I got Animal Crossing New Leaf on the day it came out in the US: Sunday, June 9th. Jon and I have been playing it since. I’ve really been enjoying it, and I think it’s my favorite Animal Crossing game yet. There are more shops and more places to go, plus I’m finally getting to travel to other towns easily. I never had any friends on my DS so I couldn’t travel with Wild World. I think I maybe visited someone else’s town like twice in City Folk. This time around, thanks to Reddit, I’ve exchanged Friend Codes with lots of other AC players. Most of the time when I go to my town gate and try to visit another town, one to two people have their gates open. And when I’ve opened my own town gate, I usually get visitors. That’s been great, because I can find cool items for sale in other towns, and people help grow my own Nook shop by buying stuff there.

Becoming mayor

One of my complaints about City Folk on the Wii was that animals never seemed to interact with their environment. Just yesterday in New Leaf, I saw Maple shaking a tree and then she got sad when nothing fell out. I watched Elmer with his line cast, fishing off a cliff. Today the Bug Off competition is happening, and Elmer and I both scrambled to get a yellow butterfly. He had his net out and was slowly sneaking up on the butterfly, but I pushed past him and got it first… I’m kind of a jerk like that. But I loved that he made the effort.

Frobert's got swag

I also complained that there was no dock in City Folk. There’s totally a dock in New Leaf, and it’s actually better than the one in the GameCube version because I can actually do something with it. I remember using the GC dock once, when I borrowed a friend’s GameBoy Advance. New Leaf doesn’t require any other peripherals, you just eventually unlock access to the dock and Kap’n will take you to an island.

I’ve been enjoying the time delay on new stuff in town, too. When you start out, you don’t have any tools, so you’re limited in what you can do around town. Eventually you can buy tools and Isabelle, your assistant, will give you other tools that you haven’t found yet. You can’t access the island, you only have one bridge across your river, you only have one type of fruit tree, your house is tiny, there are only a couple shops in town, the museum only has exhibits… All this stuff can be changed over time. It’s a game of patience and relaxing, too, because you might pay off your house today, but you don’t get more space until it’s finished building tomorrow. Likewise, you might have unlocked island access today, but it won’t take effect till tomorrow. So you have something to look forward to each day.

A fortune I received

I’m glad the random visitors are back, too. It sucked in City Folk having Gracie, Katrina, and Crazy Redd’s shops always available in the city. I much prefer wandering around the village and getting all excited when I see a tent. I haven’t met Gracie in New Leaf yet, but I hear she’s back. Redd and Katrina have already made appearances in my town.

The animals gossip about me

It seems like making money is easier in New Leaf because of the island. You make a single trip around the perimeter of the island and you’ll see crazy beetles on the trees, many of them worth over 5,000 Bells. However, there are apparently many more house upgrades you can make, plus the public works projects to improve your town, so there’s more ways to spend all that money. I’m a fan of the new ways to customize the outside appearance of your house, too. Before, you could choose your roof color, but now in addition to that you can also change your mailbox, paving stones, door, fence, and overall house style. I’ve currently got a gumdrop fence and just today bought a magenta fairy tale door, but of course I won’t get the new door till tomorrow.

Blathers at the museum has been toned down. I love that I can donate multiple fish, bugs, paintings, and fossils at once, but I’m sad that he doesn’t give a description of the item when I donate just one. He tells you that you can read more about the item when it’s put up for display, but I liked his long-winded descriptions. It is cool that I can rotate the camera 360° inside buildings now, so I can get better views of the exhibits. And it’s nice that the descriptions of the things I donate are preserved, rather than only being readable when you donate them.

A funny fish description A funny fish description

Badges are a new concept that I think really fits the style of Animal Crossing. They’re a way of tracking how much you’ve done in the game, because you get them after collecting a certain percentage of fish or bugs. They show up in your Town Pass Card—your ID, essentially—so that other people can view them, too. So besides going to the museum or opening your encyclopedia of catches, you can look at a person’s badges to get a quick summary of what they’ve accomplished. I hope there are badges for fossil collecting, too; I’ve only gotten a fishing badge so far.

My first badge

I miss having the town dump that you could walk by and see cool stuff animals have thrown out. I get that it’s not a very eco-friendly concept, but it was still exciting to find cool furniture and wonder “who would throw this out??” when you took it home with you. Instead there’s Re-tail, a shop where you can sell your own hand-me-downs as well as find stuff the animals have put up for sale. I’ve also convinced several animals to buy mine and Jon’s items, which they’ll happily do if you’ve asked reasonable prices. Jon was ridiculous and tried to sell a regular polka-dot lamp for 4,000 Bells. Nooooope, each animal that I talked to that looked interested would comment about how they really wanted it, but it was just too expensive.

That’s another nice detail: animals actually go into shops and Main Street. You see them interacting with the world more than they did in previous games, and that adds to the experience. It also makes things less lonely: I can put an item up for sale and I don’t have to worry about inviting other players into my town to have a chance at selling it. One of the animals will more than likely try to purchase it.

So I’m definitely enjoying the game, and Jon is, too. The form factor is great: I’ve been able to play while waiting in long lines at restaurants as well as in the car on road trips. Wild World had that going for it, but it felt too trimmed down in other areas, like its lack of holidays and the single house for all players. The 3DS is powerful enough that the graphics are lovely and I don’t feel like Nintendo left out features just to fit a handheld device. I’m excited about upcoming holidays and collecting rare furniture sets. I hope the Mush set made a comeback and that mushrooms will be out this fall. This is definitely a worthwhile game to buy, especially for anyone that enjoyed the previous games.