Alex Phillimore: (alex.phillimore-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2013-06-25 16:37:04
Animal Crossing: New Leaf and the Island
You can't do much in Animal Crossing: New Leaf without bells (the game's common currency): if you want to expand your house, or buy furniture, or use your mayoral abilities to set up new public works projects, bells are utterly essential for getting by. The island environment in New Leaf is an incredibly useful addition to the game - it hosts an array of rare bugs and fish that can be sold for crazy prices back at your home, and you can do so as many times as you like without being penalized. By visiting the island, you can make a good 300,000 bells each trip, depending on what you catch; golden stags and sharks go far in making this possible.
While the island is a great place to earn bells, however, it also serves to undermine many of the other mechanics at work in New Leaf. There is simply no point in trying to make money in other, more creative ways, when the island is so easily exploited. For example, the game encourages players to buy turnips on a particular day of the week and sell them for more later in the week when turnip prices have gone up. The profits the player can make from doing this, however, are roughly on par with the price of one beetle from the island. Similarly, players are invited to visit other people's towns, gather rare fruit, plant it in their own towns to create more fruit trees and then sell this fruit for a profit. It's a shame, then, that this profit is but a fraction of what can be earned on the island by catching a few rare bugs in a couple of minutes.
The island also hosts tours, many of which feature flowers that can be picked indefinitely. This undermines the agricultural side of the game, where players are encouraged to water flowers to have them duplicate over time. What's the point, other than to make rare colour combinations, when you can just go to the island and pick as many as you like and bring them back to your town in a matter of minutes? The problem with the island is that it is too useful. It is the ultimate way to make money and the easiest method of acquiring flowers.
Among my peers, we generally spend our days visiting the island, catching bugs, selling them for a huge profit and then buying expensive things. The problem is that all of the other ways of making money in the game, such as the aforementioned ones and putting items up in the Re-tail shop and selling them for a profit, while clever, comparatively make the player very little money. Thus, there is no real incentive to try any other money-making scheme in the game other than visiting the island, catching some rare bugs and then heading home. Unfortunately, this method does genuinely detract from the experience, as gaining bells quickly becomes a grind, and a lot of the features in the game that can make the player money cannot compete with a simple visit to the island and an inventory full of goliath beetles and horned elephants.
New Leaf could have benefited from some sort of limitation being imposed on the island to avoid spamming it. Either the price of the bugs there should have been lowered, or the price of things such as exotic fruits should have been raised. While there are many ways to make money in New Leaf, you'd be daft not to just 'abuse' the island and visit it again and again. A skilled player can make 300,000 bells every 45 minutes or so, which is considerably faster than selling fruit, bartering turnips or putting up items for trade in shops.
Ultimately, the island makes things too efficient for the player; by making it so easy to gain bells there, the player does, arguably, have more fun buying things in a shorter period of time, but it's also inevitable that you end up with more money than you need after very little effort. There isn't the sense of hard grafting in earlier Animal Crossing games, and neither is there an incentive to trade items and fruit with other players for any practical, monetary reason. If you want bells, you need only to sail with Kapp'n over to the island a couple of times a day and you'll be a millionaire in a couple of hours. In the pursuit of making the game more accessible, the developers have, sadly, made the economy of New Leaf too simplistic in the process.