Hullo, Gentle Readers. No, I’m not stopping my World-Building articles, but I’m a little distracted. You see, I am notoriously not a video game player. Yes, I play a few MMORPGs, and I love the Ultima series of computer games, but actual video games, especially on a platform or a hand-held machine, are a rarity for me to want to play.
So it may surprise you to know that I went out and bought a Nintendo 3DS specifically so that I could play Animal Crossing: New Leaf (ACNL).
I played the original back on Gamecube, and it was one of my favorite games. For some reason, the more recent iterations didn’t excite me, but Steve’s cousin came to town from AZ with his copy, and looking over his shoulder rekindled my interest. Now everyone in the house is playing it, comparing notes, bragging about accomplishments, and so on.
So here, Gentle Readers, are my thoughts on the new version of this seminal game. Read on, if you will.
The Premise of ACNL is that you’re on a train when you meet a cat named Rover. He asks where you’re headed, and you have a conversation, which helps determine certain things about the appearance of you and the town you’re moving to. You find yourself hopping off in a sleepy little town inhabited by anthropomorphic animals, such as dogs, cats, bears, ostriches, frogs, kangaroos, and hippopotami. This group of citizens believes that you’re the new mayor of their town, and who are you to disabuse them of this notion?
You quickly find yourself embroiled in the lives of these fictional animals and the town that is now your home. You work to make your town beautiful, your museum spectacular, your house a work of art, and your citizens happy.
So let’s look at how you do those things.
A Beautiful Town
There’s a lot you can do to make your town an enjoyable place to live, beyond simple acts of planting flowers and keeping weeds and trash out of your town. Through a system of public works, you can add details your town like bridges, fountains, benches, clocks, and so on. These help to make your town an increasingly happy home.
Other public works and special events help you expand the commercial enterprises of your town. Your Main Street area begins with a post office, a home-modeling area, a clothing store, a ramshackle department store, and a museum. As time goes on, you get opportunities to add to it, expanding to include a barber shop, a shoe store, a dream therapy suite, a fortune teller, a gardening store, and even a venue with special music every night.
Players of the older games will be glad to know that famous guitarist K. K. Slider is still part of the game. Once you open your music venue, DJ K. K. spins the tunes til dawn every night. On Saturdays, however, he still pulls out his guitar and does an acoustic set, rewarding your attention to his music with a bootleg of the song that you can play in your home.
A Spectacular Museum
Your town museum starts off, shall we say, empty…except for an owl named Blathers who encourages you to find donations for it. Throughout your town, you’ll find chances to catch bugs & fish, dig up fossils, and collect art work.
The museum has always been a favorite part of the game for me since the original game. It serves as a constantly evolving achievement guide for your progress; as you find these various components, the museum becomes more and more impressive. You can visit the museum’s various wings to see how your collection is growing, and you can read actual facts about each fossil, fish, bug, and artwork that you donate. There you go – a touch of educational content in this game.
As time goes on, you get the chance to expand your museum to a second floor where you can create your own displays of artifacts. If you collect a bunch of, say, space memorabilia but don’t want to base your living quarters around it, this is a great way to go. Speaking of which…
Your House – A Work of Art
When you begin the game, you only have a tent as the infamous raccoon Tom Nook loans you money to build a house. Soon, however, you can continue to build and expand and renovate your house in a personal style.
You can also display everything in the game in your house, and the game has a rating system (the Home Happiness Academy). If you decorate your home in a particular style – for example all “Cabana” furniture or all Blue furniture – you get more points, which can earn you prizes from the HHA.
Right now, I’m turning one whole section of my house into a rustic cabin, complete with a table that’s obviously just a giant log split in half. Very bearish and rugged.
In many ways, keeping your citizens happy is a staple of succeeding in the game. You have a group of animals that surround you, living their own lives, but also looking to you, as both mayor and friend, to live happily. They might ask you for favors, like getting them medicine or food, or catching a particular type of bug, or delivering something that they borrowed from another citizen. On the other hand, they might want your opinion on a new outfit, or to invite you to their house, or just to give you a present. They’re pretty nice critters, overall.
Keeping up strong relationships with the “people” of your town takes some effort, but it can be well worth it.
I feel like I’m just scratching the surface of this game as I describe it to you. For example, the game happens in real time. As evening approaches in Real Life, evening approaches in the game, too. Winter comes, and with it snow. Holidays and birthdays (including your own) are celebrated, and special events, like contests for catching bugs, happen throughout the year. Certain fish and bugs only appear at certain times of year. Special visitors may come or go at random, like Katy, the little traveling kitten, or Sahara, the camel interior decorator. You may even find people camping in your town if you build a campsite. It’s just a fascinating slice-of-life style game.
While I don’t necessarily recommend going out and buying a 3DS just to play this (my husband has many other DS titles I intend to borrow, such as the Professor Layton games), it certainly is a very enjoyable and addicting game. Oh, and if you ever want to visit my sleepy little burg of Oakdale, my friend code is 2036-7424-9076. If I’m ever on, feel free to drop by.