Most video games that I play have a very defined beginning, middle and end. I tend to think of the experience like I would a movie.
However, Nintendo’s Animal Crossing series is a very different kind of game – one that doesn’t really have an ending at all. The newest game in the series, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, came out this month for Nintendo’s handheld 3DS console.
New Leaf starts out with your character moving into a village as the new mayor. You get a mortgage from the raccoon real estate agent, and the city clerk, Isabelle the Shih Tzu, shows you around. Other residents may come up and greet you, or even send you letters inviting you to their birthday party next week.
Everything in New Leaf happens in real time. So, if you want to buy a new decoration for your house in the game, you’ll need to pick up your 3DS early, as the home improvement store closes at 8 p.m. That doesn’t leave you without things to do in the evening, however, as the museum is open late, as is the coffee shop, with “live” music.
Ostensibly, the goal of the game is to keep your villagers as happy as possible, but depending on what you find you enjoy, the path to that goal can differ. You can spend your days fishing in the lake and river, collecting fossils to donate to the museum, designing clothes for the local seamstress to make, or tending orchards and farms.
If you have any friends that also have a copy of the game, they can visit your town, or you can visit theirs, over the internet. Sometimes, one of their villagers might come along and move into your town as well.
With the 3DS, you have the option to buy the game card at retail or to download the game directly to the device. I think the best option with Animal Crossing: New Leaf is to download it. This is not a game I will often pick up my 3DS to play specifically, but instead, I’ll take 10 or 15 minutes to check in on my village before moving on to a different game. It’s something that you won’t play for long periods, but is meant to be played a little bit at a time, for years.