Animal Crossing: New Leaf (AC) is the fourth game in the series and one specially designed for the 3DS.
Prepare to have your life run by a bunch of talking animals. The game starts on a train trip where you are asked a bunch of questions that determine how your avatar will look and the layout of your new village. It doesn't take long to arrive in your town where you are quickly mistaken for the new mayor. Don't worry though, the mayor-to-be seems to be cool with you taking their place which is alarming in itself if you think about it too much. You've not only undeservedly taken this persons job but also left them without a home, but with all of that aside your mayoral roles are where the new content in Animal Crossing lies.
You start off in a tent, but quickly get a house and you don't quite start off as the mayor but it doesn't take long to win the approval of your town and get things moving. Once the initial bits are out of the way the madness truly begins, as AC requires daily involvement: talking to your animal villagers, helping them out or playing games with them. There are also a bunch of other things to do: hunting down fossils to dig up and donate to the museum; the oceans and rivers have no shortage of fish (and boots and cans) to catch, and the trees often have bugs sitting there waiting to be caught. Just listing off the activities you can do in the game really doesn't give the full picture of what makes AC so endearing and enjoyable.
The village you start with is the one you chose (at least from a handful of maps), and you're responsible for building up the village and your house into places that show your personality and style. There's a few stores where you can buy clothes, hats, furniture and decorations, and there's so many items and matching furniture collections that it shouldn't be hard to find something you want to display for any friends you invite to see your village or share online via streetpass. Early on in the game the main motivations in AC is working towards unlocking new buildings and characters (K.K Slider for example doesn't show up until there's a club for him to play at), and making money to upgrade your house so you can store all the furniture you accumulate and want to show off. It doesn't help that Tom Nook is waiting for that sweet house upgrade money! As the game runs off the 3DS clock, depending on when you usually game (for me it's late night gaming) the stores might be closed. You'll be able to introduce early bird or night owl ordinances that keep the shops and villagers up later or wakes them up earlier to accommodate your times, and for those who can't always play til night this is great.
In the world of AC the currency is Bells. You get them by selling items, whether it is furniture, clothing, fruit, fossils, bugs or fish. The amount of bells you have limits to what you can buy and to how big you can expand your house. Public projects also require large chunks of bells so it can take some time to achieve these goals if you casually sell some stuff every day. A few days since starting your game an island (run by the previous Mayor of the AC series Tortimer) opens up and you can travel there for a price, but you can travel there whenever you want. On the island it is always Summer so you can always catch season-specific bugs and fish and participate in island tours which are minigames that earn points to buying items that can only be bought from the island. But at night time you can also go to the island and catch bugs and sharks that fetch a very high price, and if you have the patience you can net up to 400,000 bells a visit. If you want to take your time then you can easily not go that route, but if you want to get your village on its feet and get those public projects moving then this allows you to do it quickly. Just be warned that you're breaking the game a little bit.
One of the best things about AC is that you can play at whatever pace you want, you can hop on for a few minutes every day to check up on everything and say hi to your villagers or if you leave it for a few days here and there weeds might grow, but you can always pull them up. AC is a weird creature, my best attempt at describing it is a ‘Slice of life' simulator, you shape your town and make it your own, you become used to seeing your animal villagers and care whether they want to move away or if they're sick. If you want more structure or story in a game you will likely come away disappointed with AC because you make your own fun.
One issue I seemed to have involved visiting other people's towns from overseas, or more the lack of letting me visit their villages. Given that I'm not the only one having the problem it could be an issue for people hoping to play the game with overseas friends. Besides that issue visiting friends towns is really fun, being able to show other people what you've done with your town and meeting their villagers is more enjoyable than it sounds! Also, it's a great chance to share fruits (each town has one village-specific fruit and the rest have to be earned or traded for) and trade for theme furniture.
Animal Crossing has been around for a few games now and a lot of the game remains the same. After a few iterations the same sort of game can get stale and boring, thankfully Nintendo have given fans enough reason to come back. If you're new to the franchise there is lots of content to keep you invested for a while and it's friendly to new players. For those who are AC veterans the game may not feel as fresh as it once was, but the additions are worth getting into this version. Connecting with overseas friends over wifi can be problematic but when you get online with friends it becomes even more fun.