Apparently, 2013 was the right time and place for a new Animal Crossing.
If you were on Twitter during the initial release of Animal Crossing: New Leaf, you’d think it was the only game to ever exist. There was a zeitgeist around the game, and luckily, it only served to make it better for everyone.
Animal Crossing has always wanted to be a social game, but never quite had the means to reach its full potential. The newest entry, designed for the 3DS, is the best game the series has seen. With relatively easy access to a robust online component, it’s easy to jump into friend’s towns, meet new villagers, find new fruit, find new items to collect, and more. The StreetPass features go even further, placing a model of anyone’s house you pass in real life into your game, and even adds all of their furniture and decorations to buy.
I played Animal Crossing: New Leaf more than any other game this year. My current playtime is at over 70 hours, far above (almost) any other game released this year. I, as a grown-ass man, even set alarms to wake myself up in the morning to visit the shops, and to see what new items my friendly neighborhood raccoons had for sale. It became a lifestyle for a couple months, and one that rarely develops in any kind of game. Everyone I knew was playing, everyone on Twitter was playing, and it all felt like a really fun social experiment to be a part of.
Sadly, as we all do, I left Animal Crossing as other games came out, and I felt like my work in my town was finished. Clunky inventory systems and other archaic design choices limit how much fun one could have with the game, and kept me from enjoying myself as much as I feel I could have. For every hour I spent meeting new villagers or discovering new items or games, I had to manage my inventory, or make another run to the shop to sell some of the junk I had stored in my locker.
It isn’t a perfect game, but it’s a charming one, and one of the most rewarding experiences I had all year long. I’d probably ready to do it again if they released another one tomorrow.