A Beginner's Guide to Animal Crossing: New Leaf

Unsure of what to do now that you've got your hands on the latest Animal Crossing? Here are some ways to get started!

From time to time, you find yourself buying a game simply because you've heard it was good. Don't deny it, we all do it. When it happened to me, these are the facts as I knew them:

  • A person I barely knew would play it while waiting between turns in a game of Civ V and it would make funny noises.
  • It was on flash sale from $34.99 CAD down to $19.99.
  • I had Amazon store credit.

But what are you supposed to do?

As a player of RPGs, MMOs, and various FPSs, being dropped into an ultra-polite small town setting without any idea of what to do or even a bush to chop down for rupees comes as a bit of a culture shock.

Animal Crossing: New Leaf is a life sim, one populated with cutesy anthropomorphic animals who live out their small-town life cycle by sleeping, walking around town, shopping, singing, X-ray-visioning your pockets, asking you for favors, and telling you about their insecurities. The point of the game is to live your simulation life, collect everything, and improve your small town. 

If you think this sounds boring... I promise you that somehow it manages not to be.

Here are some things you should know.

What time is it?

The opening scene in Animal Crossing is your character creation, done in the form of a conversation rather than a series of menus. When he asks you the time, it will automatically show the time set in your 3DS clock.

You can choose this option, but remember that the game runs in real time. Some of the downsides to running real local time for most gamers are:

  • NPCs get up and go to sleep at "normal hours."
  • Shops are not open all hours.
  • Enacting a Town Ordinance to make the town run later into the evening is costly and cannot be done immediately. (Requires 100 Mayor Points.)

For those players who can only play during the evenings, it is recommended to adjust the game clock to maximize viable play time.

Everything is worth money.

Your town is littered with trees covered in fruit and beaches covered in shells. This is your earliest and easiest source of cash when you first arrive in town. With this in mind, when you get your hands on a shovel:

  • Plant more trees to increase the number of fruit you have to sell.
  • Try to plant fruits different from your town's local variety, they sell for a higher price. (E.g. If your town has lots of orange trees and someone gives you a pear.)

When your pockets are full, make your way over to Re-Tail which has the highest selling prices in the game. Sell small items like fruit and conch shells directly to her, but the retail space in her shop is also open for you to sell items directly to the townfolk at ~4x Reese's asking price.

These spaces should be used for selling higher-price items like clothing, furniture, and items that can be displayed in your house. If any of the townsfolk are wandering around Re-Tail when you come in, you have the opportunity to encourage them to buy that item. 

Tools are incredibly useful.

There are several tools that can be used in the game:

  • Shovel: dig up star-shaped holes in the ground for buried treasures
  • Watering Can: water brown and drying flowers to perk them up
  • Fishing Rod: use to catch fish in the rivers and ocean which can be donated to the museum or sold
  • Bug Net: sneak up on bugs and catch them during the summer months which can then be donated to the museum or sold
  • Slingshot: shoot down balloons flying past tied to mystery presents
  • Axe: cut down trees or hit rocks

All of these items will help you amass more money, bigger collections, and bring you closer to a perfect town. These show up randomly in shops which you can purchase, or can be given/sold to you by Isabelle, your assistant at City Hall when you ask her for advice.

Normal versions of these tools will break after a certain number of uses, but you can earn Silver and Gold tools by completing certain tasks in the game.

Others things you can do?

Improve and upgrade your house.

Your first resident is an empty tent. It will cost you, but you can upgrade to a small house which will replace your tent by 6AM the next day. This amount can be paid off over as long a period as you want but keep in mind that only when you pay it off can you continue to add new upgrades to your house.

There are many things in the game that you can use to decorate your house with. Collect and experiment! Look at the other citizens' houses and see what you like about them. As you continue playing, new areas will open up for you, and allow you access to more items. It's up to you if you want to collect them all!

Donate to the museum's collection. 

In the beginning, the museum is a very sad, empty building. It's in your power to fish up new sea and river creatures, catch interesting bugs, collect art, and dig up fossils to fill the halls with your findings in order to help improve your town.

Having your fossils examined will also net you a higher price at Re-Tail if you decide not to donate it to the museum, or have already donated an identical fossil. 

Change the town the way you want it!

As you continue playing, new characters may move into your town, and old ones may express the desire to leave. You will also have the power (if you have the money!) to add new Public Works to beautify the town and impose Ordinances to change how the town will run. New shops will continue to open up, and the selection in each of them will continue to change every single day.

Once you know how to get started, Animal Crossing is an adorable time-waster and absolutely unskippable for anyone who has the collecting bug. If you have any other questions about what to do to get things started, just leave a comment below!

Featured Columnist

Avid PC gamer and long-time console lover. I enjoy sneaking, stealing everything not nailed down, and shooting zombies in the face. I'm also a cat.

Published Mar. 19th 2015

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