How to Play Animal Crossing: New Leaf for the Nintendo 3DS

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What to Know

  • Be generous and friendly, donate fish and bugs to the museum, and recycle your trash to get your approval rating to 100%.
  • Pay off your first house loan and visit a tropical island. Gather fruit, fish, and bugs and place them in a locker to transfer them home.
  • Go to Re-Tail to sell your items for premium prices, and don’t run. It frightens fish and insects and ruins flowerbeds

Animal Crossing: New Leaf for the Nintendo 3DS is a life simulator. Its open-ended gameplay and lack of firm goals may overwhelm you if you’re used to games that mark where to go and what to do. Here are some tips for deriving the most enjoyment possible from the game.

Your Conversation With Rover the Cat Determines Your Avatar’s Look

For a game that’s supposed to be all about you, Animal Crossing: New Leaf offers little in avatar customization options, especially early in the experience. When you start the game, you have a conversation on the train with a cat named Rover, and the answers you provide to Rover’s questions determine your avatar’s gender, eye shape, hairstyle, and hair color.

While you can’t change your avatar’s eye shape, you can change his or her hair color and style once you unlock the Shampoodle hair salon.

Person playing Animal Crossing on Nintendo 3DS
Lifewire / Kelly Miller

Recycle, Schmooze, and Donate to Your Town’s Museum

You’re drafted as mayor as soon as you step off the train, but that doesn’t mean you can start re-arranging the town from minute one. You need to win the townspeople’s approval first.

Luckily, they’re an easy bunch to please. To get your approval rating up to 100% in a timely manner, talk to your neighbors, send them letters, write on the town’s message board (besides the train station), and donate lots of fish and bugs to the museum. Make sure to buy and sell at Re-Tail, too. Re-Tail will also recycle any trash that you come upon when fishing. You have to pay a small fee to have the garbage properly disposed of, but it looks good on you; far better than just tossing it on the ground.

Set Town Ordinances That Suit Your Play Style

As soon as you have a few extra bells to throw around, you should talk to your assistant Isabelle about putting either the Night Owl or Early Bird ordinance into place. Both ordinances are tailored to suit your play style: Under Night Owl, stores will stay open three hours later (Re-Tail, the last store to close, shuts down at 2 a.m.), and under Early Bird, they open three hours earlier. Either ordinance can be canceled or switched at any time.

Don’t Mess Around Too Much With the In-Game Clock!

When you first start playing New Leaf, you’ll be asked to set the current time and date. Since the game moves in real-time, this all has a bearing on when stores will be open, etc. You can change the date and time every time you start up New Leaf, but you shouldn’t do anything drastic: “Time paradoxes” can cause problems and glitches. Moreover, if you buy and sell turnips (the game’s stock market), changing the clock will cause your turnips to rot instantly and become worthless.

If your real-life follows a weird schedule and the Night Owl or Early Bird ordinances aren’t providing decent opportunities to visit New Leaf’s stores, then you might consider adjusting the game clock accordingly. Just don’t go ripping back and forth through time.

You Can Stack Fruit in Your Menu

Your inventory space is limited, which can make collecting and selling fruit a huge pain in the you-know-what. Thankfully, you can stack identical fruit. In the inventory screen, simply drag and drop the fruit on top of each other to make bushels of up to nine pieces. This cuts down hugely on the tedium of foraging.

Different Times and Weather Conditions Yield Different Bugs and Fish

Much like real life, some of the wildlife in New Leaf prefers bright, sunny conditions, while other species like to muck around in the dark and the rain. Always try fishing and bug-catching at different times of the day, in different weather, and in different seasons to round out your encyclopedia.

New Fish and Bugs Should Go Straight to the Museum

When you catch a fish or a bug for the first time, you should take it to the museum instead of selling it or giving it away. There are numerous rare fish in New Leaf that are difficult to catch, and you might not get lucky twice.

When you catch a critter for the first time, your avatar will say “I wonder what my encyclopedia says about my new catch?”

Visit the Island for Bountiful Fruit, Fish, and Bugs

Once you’ve settled into your new life and have paid off your first house loan, you’ll get an invitation to visit a tropical island paradise. To get there, go down to your town’s docks and pay 1,000 bells to Kapp’n the kappa/turtle. You’ll make up the cost of travel several times over with the fruit, fish, and bugs that you gather.

The island has a locker beside the main entrance that you can use to transfer your items home. Nothing you collect on the island can go home in your pockets.

Procure and Grow Foreign Fruit 

Your town has naturally-growing fruit trees: Apples, cherries, and oranges are three examples. The fruit from these trees sell for 100 bells, but fruit that’s not from your your town goes for higher prices. Best of all, fruit is a renewable resource, so you can plant, pick, and sell it over and over.

There are a few ways to grab foreign fruit. The island, for instance, is home to tropical fruit trees. You can ship some home, plant it, and collect when the trees blossom. Better yet, a friend can visit and bring an offering of fruit from his or her hometown (provided he or she doesn’t grow the same fruit as you).

If all else fails, one of your townsfolk may gift you with a single piece of foreign fruit. Don’t eat it! Plant it! Also, don’t plant fruit trees too close together, as they may not take root if they’re crowded.

Found a “Perfect” Fruit? Plant It!

If you’re lucky enough to shake a “perfect” piece of fruit down from one of your trees, make sure to plant it. There’s a chance it’ll yield an entire tree full of perfect fruit. However, perfect fruit trees are fragile and will lose their leaves after they're harvested. Always keep a perfect fruit set aside so you can plant it and keep the circle of life going.

Hit Rocks With Your Shovel for Big Rewards 

The rocks in your town are for more than just getting in your way. If you whack them with your shovel (or your ax), you can find bugs and valuable ore. Once a day, you can even find a “money rock,” which pays out cash in increasing denominations each time you hit it. The rock is only active for a few seconds, so you need to hit it as quickly as possible. Recoil will slow you down, but you can perform better with practice. You can also try digging holes and placing yourself between the holes and the rock so recoil won’t affect you.

Re-Tail Pays Top Prices for Your Stuff, Plus Occasional Premium Prices

Ready to sell? Go to Re-Tail. It pays the best prices for most of your items. It also pays premium prices for select items that rotate on a daily basis.

Hint: Try grouping as many fruit trees as possible around the store so you don’t have to schlep back and forth across town to sell your goods!

Want Cool Nintendo Kitsch? Buy Fortune Cookies With Play Coins 

If you need some added incentive to take your Nintendo 3DS out for a walk, keep in mind that the Nooklings sell fortune cookies for two Play Coins each. Most of the fortunes inside these treats can be exchanged for Nintendo-related clothes and items. Occasionally, your ticket won’t be a winner, but don’t despair: Tommy or Timmy will give you a consolation prize. Who needs a Master Sword when you can have an ironing board?

Closets and Storage Lockers Are Linked

Closets are a vital piece of furniture to keep in your house because that’s where all your stuff should go when you don’t need to carry it. However, buying two closets doesn’t give you twice as much storage; all the storage space in New Leaf is linked, including public lockers. There’s quite a bit of storage space to be had, but it’s not too hard to fill it up, so mind yourself.

If You Want to Keep a Townsperson Around, Be an Awesome Friend

Some of your townspeople will be lifers, but others will get the itch to move out. If you have a true blue pal that you want to stick around, give him or her plenty of attention. Talk to him or her daily, send letters (the stationery can be bought at the Nooklings’ shop, and the letters can be mailed out through the post office), and visit their house often.

Occasionally, a townsperson may fall ill and won’t go outside. If you want to score real brownie points, bring them some medicine until they feel better. You can buy medicine at the Nooklings’ shop.

Learn How to Identify Crazy Redd’s Art Forgeries From the Real Deal

Once a week, a fox named Crazy Redd will set up shop in your town square. Red’s a crooked art dealer whose wares are often forgeries, but it’s necessary to talk shop with him if you want to fill out your museum’s art wing.

Most of the stuff Redd peddles is based on famous sculptures and paintings, like Michelangelo’s David and Da Vinci’s Lady With an Ermine. Redd’s fake works have something obviously wrong with them: In Lady With an Ermine, for example, the lady will be holding a cat instead of an ermine. Redd’s legit works, however, will look OK.

Needless to say, Blathers will not put fake paintings or sculptures in the museum. If you’re not up on your art history, has a handy cheat sheet.

Use the Dream Suite for Decoration Inspiration

All dried up on decorating ideas? Building and visiting the Dream Suite can be a big help. The Dream Suite lets you visit random towns (or specific towns, if you have a “dream code”). Nothing you do in a dream town will affect the real thing, but it’s still a great way to take a look at other players’ towns and get motivated.
Hint: Visit a Japanese player’s town. New Leaf has been available overseas for a much longer time, and Japan has had months to build up some pretty incredible cities.

Customize Your Town to the Last Pixel With QR Codes

New Leaf’s QR codes open up endless creative possibilities. You can use QR codes to customize everything from your town’s pavement to your own bedsheets.
The “sewing machine” that reads QR codes is in the Able Sisters’ shop. It won’t be available when you first start the game, but once you settle in and spend a little money in the town’s shops, Sable will let you use it.

Don’t Tear Around the Joint

If you can help it, avoid running as much as possible. Running wears down your grass, scares fish and insects, and can ruin flower beds.

Enjoy Yourself!

Again, there’s no wrong way to play Animal Crossing. Even if this information seems overwhelming, it’s all merely suggestions to help you become an A+ mayor. The real point is, do what you want and have fun.

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