While we wait for Nintendo Switch and an all-new Animal Crossing, Nintendo has just given us a big reason to return to the 3DS' Animal Crossing: New Leaf.
Well, several big reasons, in fact.
The game's big Welcome amiibo! update is available to download now from the 3DS eShop.
Today's Animal Crossing Nintendo Direct has just finished - and you may already have been convinced to revisit your weed-ridden town. (Although, good news - those weeds will be gone when download the update.)
We've already play-tested the update for ourselves - more on that below - but first, let's recap the big new additions:
- Once a day, Wisp the Ghost can be called upon and, by tapping an amiibo figurine or card, summon the corresponding vendor or villager.
- A limited number of amiibo figures from other Nintendo series (so far, Zelda and Splatoon) are also be supported, and will summon a villager dressed up as a certain characters, such as a wolf for Wolf Link, each with unique items.
- There's a new campsite area in your town to visit, overseen by a hippie dog named Harvey, where these characters will appear.
- The campsite uses a brand new currency named MEOW coupons (as a hippie, Harvey doesn't agree with money), but you can get these even without amiibo
It's been four years since Animal Crossing: New Leaf released, and yet the game has remained one of Nintendo's most evergreen 3DS bestsellers. So, while it has been a while, it's immediately easy to see why Nintendo has chosen to revisit a game many have ploughed hundreds of hours into.
As the update's name suggests, Welcome amiibo! is designed to reward anyone who has Animal Crossing amiibo cards and figures - and sell some more, presumably. But there's also plenty of new things to see for anyone who didn't fork out for one of Nintendo's NFC toys and still has no intention of doing so.
The game's new campsite area for your town is open to all, and while there's a separate currency this isn't locked to amiibo owners. Daily quests have been added to the game with MEOW coupon rewards - for example, to collect a certain number of bugs - which are a fun way of encouraging daily play beyond your usual roundtrip tour of your town.
For those with amiibo, existing villager amiibo cards let you invite the character to move in (or, alternatively present you with MEOW coupons as a gift once a day).
Meanwhile, Nintendo's new wave of amiibo cards, which go on sale this month, include data for them to visit your town's new campsite area first, if you choose, before you extend your invite.
The campsite houses two camper vans for the characters you summon - one for vendors and one for villagers. It's here that the characters you invite will turn up, with a decorated room filled with new items to purchase with MEOW coupons.
In a slightly un-Nintendo move, if your town is already full you can select an existing villager to replace - the first time you've ever been able to pick a character to boot out. But, doing so, the villager will explain they were thinking of moving out anyway - and the usual boxing up and farewell process will begin.
Any character you invite with house data from Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer will move in with the house you made for them. (Your 3DS will automatically import data if it detects an AC: HHH save). That game's simple touch controls for organising furniture also make the jump to New Leaf with the patch.
Other handy features include a secret store room to stash items without filling your house with wardrobes, and an option to sell your town and restart for a chunk of Bells to help you restart.
Finally, if juggling amiibo figurines is not your style, there are two new mini-games to while away your time playing (and which you can also use your amiibo with).
Accessible via new 3DS XL and Wii U furniture items you can place in your house, the fresh distractions come in the form of Animal Crossing Puzzle League, a simple match-3 game; and a port of the enjoyable Animal Crossing Desert Island Escape from the Wii U's Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival party game.
Puzzle League, while a match-3 game, lets you tap in amiibo cards and figures to add in customised power-ups. Resetti, for example, can burrow down and clear a line of gems.
Animal Crossing Desert Island Escape was one of the best things about Amiibo Festival, and its miniaturisation here preserves all of its hidden tactical brilliance. A turn-based survival game where you send out characters to capture territory and secure craftable resources, it is a good fit for the customisation options offered by Amiibo (and if you don't have any, you can just use 3DS Play Coins instead).
Cranky wolf villager Chief, for example, can fish without the need to find and construct a fishing rod. But he's antisocial, so he'll sleep outside the tent your other players bed down in at the end of the day.
For a free update, Welcome amiibo! is a welcome excuse to venture back to the game. Those with amiibo will clearly benefit more from it, but while fans wait for a new incarnation of the series, New Leaf just got a new lease of life.