Animal Crossing: New Leaf Review

I’m sure that at one point, before I knew how to be an ironic lump, I would have recommended a catch phrase to match Roald’s pluck. I might even let myself recommend him a catch phrase about his penguin-ness, a concerted pun like “chill out” or… probably something about being cold. And in the secret hours of the night, I could slink down to the living room, turn on my Gamecube, then illuminated by the glow of the CRT hop into my town (Fartville) just long enough to ask Roald to call me “cool guy” and get back to bed before mom knew.

Later the next day, when my friends would come over, I’d find a way to work Fartville into conversation, and excitedly jump back in. “See, there’s the well I built!” “Can you go in it?” “No.” And so on, until my friends would suggest playing a game where you can USE the swords. When they left, I’d tidy up the garden, catch a few Sea Bass (See? Bass!), and put Fartville to bed.

I remember getting up on Christmas to see what a-religious town event might befall Fartville, and THEN opening real presents.

So when I say that Animal Crossing: New Leaf isn’t how I remember, I mean to say I’m not the man I hoped I’d be.

The Animal Crossing series came after The Sims and Second Life, two auspicious knells for the business of building virtual lives. It was Nintendo’s, though, so it had to be rounder, and with more animals. The conceptual impetus for these games has created a genre, life-simulation. Wikipedia has even taken to calling Animal Crossing a community-simulation series. My my.

Apart from the task of any other game, even an RPG, life-simulation games are the exercise of preference absent some of analog life’s typical constraints, chief of which is the passage of time. In my hometown of Burke, VA, it takes anywhere from two weeks to several months to meet with a realtor, view homes, procure a loan, and move into even a modest, unfurnished one-room rambler. Animal Crossing will do this in a matter of seconds.

The series’ initial foible was that it functioned IN my time constraint, where night for me would be night for the game, down to the minute. But video game time is measured not in minutes, but in accomplishments. If I’m able to spend an hour catching beetles and fund the construction of a police department with the earnings, Animal Crossing’s hour does not reflect an hour in analog world.

More central to the Animal Crossing mythos is the absence of commitment. When I first constructed Fartville, I was delighted that I could emblazon the town message board with “parentz drool!” without fear of reprimand. My Animal Crossing mother was the mothered-child’s junk food mother – out of frame and generous.

And the conceit of a job has been removed in everything but title from AC:NL, where my do-nothing mayorship carries no weight of responsibility and nearly total autonomy. Tammy the lioness, for example, has given me some ‘tude, so I’ve shipped her off, my decision unquestioned. Money-making activities are as voluntary as donating to the Blather’s museum collection. And no, Isabelle, I won’t attend the dedication of the Zen Bench ceremony; I’ve got sharks to catch.

The only thing AC:NL requires of me is a little TLC, and even then the bar for intimacy is low. The town will go on without me, and will run at full steam whenever I choose to return. This universe is fully reactive to my whims, feigning indifference. Oh yeah? Me either.

Like some literary snob, I named the town Pequod, and called myself Ishmael. If anyone were to find out about this alternate life, at least it would have the stink of being well-informed. Just to be safe, I’ll play it at night, in bed, when nobody is watching.

Gruff is a billy goat and my neighbor. I told him to tell me “Will Smith” as often as possible. He complied.

I screen-captured something Beau said because it reminded me of an old comedy sketch. Something about moussaka.

Sahara, you were a blessing. Thank you for removing my agency.

I wore Majora’s Mask for the first two weeks that I played the game. I like to think I was getting one over on those animals because none of them ever mentioned it. Joke was on them, ‘cause I was.

Hippeux kept asking me to return that mail to Yuka. I put it in an Alpine Closet and forgot about it.

For a week, I would run up and down the beach looking for sharks, only ever finding one or two, catching the occasional red snapper. I would fall asleep most nights without saving, and get reamed by that mole in the morning.

I read a guide to finding the most valuable beetles, and that endeavor consumed the rest of my time in Pequod. I built a basement, an upstairs, a… side… room, and they are all empty. I won’t tell you where to find the most valuable beetles.

I haven’t beaten Pequod yet, and I guess I won’t. I beat Fartville in 2002 on Christmas Day, but if I went back and visited there again, I’d probably lose. The final boss in AC:NL is “Why?”


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Author: Dan Crabtree View all posts by
Dan is Managing Editor for GamerNode and a freelance gaming writer. His dog is pretty great. Check him out on Twitter @DanRCrabtree.

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