It's been a little over a week since Animal Crossing New Leaf released to the US and I think I can easily say that I have been engrossed in the experience thus far. And not just engrossed either. I've remembered how comfortable a feeling it is when you make your own little groove in your Animal Crossing town. My daily routine of waking up, digging up fossils, donating and selling items, shaking trees for random goodies, catching bees (or getting stung by them), and talking to my neighbors along the way while catching random fauna.
Over a period of 5 days, I got comfortable in my new role as the mayor of Harbor. I got reacquainted with old Animal Crossing mechanics like farming catchables for bells while also learning the new features like the public works projects and the new Internet connectivity. But the one thing I love about Animal Crossing is the slower, more subdued pace it draws you into. So many games these days are about instant gratification, doing stuff really fast, and flashy effects and presentation. Even after nearly 12 years, the cornerstone of the game is still the real-time clock and slow burning progress. No fancy upgrades in graphics, no special additions that make the game run like a fast, fancy platformer or something. It's still about how when it's 4pm Monday in real life, it's 4pm Monday in your town and how things will change day by day rather than hour by hour.
Even though I forgot to talk to Tom Nook about my loan on the first day, I didn't time travel or anything. Instead, I took my forgetfulness in stride and just accepted the fact that I'd be a day behind most people when it comes to basic progress such as having a house, entering the Happy Home Academy. Yes, it takes days to unlock parts of the game you'd sometimes wish were unlocked from the start. I wasn't able to Streetpass until the fourth day of my stay in Harbor due to my mistake so I lost a lot of potential tags. But Animal Crossing isn't about doing stuff quickly. It's about enjoying each day for what it is. Crazy Redd could be in town and maybe you'd want to wait until you got home so you could reference the real art and separate the real stuff from the counterfeits. Or maybe it's the day you get a Luigi hat from Nookling Junction's fortune cookie. Or the final piece of an outfit appears at the Able Sister's and you can keep it in your closet so you can show Gracie Grace a complete fashion check with your Bear outfit. If there's one thing I appreciate about Animal Crossing, it's that it tells me to slow down my hectic day and stop to smell the roses. Work and money and family may get me down but I can always keep the town of Harbor in my back pocket and jump back in just to chat with some of my favorite neighbors like Tiffany the fashion conscious bunny, Jeremiah the money grubbing frog, Lolly the studious cat, or my best bud Hopper the penguin.
Yes, it is actually 3:51am. That's what happens when you have spare time during a graveyard shift.
Make no mistake though, AC encourages socializing too. For weeks before New Leaf's release, me and my friends were eager to start our town and cement plans. Now, I trade fruits with Mayor Piffles, bum around with Mayor Steffu, or go on a night time island tour with Mayor Kitty O. Sometimes, I see an item I don't want but would like to gift to one of my friends. Just the other day, Mayor Steffu admitted to accidentally selling her watering can, so I found a spare one and buried it in front of her home while I visited Almond.
But to me, one of the most fulfilling things about the game is sharing in the experience with my longtime girlfriend. I bought myself the physical copy but also got my girlfriend the 3DS XL bundle which has the game digitally pre-installed. Literally a day before I got the whole kitten kaboodle, the fear ran through my head of, "What if she doesn't like this game?" Granted, we'd finally both have 3DS' but not enjoying New Leaf together would be a blow to our start together. I've always played online with friends on Xbox Live but could never do so with Adriana because she just doesn't play enough games to justify owning an Xbox 360. She owned a DS for several years but staying abreast of DS game libraries is trickier compared to the hardware tied IDs of the 3DS.
Cut to June 15, six days after I started playing New Leaf. Adriana finally came to spend the weekend and I handed her the 3DS XL I got her. To my relief, she enjoyed her first few minutes with the 3DS, setting it up and getting used to the menus. We spent the day doing couples stuff like eating a nice pizza, going to the beach, and watching TV. What I never could've predicted was just how much she'd like Animal Crossing. Though in retrospect, Animal Crossing is a lot like previous social games she's played on Facebook before.
Just like real-life, I meet her at the train station.
It's now been five days since she started playing as Kitty O. from the town of Yerba Bu. I'm amazed that she not only loves the game but that she likes it in much the same ways that I do. Tiffany lives in both our towns strangely enough but we both love her as a neighbor. My favorite thing about her engrossing herself into the game was her relation to a new deer townie, Bruce the blue deer.
At first, she said she absolutely loved her little town except for Bruce. She told me he was routinely mean to her and made fun of her. She asked me how she could get rid of him and I told her about the method which is normally reserved for neighbors who accidentally pick up naughty habits from other mayors such as inappropriate language. This was her first day of mayor winding down.
On her second day, I was slightly surprised to find out that she'd been playing the game in the morning as I slept in. When I visited her town, I saw Bruce wandering around town in a pink sweater. Adriana told me a neighbor asked her to deliver a gift to Bruce and he put on the sweater on the spot. I tried talking to him, maybe asked him to be a little nicer, but Bruce was only interested in making small talk. But suspect wearing such a loud sweater softened his image because just today, after a few days, mayor Kitty O. came to my town in a new cream cami. I asked Adriana where she got the new shirt and to my surprise, she told me Bruce gave it to her. Apparently he's been nicer as well as talking about me and Adriana's developed a soft spot for him.
Over the course of a few days, my girlfriend went from hating Bruce to liking him, all while exchanging clothes with each other. With our nightly island runs and late night house parties, I've recognized a strange feeling with my girlfriend since we started playing together. It's the feeling of being closer then ever before with her with something I never imagined I'd get so close with her with before: video games. I've given her Tetris DS before, Phoenix Wright, and played Crashmo together, but this felt different. I wasn't just indulging in my own past time anymore but I'm actually playing with her now. She texts me what's going on in her town like a ram moving in or when she buys new furniture and some jerk of a bird tries to buy it off her for a fraction of the price.
It's now been a few days since I started writing this. Any worries of burning out disappeared when Nookling's Cranny remodeled into T&T Mart and the shoe store still isn't open yet (I guess they need time to build the store from scratch). My home still has several expansions in store, the museum isn't close to completion and now that T&T Mart has opened with the catalog system, I want to collect more items to fill it and create nice, feng shui happy rooms. Not to mention all the patterns I've yet to design.
So come on into Animal Crossing New Leaf. The weather's great, everyday has something interesting, and you can take it at your pace. Even at 2am in the morning.
If you've been enjoying you stay in New Leaf, why not show off your Dtoid pride? Along with AlphaDeus, there is a small selection of Dtoid inspired patterns to wear!
AlphaDeus' take on the Dtoid t-shirt.
My own take on it with the QR codes!
If you have a twitter, why not try showing off your stuff too. Try #Dtoidshirt and see who among the Destructoid army will take notice and try your sweet duds? In case you didn't know, you can upload your pictures directly
to twitter or tumblr. Don't forget sites like QRcrossing
either (which I have an account
on of course).