August 2013. Click for live, published version of this feature.
With the exceptionally over-hyped release of 2013’s most lovable collection of fuzzy, furry, and (sometimes) flirty villagers, the world has embraced Animal Crossing: New Leaf with open arms. Our 3DS gameplay has shot up, players are continuing to plug in and play, and there seems to be no end to development in the game. Just look at the percentage of players who time travel (in an otherwise Sims-like progression in-game, which mirrors real time via the Time/Date stamp on your 3DS)– when will we ever stop to take a breather?
Regardless, the appeal of the Animal Crossing series isn’t new to planet Earth. 2002 was the year of Animal Crossing, with their first release on Nintendo GameCube. Players instantly became friends with their villagers in a town where they suddenly became mayor– often, with no warning of the decision. As the story unfolds, rather your daily play consumes your time, villagers grow fond of their mayor. You are asked to do favors, bring items, develop their town, and get to know the villagers around you. Attachment is inevitable.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf is not my first AC title to play. In 2005, Animal Crossing: Wild World was released on Nintendo DS. I played briefly on my crotchety DS and felt the gameplay was “surface level” but contained powerful and adorable content.
I assumed Animal Crossing would never take up my time again. Think again.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf is an improved, highly intelligent game with immense bouts of wit, humor, and even realistic dialogue between mayor and villager. I felt more connected with the AI within a few hours than I ever had with The Sims– characters I actually had conceived. The details in items and scenery are gorgeous, and playing for hours feels like minutes.
Dangerous? Possibly. Over-archingly entertaining? Definitely.
It has been almost 2 months since the release of Animal Crossing: New Leaf, and I am still hearing stories from friends who have not bought the game but are contemplating the purchase. This is the result of hours of play, connecting with communities, and way too many Bells spent at Shampoodle.
One surprise that AC has revealed to me isn’t in the game itself. It’s actually in the online community that plays. Reddit.com has multiple subreddits, or thread pages, that allow players from all over the world communicate about the game.
r/ACTrade is my favorite subreddit: You can freely post items you want to sell or trade with other players. By doing this, you can easily obtain items you’re looking for and make new friends to visit with at other times. I can’t tell you how many Reddit friends I visit with after doing trades or sales.
r/BuddyCrossing is a great starter subreddit for someone who’s looking to make friends on AC and just visit with other towns and villagers. Especially when you need those pesky signatures for your villager’s petitions!
r/AdoptMyVillager and r/AnimalCrossing are just two more of the many resources for AC players online.
I’m not one for showboating my achievements in-game. The greatest, rarest, most expensive, highest ranking items definitely do not define the goal of a game in my eyes. However, Animal Crossing does cater to the more creative, artsy types who like to self-express. That’s the kind of showboating I can get behind.
Did you know there are over 250 villagers that can move into your town? There are over 500 different items to customize your character’s apparel, home decor, and layout. Each item has a particular type of description, such as Flashy or Cute. When your character wears or displays these kinds of items at home, their perceived personality mirrors the items.
Let’s say your character decides to display Harmonious items at home. Your villagers will use harmonious types of words with the player, as well as offer Harmonious types of items as reward for doing errands for them. See how redeeming AC has become for your self-actualizing tendencies?
So go on, hoarders, and collect your hearts out. Did I mention storage lockers got larger?
This is by far the most compelling reason to jump into mayor life. The first versions of Animal Crossing were poorly developed, lacked a sense of connection with the player, and dialogue became old quickly. Your progression in the game was clearly marked by targets and check points. Now, Animal Crossing: New Leaf grows alongside you. If you prefer to run a marathon with it, you can easily time travel and grow your humble home into a mansion in hours. Or, you can be a casual daily player that enjoys the nuances of daily life in your town.
The potential for new content is highly likely: Every month you can download new and rare items over the internet and Wi-Fi at certain locations (There is a Best Buy collection of items, as well as a 7-11 set).
The immense variety of villagers and personalities will add diversity like you’ve never seen in a simulation video game. As your fascination with the town grows, so will your surroundings. The interchangeability and flexible customization will withstand the test of time, and I’ll bet that in 2017, this game will still get people talking.