I’ve never played an Animal Crossing game before, but a group of extremely enthusiastic fans on Twitter pushed me to try the latest installment, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, on the Nintendo 3DS. Last night, I started my quest, knowing only that I’d encounter a clutch of achingly cute animals along the way. Join me as I get to know the citizens of my town, Geebung.
June 15, 7:30 p.m.: I’m met on the train by an adorable cat (?) named Rover. He asks me where I’m going, and because of a very small character limit, my destination will be Geebung (named for the suburb where I grew up) instead of New Holland. After a few minutes of general chitchat, he tells what I assume to be an inside-joke (he’s been riding this train since 2002, apparently), and it dawns on me that I haven’t been asked to customize an avatar. So do I get to use my Mii, or is there a standard character that everyone has to play?
June 15, 7:35 p.m.: Hey, I’m a small, brown-haired white boy. Hooray for diversity, I guess.
June 15, 7:37 p.m.: I’m introduced to the townsfolk, a charming array of anthropomorphic animals, and they proclaim me mayor of Geebung. I challenge this assertion because as far as I know, I was just visiting. But no, I’m mistaken — I will be the new mayor of Geebung.
June 15, 7:40 p.m.: I’m informed that I will need a place of residence before I can officially be sworn in as mayor. I am asked to meet with a real estate agent immediately. All the other businesses in Geebung are closed, and I notice there are only a handful of houses here, so it stands to reason that if your livelihood is selling property, you’d best be on call.
June 15, 7:43 p.m.: I decide on a lakeside site next to some trees. There’s been no mention of cost at this point. Do they give away waterfront properties in Geebung?
June 15, 7:44 p.m.: My real estate agent, Tom Nook, sets up a tent for me to use while my house is being built. He gives me a lantern and shows me how to set it up and use it. “This is a setup,” I think to myself, afflicted with mild paranoia. He tells me to see him tomorrow to get the bill. I knew this was too good to be true!
June 15, 7:46 p.m.: Isabelle, my colleague in the mayor’s office, confirms my birthday and gives me a Town Pass Card (TPC). She then leads me to my inauguration ceremony in the town square. I plant a tree and bask in the insincerity of my new people. I am now the mayor.
June 15, 7:50 p.m.: I put my 3DS to sleep so I can watch the Waratahs get thumped by the British and Irish Lions. I think back to the one piece in this puzzle that doesn’t fit: Rover. Was he supposed to be Geebung’s incoming mayor? What did he have to gain from me being elected leader? Was I thinking about this a little too much? Only time would tell.
June 15, 9:45 p.m.: I attend the Bug-Off trophy ceremony. I am the mayor after all, and this is a prime chance to be seen with my constituents. The judge appears to have eaten each of the winning entries; it looks like a trophy is the most that any contestant can hope to walk away with. With each trophy conferral, we clap — that is to say that we try to (our hands never quite meet, but a thunderous sound is being made anyway). I’m tired and a little drunk. I need to leave before I make a scene.
June 15, 9:55 p.m.: I stumble from tree to tree, shaking them in the hope of finding treasure or some clue as to why I’m in this post. I acquire fruit and money. I shake one last tree, and my view of the ensuing melee is obscured by another tree. I emerge with one eye swollen, stung by a swarm of angry bees!
June 15, 10:00 p.m.: What a night. I retire for fear of being further brutalized by the wildlife of Geebung.
June 16: 7:30 a.m.: I awaken and exit my tent to find myself greeted by my postman, a pelican. He explains the mail system and warns me to check for incoming letters regularly, or else my box will overflow, and I’ll then miss out on any additional mail. I have one letter from an anonymous sender. He indicates that it was he who was supposed to be thrust into the role of mayor but insists I’ll be fine. I swear at this point that I will hunt this villain down and bring him to justice for the grievous fraud he has committed!
June 16, 7:31 a.m.: ROVER, YOU SON OF A BITCH. I WILL HUNT YOU DOWN!!!
June 16, 7:38 a.m.: Isabelle briefs me on the mechanics of mayorhood and drops the bombshell that my approval rating is a whopping 13 percent. I’ve just moved here, been thrust into a leadership role, and I’m living in a fucking tent. Give me a break!
June 16, 7:39 a.m.: Pacing with murderous intent following my shocking poll results, I run into a boar who tries to sell me some turnips. She explains that people don’t eat them much anymore, but I can buy and sell them to various people to turn a profit. Can these turnips be used to manufacture drugs, I wonder? Why else would the market be so volatile? I mean, if you’re not going to eat the things, then why are you buying them? I can now see through Geebung’s smiling veneer and behold the festering shithole of addiction and greed that lies beneath. I want to die.
June 16, 8:38 a.m.: Riddled with anxiety, I visit the real estate agent to see just how far I’ve submerged myself in debt. To my surprise, his office is closed, and he didn’t leave me with any other means to contact him.
June 16, 8:39 a.m.: I visit the post office. Apparently, Nintendo had left something for me: a rainbow screen. I wonder if I can sell it off to scrounge enough money for a house payment.
June 16, 8:40 a.m.: I visit Nookling Junction and find myself greeted by Tommy, who appears to be a cute, brown raccoon thing. He likes to give some subtext to everything he says, whispering sweet nothings after each of his utterances. Bells, the town’s currency, are “so shiny,” and he wants me to come back because he’d “love to see me.” I sell some cherries for roughly 1,000 bells. I wonder whether feeding myself will become problematic if I can score a grand for some common fruit. It comes to mind that I’ve played this game for roughly 90 minutes and still haven’t murdered anything. I buy a shovel — not only because it should be a deadly weapon but also because it should help me to dispose of any evidence that could incriminate me while I sit in Geebung’s throne. I also buy a bug net so I can show those shitheads how to win a Bug Off.
June 16, 8:47 a.m.: To my horror, it doesn’t look as though I can do much damage with this shovel. I do, however, unearth three fossils while digging around the town. I wonder how much money I can get for these things? What ancient creatures lived beneath this city’s tiny houses?
June 16, 11:55 a.m.: I visit Tom Nook’s office again. Ten thousand dollars for a lakeside property in this economy. Things could be worse. Tom tells me to go fishing and catch bugs to make the down payment. My first instinct is to tell him to go to hell — as if you could afford a house by pawning seashells — but then I remembered that puzzling formula from this morning: eight bunches of cherries equals approximately 1,000 bells.
June 16, 12:07 p.m.: I speak with Blathers, the owl curator of Geebung’s museum. At first he seems shitty at me for waking him up, but he’s cooled off. He assesses the fossils I’ve found to reveal that I’ve been lugging dinosaur skulls across my city. What the fuck! These bones are probably worth millions, and he wants me to donate them FOR SCIENCE? Knowing my luck, I’ve probably got kids to feed somewhere in this dungeon of a town.
June 16, 12:18 p.m.: I need ten large. If I want a solid roof over my head, I’m going to have to meet that end. I started shaking cherry trees, but they weren’t fetching as much at Re-Tail, one of the town’s shops. I collected shells and bells. I hunted butterflies, and for as long as I’d been in Geebung, I found the closest thing to pure joy.
June 16, 12:30 p.m.: Nook has his fucking money now, and tomorrow I’ll have a house. What will I need to endure to survive my tenure as mayor of Geebung? Will I exact sweet revenge on Rover? Tune in next week to find out!
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