass. For what it is and what it’s trying to do, it’s wonderful. For what I want out of a game, it’s not. I’m glad I experienced it at least, even if the cute girl that convinced me to get it never played the damn game online with me! It’s at least worth a look if you’ve been curious to try the series out. Also, why was I the only human?