It's almost impossible to explain what makes the Animal Crossing series so compelling. You see, at first glance it's a game where you collect furniture, perform chores for your neighbours, and pay off your mortgage (repeatedly). Sounds like a ton of fun, does it not? And yet...there's something in the series, some sort of charm that creates a game that's compelling, one that you can return to day after day after day and still find a reason to return to it the next time you get the chance.
There's more to do than just that, however. You can dig up fossils, catch bugs, fish, go swimming (new to this iteration of the series), collect fruit, and more. Donate new findings to the local museum, pay off your mortgage to get a bigger house, or just relax, taking in the music and chatting to the locals. But the one key aspect of the game is its pace: the game's clock moves with the real world's, which means that you need to keep track of how late it is if you want to get to a store before it closes. Don't expect to do much when it's 3 AM in the morning. And when there's a holiday in the real world, like Halloween or Christmas, expect presents or maybe a festival in the game as well. For example, for the summer solstice I was able to take a picture of me in a bright sun standee, as everybody wandered around in the late hours of the night wondering about why there was still light outside.
In New Leaf, you're now the mayor of your little town, and with that comes a few extra perks. You can now enact ordinances, which let you do things like making stores stay open late or open up earlier, You can also start public work projects, building things like bridges, benches, new stores, and other items that allow you to really customize your town to the fullest. In previous games, you could really just change some aspects of your house and the layout of the furniture as well as a change a few aspects of your personal appearance. In New Leaf, however, customization takes center stage, with these options to truly make the town 'yours'. With all these new changes, it's still disappointing that the inventory system still feels so cumbersome. There have been steps to rectify this: you can switch tools with the d-pad instead of doing it through the inventory, and fruit can now be stacked in groups of nine. But with the fruit, for example, you still have to do it manually, which is perplexing and really tiresome when you've got a lot to pick up. Why this stuff hasn't been streamlined is beyond me.
On paper, the game just doesn't sound very 'fun'. It's hard to explain, but it's really in the fine details that pervade the experience that bring the game to life: your neighbours, for example, are all diverse characters with their own kinds of personalities and unique appearances, and they each run around the town at their own pace, fishing, visiting the store, or hanging out at the beach. You can listen to a couple different characters sing songs, and while all you can hear are 'ee's and 'oo's and such, the mouths of said characters are perfectly synced to go along with the tune. There's even a seagull (I think) that washes up on the beach and will quiz you about geography. If you get stung by a bee, people will comment on it. Write a letter to someone, and they'll write back. And every hour of the day brings a new background tune to listen to.
The game is just a perfect game to sit back and relax with - especially due to its medium. With the 3DS, it's perfect to just pick up, play for 20-30 minutes, do some selling, some digging, some socializing, and then put down again. You can visit a summer island to grab some fruit, play some minigames (with multiplayer friends, if you so desire), too. With how the game's structured, too, it's unlikely that you'll be burning through what it has to offer in a short amount of time. New holidays are always around the corner, there's almost always a new house upgrade to pay for, and with a new season comes new bugs and fish to catch, and maybe a new wardrobe (though you'll have to pry the Varia Suit and pants away from my cold dead hands!)
Animal Crossing: New Leaf is just a charming-as-hell title that's hard to put down...or at least, hard to put down for more than a day. It's also one of the very few titles that I'd recommend getting a downloadable version of. It's not for everyone, but there's still a good chance it's calming personality will grow on you in no time at all. So while it may not sound like entertaining on paper in the traditional sense, it's still a game that I can see myself playing for quite a long time indeed.