Players take control of a villager who is moving into a new town. Upon arrival, however, the player is put in charge of the town as the mayor instead of being merely a resident. Like previous games in the series, the game revolves around the player as they explore their town, talk with other residents, and participate in various activities such as fishing and bug catching. Doing various activities or selling various items earns Bells which players can use to purchase various items such as furniture or clothes, or pay towards loans used to renovate their house. The game is played in real-time with Nintendo 3DS's internal clock, with aspects such as shop opening times, species of wildlife and special events varying depending on the time of day and season.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf introduces many new features to the series. Players will begin the game living in a tent, rather than a house, that will eventually be upgraded and expanded. Customization, a major facet of the series, particularly in the player's ability to modify the character's appearance and furnish the living space, has also been enhanced. The character's pants can now be modified in addition to their shirt, shoes, hat, and accessory; and the ability to hang furniture on walls has been added. Features previously used in the Japanese exclusive Dōbutsu no Mori e+ for the Nintendo GameCube, such as benches and lamp posts, which had been removed from following releases, have returned. Another addition is the new ability to swim in the ocean that borders the village. Players may visit each other's towns using the Nintendo Network and can be added to a friend's list that allows them to exchange messages with one another, while up to four players at a time can travel to the tropical Tortimer Island to take part in various minigames that award medals. Players are also able to take snapshots at any time, which are saved to the Nintendo 3DS Camera and can be shared via Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr.
The game features a new game mechanic that makes the player the town mayor, allowing them to have more customization of their town than in previous games. While taking part in mayoral duties is not obligatory to play the game, being the head of town imparts two gameplay features new to the series: Public Works Projects and Ordinances. Public Works Projects allow players to collect funds from townsfolk and other visiting players to construct new objects such as bridges, fountains, and light poles, as well as add new facilities such as police stations and cafés. Ordinances gives players the ability to customize the way their town functions by passing laws, such as making the town more wealthy, encouraging citizens to plant more flowers, or making the shops open earlier or later. Only the first person to register a save file on each copy of the game will be able to become mayor, as subsequent save files will only be able to become villagers.
New Leaf makes various uses of the Nintendo 3DS's features, some of which are made available as time passes. Players can visit other players' towns via local play or online with up to four friends (an optional club membership on Tortimer Island allows players to explore the island with other online players). A Dream Suite feature allows players to download dream versions of other people's towns to freely explore. The Happy Home Showcase allows players to view the homes of other players encountered on StreetPass, as well as order some of the furniture their house contains. A sewing machine allows players to create QR codes of their designs, which other players can download using the Nintendo 3DS's camera. Finally, Play Coins can be used to buy fortune cookies, which in turn can be exchanged for special prizes, such as rare items based on other Nintendo franchises.
CharactersSee also: List of Animal Crossing characters
The game features two new animal types for regular villagers: hamsters and deer, as well as two new NPC personalities: "smug" and "uchi", the latter described as being a "big sister type". New special characters include a dog named Isabelle who acts as the player's personal assistant, her twin brother Digby who runs the Happy Home Showcase where players can view model home layouts, a sloth named Leif who runs a gardening center, and pair of alpacas named Reese and Cyrus who run a store called "Re-Tail", a recycling shop where players can sell unwanted items or customize furniture for their house. Tom Nook returns, now a real-estate agent instead of a shop-keep, his former business now run by his nephews Timmy and Tommy. The skunk Kicks andporcupine Labelle from Animal Crossing: City Folk are featured as shoe and accessory salespersons respectively, while K.K. Slider has a new position as a DJ at a nightclub called "Club LOL". The building is run by Dr. Shrunk, who is a stand-up comedian. Tortimer the turtle, former mayor of the town, runs an island that can be visited by using the boat at the dock the day after you have paid off your home loan.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf was first announced at the 2010 Electronic Entertainment Expo as the first title in the series for the Nintendo 3DS. It later appeared at the 2011 Nintendo World expo in Tokyo, and again at the 2011 Electronic Entertainment Expo during a short presentation where a release date was originally announced for later that year in Japan. Nintendo later pushed back the release to some time in 2012 before the end of the fiscal year in March, and eventually finalized a Japanese release to fall of that year during a Nintendo Direct broadcast. Its English title was revealed in October 2012, along with a tentative release date in the west for early 2013. In February 2013, New Leaf received its definite release date for the following June in North America, Europe, and Australia.
The game was produced by Katsuya Eguchi and directed by the two-person team of Isao Moro and Aya Kyogoku, who had both worked under the previous director of Animal Crossing: City Folk on the Nintendo Wii. The idea for the player to become mayor did not manifest until about a year into development, which stemmed from the concept of giving the player much more freedom in designing and shaping the way their town grew. Giving players the ability to pass ordinances and laws that involve shops being open earlier or later in the day was included to accommodate more personal schedules and play styles while still keeping the game synced with the passage of time in real world. The main theme of the game was composed by Manaka Kataoka (formally known as Manaka Tominaga) while she composed the rest of the soundtrack with Atsuko Asahi  Kazumi Totaka was the sound director for the game as he was for the rest of the series.
Because the game was being designed for a 3D display instead of an exclusively flat one like its predecessors, the design team had to pay extra attention to how objects and characters appeared in regard to lighting and shading, and that no obvious flaws could be seen from the different perspective. Design coordinator Koji Takahashi admitted that it was difficult thinking up new animal species to represent townsfolk since they primarily wanted to stick to ones people were familiar with, and had "pretty much used up" the most familiar examples in previous games. Alpacas in particular were chosen due to their recent popularity in the country.
In order to make New Leaf a more personal experience to players around the world, the development team researched customs and holidays from various countries, including collaborating with Nintendo offices around the world, and included them in versions of the game released in those regions. These include variations to in-game events such as New Year's Eve, such as eating buckwheat noodles in the Japanese version, popping champagne in the English North American version, and eating a dozen grapes at midnight while playing the Spanish-language North American or European versions.
New Leaf 's English translation began in March 2012 by members of Nintendo of America's "Treehouse" localization group, who collaborated with the company's headquarters in Japan on creating in-game events. The North American and European versions contain an extra feature not included in the Japanese release - the ability to download example home layouts in the Happy Home Showcase from Nintendo over the internet using the SpotPass feature in addition to StreetPass, which requires players to physically pass by one another. According to localization manager Reiko Ninomiya, this was added due to the difficulty players in those regions experience with meeting others in public who own the game, explaining that "in Japan Streetpass happens really, really frequently. People take trains. It’s a different community culture. Here, you’ve got people living in remote parts where they don’t have an opportunity to pass by people who have the game."
Promotion and release
In October 2012, Nintendo Japan created an official Animal Crossing: New Leaf Twitter account featuring tweets from the character Isabelle that included updates and promotions about the game, with English versions established by Nintendo Europe in April 2013, and Nintendo of America in May 2013. Later that month, Nintendo of America began to produce a series of roundtable video discussions with the English "Treehouse" localisation team providing information on the game's development and translation, which were posted on YouTube as well as the game's official Twitter and Facebook pages. Nintendo Japan would partner with the 7-Eleven convenience store chain to offer special company-brand in-game items and furniture such as signs, shirts, and food displays by accessing Wi-Fi hotspots at select store locations across Japan between May and August 2013. Two Animal Crossing-themed clothing items were also made available as downloadable content in the Japanese version of Style Savvy: Trendsetters for the 3DS, featuring designs based on the characters K.K. Slider and Gracie.
Nintendo released a Animal Crossing: New Leaf-themed special edition 3DS XL handheld bundled with a digital copy of the game alongside its standard release in Japan. In April 2013, the bundle was announced for North America and Europe in a Nintendo Direct broadcast, which would also be made available on the same day as the game's release in both regions the following June. The game was made available as a download title on the Nintendo eShop in Japan on the same day as the physical release, with a North American eShop version also accompanying its retail version. A pre-order bonus figurine featuring a model of the town hall with the character Isabelle was also distributed exclusively by EB Games in Australia and Game retailers in Europe.
A select number of American players chosen through Nintendo's Mayor Program were eligible to try the game out through the month of May and in return, chronicled their experiences online. On August 7, 2013, an app titled Animal Crossing Plaza was added to the Wii U, allowing players to communicate with other Animal Crossing players. The feature was available until the end of 2014. In Europe and Australia, a promotion was announced in which if players register their game on Club Nintendo between August and October 2013, they will receive a code that they can give to a new 3DS XL owner, allowing them to download a free copy of the game.
Following its announcement at E3 2010, very positive response was given to the game's visuals. Writing for G4TV, Patrick Klepek felt that the game's use of the Nintendo 3DS's stereoscopic 3D effects gave the game world "real, tangible depth," while IGN editor Craig Harris described them as "subtle, but helpful." Both Harris and GameSpot editor Tom McShea praised the level of detail in the game's environment and objects, stating that they exceed that of the game's predecessor, Animal Crossing: City Folk for the Wii console.
The game itself has received very positive reviews from critics. The Japanese version of the game received a 39/40 from Japanese magazine Famitsu, earning the publication's Platinum Award, while the English version received an 8.0/10 from GameSpot, and a 9.6/10 from IGN. The game also scored an 88/100 on Metacritic indicating "generally favorable reviews". Many critics seem to agree that the game's visuals are great, and that the game has enough new content to keep both new and veteran players excited. The game is currently tied with three other titles as the ninth highest rated Nintendo 3DS game on Metacritic.
The game debuted in Japan with sales of just over 800,000 units sold, with 200,000 of them being downloads. Animal Crossing: New Leaf became the first 3DS game in Japan to pass 2 million units sold, doing so in just under two months. As of 31 March 2013, 3.86 million copies have been sold in Korea and Japan. As of August 2014, 1.36 million copies had been sold in the United States.
As of 30 June 2015, it had worldwide sales of 9.17 million units, making it the second highest game of the series behind Wild World.