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StriderHoang avatar 2:24 AM on 01.07.2013  (server time)
A retrospective before starting a New Leaf

Everybody remembers their first neighbors: Goose, Rex, Penny, Alli, Cashmere, Gruff. Oh Gruff! Your name might imply you're rough around the edges but you were a big softie. I knew you loved music since you owned four different guitars, which were prominently on display in your house. Our afternoon chats outside your house was a simple time when simple folk could shoot the breeze as the clouds passed us by.

Animal Crossing has had three major games, with a fourth one already blazing a trail for the 3DS in Japan and leaving every Western 3DS owner on edge, waiting for the official date of its English translated localization. It's still hard to believe it all started as a quirky title on a console everyone doubted. But those who took a chance on the charming village life simulator would find a world teeming with personality. Like Journey, AC is a game that returns however much you invest in it with interest. If you just play the game as it was mechanically designed, it would easily bore you to tears. But if you let yourself absorb the charm of the animal village and invest yourself with it, you can lose hours to conforming to Animal Crossing's schedule.

I've been at Animal Crossing so long, I forget how I originally became interested in it. Trying to look back only gives me hazy recollections of dump diving, raiding Redd's tent, and rows upon rows of gyroids and NES emulators in my basement. I am, however, a completionist. If there is a collection to be finished in a game, I will be compelled to fill it. And Animal Crossing has several things to complete. I was utterly engrossed in an Animal Crossing lifestyle. I caught bugs, fish, dug up fossils, and collected furniture and treasures, all subject to seasonal rarity. Not to mention visiting K.K. Slider every Saturday night for a new song for my catalogue. Coming back the next day to catch a bug I missed that only appears in the morning, especially if it sold well, was an immersive experience.

But that alone would make it a simple catchathon and no more. What is it about Animal Crossing that makes it so addictive I wonder.

Everything seems to draw you in but on the surface, wouldn't keep you in. What kept me was personality and charm. Things Nintendo has in spades.

It's one thing to be taken in by an addictive experience of buying and selling items to hoard money and bells for high end luxury items. It's another to do this all with the business of a friendly looking, if not shady raccoon, or tanuki if you want to be accurate. You could fraternize with neighbors in order to gain their friendship and exchange items. Or you could become endeared to the grumpy complaining of a green billygoat or the snooty fashion advice of a sheep. And let's not forget the charismatic, wandering dog musician who hands out indie music after his impromptu concerts.

What drew me in was the prospect of making my own world to my liking but what kept me was the world that already existed before I tried customizing it. I can create a recreated island hut paradise in my second floor, complete with a beach themed rug, but I still admire Gruff's minimalist but respectable home space with a guitar collection of love.

And this was before I could interact with others on Wild World and exchange items or patterns!

While the original Animal Crossing has a certain amount of charm that made me like it, Wild World simply expanded on everything so that I could enjoy what Animal Crossing gave me to the Nth degree. Finally I could visit other towns, harvest foreign fruits, exchange patterns for clothing, see what Nook has in other franchised stores, see the houses of other players, and see who lives nearby as I visit. Sometimes a cool new neighbor will tag along with me. Other times, my neighbors will decide to move abroad too. All done from the comfort of my DS, do I could take my animal life anywhere with me.

Gruff is by far my favorite neighbor. He has a rude demeanor but his kind also open up when you get to know them past they rough exterior. He lived closer to the cliff boundaries of town, but it was worth visiting him while going on my daily rounds. I'd oftentimes see him talk to Penny the peppy mouse and watch their conversations turn sour. Meanwhile, I'd always find space to fit an Arwing from Star Fox into my interior design, no matter what it was. And having the Triforce from The Legend of Zelda on my nightstand would be a nice touch too. Asides from kitschy Nintendo items, there's always sticking a T-Rex skull near my wall to make it look like the most badass wall mount ever. But my favorite thing to do would be to set up an NES emulator arcade in my basement, away from the prying eyes of the Happy Room Academy. Plus my most weared shirt would be the Lil Bro shirt, a reference to Luigi while also being a little brother myself. Shopping for clothing has never been so satisfying! And that's before mentioning Gracie's fruity fashions (meant in the best possible way. I loved the Watermelon shirt).

Now New Leaf is hopefully on its way. There's no telling when exactly, as it still doesn't have a firm date. But Animal Crossing has tons of text, so it's obviously no ordinary localization job. Even Fire Emblem Awakening has a set date in February and New Leaf is still a vague early 2013 window. While there are a lot of things I'm looking forward to having a new Animal Crossing, having it take advantage of StreetPass on the 3DS is something I'm most excited about as I work in a place with high foot traffic, where getting 15 to 20 tags is a normal day. And since you retain StreetPass data even when the game isn't inserted, I can play other 3DS games at my leisure while I continue to get tags to view other players' houses and interior designs for New Leaf.

If that part about StreetPass data was a no duh moment for you, I'm still blown away by this since I only recently got my 3DS and extra StreetPass capable games even more recently.

I was really big on making custom patterns in earlier AC games too, but of course that meant tediously hand copying patterns from over the internet. Now, you can convert patterns to QR code and scan them with the 3DS camera. I still can't believe I can get new Crashmo puzzles this way and doing this for spiffy new Animal Crossing patterns will be amazingly convenient. Entire online communities will probably sprout up over night to share QR codes. I've kept the Mable Sisters well past closing time while working on new patterns in their store.

An extremely small detail that caught my eye was the ability to alter your town's community schedule. This means changing how your town as a whole behaves on a macro level. This can mean changing how early or late everyone including stores get up but it can also mean raising prices as well as sell rates. This is important to me because I was a total night owl when it comes to Animal Crossing, though I'm sure any older gamer can attest to only having time to really play games in the evening as opposed to the morning. This means I can set my community schedule to be night owls just like me and stay up three hours later than normal to match my late night gaming, especially after a late shift at work.

Of course, there's just going to be more. More new neighbors, more new furniture, more new things to catch and collect, more new shirts, hats, and even a whole set of new shoes and pants, plus new locations to waste your time in incessantly, new days of interest like Crazy Redd stopping by or a new twist on a favorite holiday like Christmas, more, more, more! It's a sequel after all!

What were your favorite things about Animal Crossings of the past? Who were your favorite neighbors? And are you excited to get New Leaf yourself?

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