Animal Crossing 3DS: Guilty pleasure gaming

Street lamps! StreetPass! Secretaries! Meet your new creature comforts...

Major developments are afoot in the world of Animal Crossing: retail raccoon Tom Nook has a new job!

Yes, apparently fed up after a spate of recent lootings and an Occupy Nookingtons protest at his capitalist ways, he's moved into a new role as the estate agent of your stereoscopic settlement. Presumably now he's going to charge us even more extortionate fees for mortgages and add his own commission fee on top. The jerk.

Oh sure, this might not seem like a big deal to outsiders, but this is Animal Crossing we're talking about - a series where "more fish" represents an exciting new feature to shout about on the back of the box. Yet if so far the franchise has been more resistant to change than a tone-deaf busker, Nintendo have been delving into their ideas cupboard for this new edition.

For starters the new, taller avatars can now wear separate tops and bottoms. In a realm where customisation is king, this is big news. Admirably, there are no gender restrictions - girls can wear trousers and boys are free to sashay about in skirts without being judged. Though did we just see Cube sniggering behind his flipper just there?

As you're now less squat, the animals have had their dimensions similarly tweaked. So squirrels like Pecan are tiny, while big bears like grumpy old Kurt tower over you. Even without the 3D slider up, the size difference is more pronounced when you're chatting with them about their binge-eating habits or entomological preferences.

One animal you'll spend plenty of time talking to in your new role as town mayor is Shizu, your doggy assistant. She might be a Shih-Tzu, but she's a good secretary (although prone to bouts of clumsiness). She'll help you when you want to change and add features to your village, something you're encouraged to do as part of your mayoral responsibilities.

You can plonk down benches and street lamps to make your hamlet more homely, as well as helping to differentiate it from others. Visiting new places lost a little of its allure in previous games when the only notable differences between locations involved key buildings appearing in slightly different places and alternative native fruits dangling from the trees.

As well as wireless local multiplayer, you can visit others' houses via StreetPass. Nab a flashing green light from a fellow Crosser and a fresh residence will appear on the edges of the village for you to have a wander around. It'd be wise to tidy up before heading outside, then - you don't want your cockroach-filled hovel to be mercilessly mocked by unknowns.

Nintendo haven't breathed a word about online functionality yet, but we fancy it'll work in a similar manner to Wild World, with occasional SpotPass treats delivered via Wi-Fi.

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