Capsizing Leaves Crossly

I'm weak; I just could not wait for some GameFly games to get here, and my Brain Age title was programmed to only want to see me for maybe a half-hour a day, so I decided to download another full-fledged Nintendo DS title of my own in the form of Animal Crossing: New Leaf
Well, that's certainly... colorful.
This is a game I have bought three, maybe four times:
  • I bought the original Animal Crossing for the GameCube, released in 2001, and fun times were had by all.  It was a game where you move into a procedurally generated town filled with talking animals and sell the fruit, fish, insects, and fossils you collected in order to upgrade your house, whose decoration is your only long term goal.
  • I wanted to get Animal Crossing: Wild World for the Nintendo DS, released in 2005, but I'm pretty sure I did not actually get around to it (I might have been thwarted by it not being available when the inclination to buy hit).  It was pretty much the same game the original Animal Crossing was, but now it was portable, and you could use the Nintendo DS's stylus with it which was useful for things such as decorating clothing.
  • I did eventually get Animal Crossing: City Folk, released in 2008.  Now on the Nintendo Wii, this was once again the same core game, but now included more online functionality and the ability to visit a city that has a few interesting new shop venues.
While each new iteration of the Animal Crossing series introduced new characters, locations, and activities, the greater bulk of the heart of Animal Crossing always remained the same as it was on the GameCube: sell fruit, fish, insects, and fossils you collect in order to upgrade your house, whose decoration is your only long term goal.

This created a problem for me: I played the initial Animal Crossing for the GameCube until I got sick of it, so why should I want to do that again for any of the games that followed it?  Basically, in order for Animal Crossing: New Leaf to be a game I wanted to buy, it would need to introduce something significantly different.  The series would need to turn over a new leaf.
Were it not for this fellow's cheerful demeanor, I may not have bought New Leaf.  Why can't I be that excited about the cuteness of this game?

Having seen a Let's Play series on this, I decided that Animal Crossing: New Leaf has barely managed to pull this off.  The main difference is that the first player to move in to a town becomes the mayor of it, and with this new inclusion of mayoral duties comes the ability to customize, not just your home (which now has advanced exterior customization features) but also the entire town via zoning various public works such as park benches.  Glorious: that idea has potential.  Further, they took a some of the cool venue ideas from City Folk and actually made them a part of your town without the lengthy loading screen.  It's no exaggeration that this is the best Animal Crossing yet, possibly even by the widest margin of any installment before it.
I can't express how much of a drag it was to go without
some good storage options in previous games.

Another major feature that sold me on the game was the inclusion of storage.  Yes, there's now a locker you can access at the train station that grants you no less than 18 pages of 10 items each: you can save 180 items without having to throw them about your house in a messy clutter!  Some readily-available furniture allows you to access this same inventory from your home.  I guess this was in previous Animal Crossings too, but it was either something I never happened across (maybe lockers were hard to find) or I simply forgot about it since it has been so long.  Fruit of the same kind also stacks now, up to 9 items of fruit per slot of your inventory, and this makes bringing in the harvest considerably easier.

A final clincher may have been the fact that Animal Crossing: New Leaf is actually available for download from the Nintendo eStore.  How is this an important feature for me?  Because it means the game is always installed on my SD Card so I don't have to go through the motions of putting away the current card inserted in my Nintendo 3DS in order to visit my Animal Crossing town and perform my daily tasks.  Considering this game is designed to be played in short bursts, dropping in for the occasional visit, that I don't have to do swap out cards to do this is actually a lot more important than it would normally be for a game; most games, you can stick to playing that game and only that game until you're bored of them, but this kind of game is one that you're supposed to visit briefly each day.   Come to think of it, I sort of wish I got an eStore version of Brain Age: Concentration Training for the same reason! 

As Geldon moves into Bartlest, a character of my own naming moving into a town of my own naming, I am reminded of one of Animal Crossing's most interesting quirks: time in the game mirrors that of real life.  I picked up this game late in the day, and the consequence was that local racoondog landlord was closed at 8pm, real time, and thus I was unable to fork over 10,000 bells (the name for the in-game currency you earn) to pay off my plot of land and get a house today.  I will actually need to play the game during the real time hours when his shop is open tomorrow in order to complete that transaction.  (Either that, or fudge my system time, but I have more discipline than that.)   Consequently, I will not be able to see my house which has upgraded from a tent to a real house until Saturday, at the earliest.  Later on, upgrading my land can be done via the post office, which is open 24/7, but certain stores very much have business hours and there are certain activities that can only be done at certain times of day.
Well, now I don't feel so bad about buying this apparent kid's game.
I think that I know that Harvest Moon: A New Beginning or the upcoming Rune Factory 4 would likely provide simulations of greater depth and consequence, and may actually be more appropriate for older players.  (Heck, you can even woo, marry, and make babies with a local villager in those games - how mature is that?!  The animal girls in this latest Animal Crossing installment are a little flirtier and deliberately emulating moe than I remember from earlier installments, but that's about as far as it's ever going to get.)  Nonetheless, there's something to be said for the general presentation and sheer Nintendo fan pandering present in Animal Crossing: New Leaf that make it an worthwhile game on its own.  At the end of the day, it's a relaxing, rather mellow game, and I think I will always appreciate knowing I will always have a little animal town growing somewhere in the belly of my Nintendo 3DS XL.

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