If you haven’t yet picked up Animal Crossing: New Leaf for Nintendo 3DS, you certainly should. It’s a life simulation game where you can create and customize your own town. In said town, you can furnish your home, catch bugs and fish, talk to neighbors, collect furniture, play minigames, and much more. New Leaf is a big game, and knowing its ins and outs is crucial to your success. If you’re new to the Animal Crossing series, you’ve come to the right place!
When you turn on the game for the first time, you’ll meet Rover, a friendly cat who first asks you to verify the system’s time and date. After that’s said and done, he’ll ask you your name. Be careful when choosing your name; it can’t be changed later. Your next task will be to name your town. Its name also cannot be changed once set. After your character and town’s names are selected, Rover will ask you a series of questions. Your answers will determine the appearance of your avatar’s face. It’s possible to change your clothes, hairstyle, and eye color later in the game, but facial features cannot be altered. Choose your responses wisely from the tables below. Open them in a new tab if they’re too small to read!
Once you exit the train, you’ll find yourself surrounded by your new neighbors, who welcome you to their town. You’ll also meet Isabelle, who insists that you are the new mayor everyone’s been waiting for. In order to register yourself as a town resident, you’ll need to fill out some paperwork. In order to fill out that paperwork, you’ll need a house. Leave the town hall and cross the train tracks to reach Main Street, and enter the shop called Nook’s Homes. There, you’ll meet Tom Nook, who agrees to follow you around town until you decide on a spot for your new house. The position of your house is actually quite important – it’s best to build it close to Main Street, Re-Tail, or the train station, as you’ll be visiting all three of these places quite often during your Animal Crossing escapades. Keep in mind that you can’t place your house on the beach, and it also can’t be too close to rocks, rivers, or other buildings. Once you decide on your new home’s location, Tom Nook will set up a temporary tent for you to rest in.
Now that you have your very own tent, you can head back to the town hall to complete your residency registration. Speak with Isabelle, and she’ll ask you to tell her your birthday. After successfully registering, you’ll be given a Town Pass Card (TPC for short). You’ll then participate in a big ceremony at the town plaza, where you’ll plant a sapling in commemoration of your new mayorship. You’ll also unlock the ability to save, which you can do at any time by pressing Start or Select during gameplay.
You’ll want to take a stroll around town and meet your new neighbors. There are actually 333 villagers that can potentially move into your town (not including amiibo-exclusive ones), and your town will start off with five randomly selected ones. As you search for neighbors, you may notice one of their houses with lights on and smoke coming from the chimney – that means they’re inside. You can visit them anytime. If there are no lights on or smoke coming from the chimney, it means they’re out on the town. They could be wandering around nearby, shopping at Main Street, taking a look at the museum, or having a walk on the beach.
You can also write letters to your neighbors. Nookling Junction, a general store on Main Street, sells stationery you can use to send mail. Open your pockets with X, select the stationery, and then choose “Write a Letter”. Select the name of the villager you’d like to send to, and then type out your message. You can also include a gift by dragging an item from your inventory onto the letter you’ve written.
At some point, Isabelle, your new secretary, will tell you about seashells on the beach. She’ll ask you to bring her one. In return, she’ll hand you a basket of fruit. Speaking of fruits, each town will have one of five different kinds of fruit native to their town. It’s possible to have Apples, Cherries, Oranges, Peaches, or Pears when you first start the game. In addition to normal fruit, perfect fruit can also be found. They look slightly different from their original versions and are worth more. Instead of selling them all, however, you should keep your perfect fruit to plant when you obtain a shovel. In fact, after handing you the fruit basket, Isabelle will tell you where shovels are sold – at Nookling Junction on Main Street. Check their inventory – the tools they sell differ on a daily basis. If they don’t have a shovel in stock, Isabelle will loan you one. Either way, after you get your hands on a shovel, plant the fruit that Isabelle gave you. Be sure to give your sapling room to grow. Don’t plant it too close to rivers, trees, buildings, rocks, or cliffs, or else it’ll wither and die.
You can also dig up buried treasures with your new shovel. Every day, two to three star-shaped cracks appear on the ground. Dig at these spots to discover fossils, which can be taken to the town museum or sold at a shop. It’s also a good idea to try hitting rocks with your shovel – they’ll sometimes crumble to reveal a rare gem, or they’ll spawn bags of money for you to pick up.
Another good way to pass the time is by catching bugs and fish. Again, check Nookling Junction to see if they have a bug net or a fishing rod. Bugs can be found on trees or just flying around. With the net equipped, hold the A button to sneak up and release the button to swing your net and hopefully catch it. Once you have the bug, you can either sell it or donate it to the museum. You can even display it in your house if you want to!
If you’re fishing, fish can be found in rivers, ponds, and the ocean. Cast your line and wait for a silhouette to bite. When your lure goes under, repeatedly press the A button to reel in the fish. As with bugs, fish can be sold, donated to the museum, or displayed in your house. But since you’re just starting out, it’s probably best to sell them.
Before you can exercise your mayoral influence, you must earn a town-development permit. The town-development permit will only be issued to you after you’ve earned a 100% approval rating from the town’s residents. There are many ways you can increase your approval rating:
- Pull weeds
- Write messages on the town bulletin board
- Talk to villagers and do them favors
- Donate bugs, fish, and fossils to the museum
- Sell items at Re-Tail
- Fish up trash from ponds, rivers, and the ocean and then recycle at Re-Tail
When you finally obtain your 100% approval rating, Isabelle will submit the application for the town-development permit. It’ll take one to two days before you receive your permit. Once you’ve earned the permit, you can’t lose it, even if you purposefully neglect your town (which you shouldn’t be doing anyway).
Public Works Projects
After your town-development permit is accepted, you can start building public works projects. Most of them are very expensive, and only one public works project can be active at a time. Think of them as crowdfunding campaigns – each project needs a certain amount of Bells (which are the currency used in Animal Crossing) in order to be built, and everyone chips in a bit of their own money. More often than not, you’re going to need to pay most of that amount, because your neighbors don’t necessarily have a lot of money to throw around.
To start a public works project, sit in the mayor’s chair at the town hall. You’ll be shown a list of requests from the townsfolk. It’s possible that a villager will walk up to you at some point and tell you about a new idea they had for a public works project – if this happens, you’ll then be able to build that project by returning to the town hall.
You can also choose where each public works project is built. Just like with your house, Isabelle will follow you around until you decide where to build the project in question. Once you’ve made your choice, a character called Lloid will appear to collect donations. When the donation limit is met, the project will begin construction and be completed overnight. After completing a public works project, Isabelle will ask if you’d like to participate in a ceremony to celebrate the completion of the project.
There are several major public works projects that must be unlocked before you can even begin to collect donations. The criteria for each are below:
Museum Renovation: 198,000 Bells
- The town museum can be renovated with a second floor that includes a shop, as well as four customizable exhibits that you can decorate with furniture of your choosing. To unlock this option, you must donate a total of 20 items to the museum, and there must be a least one bug, one fish, one fossil, one deep-sea creature (obtained by diving with a Wet Suit), and one painting or sculpture. You must also have spoken to Blathers (the museum’s operator) at least once on fourteen different days. When these criteria are met, Blathers will suggest this public works project to you during conversation.
Dream Suite: 234,000 Bells
- The Dream Suite is a building on Main Street that allows you to have dreams of other towns. In other words, the Dream Suite allows you to visit other towns that players have uploaded. To unlock the Dream Suite public works project, you must have completed one public works project before. You also must have accessed the game’s online features while playing. If these conditions are met, you’ll find Isabelle asleep in the town hall. Waking her up will cause her to suggest the Dream Suite as a new public works project.
Police Station (Classic / Modern): 264,000 Bells
- It’s rare, but at some point, a villager may inquire about installing a police station in town. The chances of this happening are completely random, so it may take a while before the option is presented to you. The police station collects items dropped around town and also informs you of any special visitors.
Café (The Roost): 298,000 Bells
- To unlock the option to build a Café, the museum renovation project must have been completed for at least one week. There must be 40 items donated to the museum as well. If these conditions are fulfilled, Blathers will add the Café to the list of public works projects.
Fortune-Teller’s Shop: 340,000 Bells
- Every once in a while, Katrina the fortune-teller will set up a tent in your town plaza. She will do this a maximum of once every week. If you have your fortune told at Katrina’s tent 20 times, the Fortune-Teller’s Shop public works project will be unlocked. It adds a permanent fortune-teller’s shop in a building on Main Street.
Reset Surveillance Center: 368,000 Bells
- The Reset Surveillance Center is a small manhole that can be placed in your town. Building this project enables Mr. Resetti to yell at you whenever you quit the game without saving. To unlock this project, all you need to do is quit the game without saving, and he’ll appear once and suggest that you rebuild the Reset Surveillance Center (which was apparently cut from the town’s budget prior to your arrival).
Town-Hall Renovation: 498,000 Bells
- Upon achieving a Perfect Town (which, if you’re just starting out, isn’t going to be possible for quite some time), you’ll unlock the option to renovate the town hall. You can refurbish the town hall to one of three styles: Japanese style, Fairy Tale style, and Modern style.
Train Station Renovation: 498,000 Bells
- In the same vein as the town hall renovation, it’s also possible to renovate the town’s train station. To unlock this option, more than 100 players must visit your town either via local wireless or online play. You can refurbish the train station to one of three styles: Japanese style, Fairy Tale style, and Modern style.
There are several other minor public works projects that villagers will occasionally suggest at random. These range from lamp posts to benches to piles of pipes to drilling rigs. Either way, public works projects will help your town to become livelier and more visually interesting.
In addition to public works projects, you can also enact a town ordinance. Only one ordinance can be active at a time, and enacting an ordinance costs 20,000 Bells. Once this fee is paid, the ordinance will take effect the next day. There are four different ordinances to choose from:
- Keep Town Beautiful ordinance: Most players choose to enact this ordinance. With the Keep Town Beautiful ordinance in effect, flowers will live forever (whereas they’d normally die if they aren’t watered every day), weeds will rarely grow, and you won’t see cockroaches infest your house if you don’t play the game for a few days.
- Early Bird ordinance: With the Early Bird ordinance in effect, citizens will wake up early and shops will open their doors earlier. If you only have time to play the game in the morning, this ordinance is perfect for you.
- Night Owl ordinance: With the Night Owl ordinance in effect, citizens will stay up late and shops will remain open later. If you have more time to play the game at night, this ordinance is perfect for you.
- Bell Boom ordinance: With the Bell Boom ordinance in effect, any items you sell will be worth more money. Your town’s economy will improve, and it’ll be easier for you to get rich quickly.
Town Shops & Services
There are many shops and services available to you in your town, some of which must be unlocked by meeting specific criteria.
- Re-Tail: Re-Tail is a recycling shop, and the only store not found on Main Street. In addition to being able to sell your goods, there’s also a flea market where townsfolk can sell their own items. Be sure to always sell your unwanted items to Re-Tail – if you sell them to the Nooklings, they won’t give you as good a price. With no time-affecting ordinances in effect, Re-Tail is open from 9 AM to 11 PM. With the Early Bird ordinance in effect, Re-Tail is open from 6 AM to 11 PM. With the Night Owl ordinance in effect, Re-Tail is open from 9 AM to 2 AM.
- Nookling Junction: Nookling Junction is a general store owned by Timmy and Tommy Nook. Their inventory changes each day, and you’ll want to check back often to see if they’re selling tools that could be useful to you – these include bug nets, fishing rods, and the like. Nookling Junction is open from 8 AM to 10 PM. With the Early Bird ordinance in effect, Nookling Junction is open from 6 AM to 10 PM. With the Night Owl ordinance in effect, Nookling Junction is open from 8 AM to 12 AM. After certain criteria are met, Nookling Junction can upgrade and change its name and appearance. We’ll touch more on how you can upgrade Nookling Junction later on in the guide.
- Able Sisters: Able Sisters is a clothing shop where you can buy shirts, pants, and hats. You can also create pro designs of your own for 500 Bells. Able Sisters is open from 10 AM to 9 PM. With the Early Bird ordinance in effect, Able Sisters opens three hours earlier. With the Night Owl ordinance in effect, it closes three hours later.
- Nook’s Homes: By now, you’ve already visited Nook’s Homes to get your new tent set up. You can return to Nook’s Homes to increase the size of your house, add new rooms, or redo its exterior. Nook’s Homes is open from 10 AM to 8 PM. With the Early Bird ordinance in effect, Nook’s Homes opens three hours earlier. With the Night Owl ordinance active, it closes three hours late.
- Garden Center: The Garden Center sells watering cans, axes, and flowers that you can use to further decorate and customize your town. To unlock the Garden Center, you must have pulled weeds, watered flowers, or planted saplings or flowers a combined total of at least 30 times. Once these criteria are met, Leif, the store’s owner, will build the Garden Center between Nookling Junction and the Able Sisters’ shop.
- Club LOL: Club LOL is a venue run by Dr. Shrunk. K.K. Slider, a famous musician, will perform songs there on certain nights. Once Nookling Junction has upgraded to T&T Mart (more on that in a bit), and you have achieved a 100% approval rating, Dr. Shrunk will come to your house with a petition that requires six signatures from your neighbors. Once the petition is complete, Club LOL will open in a building near Nook’s Homes.
- Kicks: Kicks is a simple store that sells socks and shoes. To begin the shop’s construction, spend at least 8,000 Bells at the Able Sisters’ store. Kicks will build his store (yes, the store owner’s name is also Kicks) directly next to the Able Sisters’. With no ordinances in effect, Kicks is open from 10 AM to 8 PM.
- Shampoodle: After Kicks has been built for 10 days, you can unlock Shampoodle. Shampoodle is a salon where you can cut and style your hair, as well as change the color of your eyes. Spend a total of 10,000 Bells in the Able Sisters’ or Kicks, and Harriet will build Shampoodle directly above the Able Sisters’.
Nookling Junction Upgrades
Nookling Junction starts out small but can upgrade four separate times. Each upgrade requires certain criteria to be met. When these criteria are met, the shop will close for a day to remodel. It will reopen a day later with a new name and appearance.
- Upgrade 1: T&T Mart: The first upgrade for Nookling Junction is called T&T Mart. To update Nookling Junction, you must first build your own house. Building a house costs 10,000 Bells. After constructing your home, you must spend at least 12,000 Bells at Nookling Junction. You can also upgrade the store by purchasing a total of 15 items or more.
- Upgrade 2: Super T&T: T&T Mart can be upgraded into Super T&T. To do this, you must have spent at least 25,000 Bells in the store. 10 days must also have passed since the Garden Center opened.
- Upgrade 3: T.I.Y. To upgrade Super T&T into T.I.Y., you must have spent 50,000 Bells at Super T&T. 21 days must also pass after building Super T&T. Once these criteria are met, Super T&T will merge with the Garden Center to form T.I.Y.
- Upgrade 4 (Final): T&T Emporium: T&T Emporium is the most difficult upgrade to access. In addition to spending 100,000 Bells and having 30 days pass since the opening of T.I.Y., you must also pass Gracie’s Fashion Check four times before the store upgrades.
As one final note here, we’re willing to help you if you want — feel free to join our Discord community! At the time of writing, not much is going in Animal Crossing: New Leaf anymore. New Horizons has – understandably so – almost completely overshadowed it, so if you’re playing that game you’re welcome to check out our full list of guides on it via the link below. Thank you!
If you would like to read more Animal Crossing guides, please follow this link.