I remember when the first Animal Crossing came out for the Nintendo GameCube. I waited impatiently for months prior to the launch, soaking up as much information as possible on this revolutionary new title, this casual game that follows a clock and calendar and has the seasons changing in game as they do outside the game. Menial tasks such as fishing, bug hunting, home decor, and mingling with neighbors were fresh experiences I was dying to try. When I finally got my hands on the original game, it sucked me in immediately, and it kept me hooked for well over a year later. I can honestly say that only a few days escaped without me at least visiting my town for my routine errands. But that was long before I was married with children, so it was a lot easier to steal myself away to Animal Crossing whenever I so desired.
Although I picked up both Wild World and City Folk, I never really gave them the attention that I gave the first game. Since my 3DS is nabbing most of my free time of late, I made a commitment to become an active citizen in Animal Crossing: New Leaf. Little did I know how the newest iteration in this "casual" series would take over my life, force me to abandon every other video game, pray for my kids to take long naps, and have me drinking caffeine at night just to make sure everything is done on my mental Animal Crossing checklist before falling asleep.
The game started off so innocently simple with a couple of neighbors to chat with, a tent to live in, some tutorials given to me after being thrust into the mayor's chair, and the museum to fill with my initial load of bug and fish catches. I was actually excited when I popped on each day to find something new happening–more neighbors moving in, a new shop opening on Main Street, or a public works project now completed. But then it just didn't stop. Like a virtuous or viscous circle (depending on your perspective), I was compelled to play, and the town’s productivity meant it kept growing. The general store expanded; then a garden shop opened; then a footwear store appeared, and next a hair salon popped up. Suddenly, I'm forking over bells to build a second floor at the museum, a coffee house in town, and getting a petition signed to open a nightclub. Then Tortimer (the half-shelled mayor from past titles) invites me to a paradise island, where lo and behold, there's more stuff to do. And do it I had to, not because the game forced it upon me, but because the addiction compelled me to.
Want proof? Let me take you through a typical day for me in Animal Crossing: New Leaf. My 11-month old son has me awake at 6AM every morning. Perfect, everything in the game has just refreshed, so I head out on my morning constitutional around town, finding the four fossils to dig up, two weeds to pull, two random flowers to transplant, the rogue rock containing an ore, and whacking every other rock in search of the one that spews out bells (16,100 in total if you know the trick). I also check with my assistant Isabelle to make sure my town score is still perfect, so I can eventually nab the coveted golden watering can. Then I grab my coffee at The Roost Café and head to the museum to have Blathers assess my fossils. This ends my early morning session.
At 9AM I pick up the game again, sell my goods from the night before at the now open Re-Tail store as well as check the price of turnips I purchased from Joan the Sunday prior. If I have extra time, I run off to the island paradise to load the bin with fish to sell. Gotta keep the cash rolling in. After all, your fully upgraded house will cost you over 7.5 million bells, and that doesn't even include exterior renovations!
In the early afternoon, when both my kids are down for a nap (hopefully), it's time for the midday errands. First, I'm off to my part time job as a barista, trying to get every coffee order perfect for my paycheck of coffee beans and possibly a piece of furniture from Brewster. Then I grab an apple or nine and take them to Dr. Shrunk as a snack in exchange for a little stand-up comedy act and an emote to add to my repertoire. Then I head down the street for some shopping at T.I.Y, where they now sell music tracks from K.K. Slider (must buys!). I purchase every item not currently listed in my catalog, and then I head to the garden center to buy the single tree-sapling (I'm working towards a count of fifty to score the silver axe). I haven't been much into clothes shopping, but I check the stock at The Able Sisters anyways and make sure I chat with Sable to keep our friendship strong. After I've cleared out my backpack from running errands, I finish off the afternoon at the post office, where all my bells, save a 10K buffer, are put towards paying off my mortgage.
In the evenings, it's all about fishing and bug hunting on the island, as this is the most lucrative time to rack up some serious bells from rare creatures. This task continues in bed until I pass out. Then my son wakes up a few hours later and the cycle repeats.
Do you still believe Animal Crossing: New Leaf is too casual? Then how about a list of all the other activities I've managed to avoid (for the time being). I don't shake every tree looking for those few extra pieces of furniture. I've only had one haircut (mostly because my Link outfit covers my head anyways). I haven't dared touch the other villages in the Dream Suite for fear of how much more time they would steal each day. The Happy Home Showcase is filled with houses obtained via the StreetPass that are collecting dust at the moment. I've got my wet suit and Club Tortimer membership card, so the Island Tour mini-games have been put on hold. I haven't even touched the design tool yet. Heck, I even avoid being chatty with the neighbors because I don't want to waste time being sent on fetch quests or asked to play host at my house at a later time.
And this is all the stuff that I can do but opt not to. There's still more that I haven't even unlocked yet, such as Katrina's permanent fortune-telling shop, the T&T Emporium store upgrade where fashion guru Gracie will display her rare goods, the police station for lost-and-found goods, and dozens of new public works projects requested by the townsfolk.
For every fan of past Animal Crossing titles who's lost hundreds of hours in their virtual communities and believe New Leaf is just a rehash, I urge you to dismiss those beliefs, as there are more activities to randomize your day than you may want to handle. For the naysayers of casual games, or those who label the series "too cute,” I dare you to spend just one day playing Animal Crossing: New Leaf. After you've succumbed to the addiction and a month of daily playing has passed, you'll agree that it's far more hardcore than it is casual. I'm worried for my future well-being and the well-being of my family now that I am so thoroughly hooked. It was a struggle to tear myself away just to write this article. My only advice is to make sure you're fully committed to losing your spare time before purchasing the game, and prepare for reality to become blurred.
If you have any questions or want some pro tips, please fill up the comments section below and I will answer each and every one... that is, in between my Animal Crossing sessions.
Senior Contributing Writer