2013 in Review: How I Built a Life Worth Returning to in Animal Crossing: New Leaf

2013 in Review: How I Built a Life Worth Returning to in Animal Crossing: New Leaf

For a game about nothing in particular, Animal Crossing: New Leaf manages to create a remarkably engrossing world -- one that remains inviting half a year later.

As Rocket stepped from his home into the crisp wintery air, the only sign that he'd been hiberating for nearly four months was the fact that he was still wearing a summer hat. No one wears a straw boater hat in the snow, but here he was, a man out of time and out of fashion.

"At least the unseasonable topper means no one can see my bedhead," he thought to himself.

Oddly, the mailman -- well, mail pelican -- was waiting for him as he emerged from his home for the first time in more than a season. Crazy coincidence, Rocket wondered? Or had the guy been laying in wait all this time? God knows there's probably not much work for a postman in a town with ten residences and half a dozen businesses.

The pelican made his delivery -- some kind of note from someone named "Nintendo" -- and scampered away, leaving Rocket to take stock of the changes that had sprung up in his wake. There was one other piece of mail in his mailbox: A farewell letter from muscleheaded aardvark Antonio. Surprisingly, that was all. No other notices, no tearful farewells from other disgruntled neighbors.

Aside from the new-fallen snow and the occasional string of Christmas lights adorning some of the town's pine trees, the town of Telebuni was almost exactly as Rocket had left it. The brick footpaths he had laid down to interconnect the town's residences and create natural thoroughfares to points of interest remained, poking clearly through the snow. So too were the hundreds of flowers and shrubs he had arranged in neat rows lining each foot path. Not a single flower appeared to be missing, nor did he see a single one that had wilted. On the contrary, there were more flowers than ever around town -- interesting hybrids that had spawned from the countless clusters beautifying Telebuni.

Antonio aside, the town's residents remained in their old homes. They'd clearly missed Rocket, though, having noticed his absence.

And they had some awfully colorful theories about his whereabouts these past months.

Some theories being more outlandish than others.

Some residents took Rocket's absence a little personally.

But generally they were quite pleased to see his return.

Old friendships were restored in short order.

And, inexplicably, the strange rooster woman named Broffina, who had moved out of Telebuni months ago only to suddenly reappear as a permanent wanderer in the shopping district, was still living her vagrant life outside the businesses.

In the spirit of the season, he gave her a brand new shilling.

"Ooh, shiny." She cocked her head to give it a careful examination before attempting to eat it. Rocket sighed.

Yes, despite his long absence, Telebuni had changed very little -- for better and for worse. Rocket was hardly surprised to see the public works project he had initiated before his disappearance -- a bold new Moai head to lend a little Gradius charm to the place -- had made no real progress in his absence. The other residents had barely contributed a single Bell to the endeavor.

Rocket considered contributing the hefty interest that had built up on his bank account in the ensuing months, but after a little more thought decided to apply it to his most recent home expansion. The people of Telebuni deserved a fancy new Moai head a lot less than he deserved a bigger upstairs bedroom.

It took Rocket no time at all to clean up the few bits of untidy foliage scattered around the town. A pair of shrubs he had planted too close to a fence a few months back had failed to take root, so he removed them. The patches of clover that had sprouted on the grass around Telebuni, on the other hand, he decided to leave. Even if they'd grown a bit dry in the cold air, they added a nice bit of variety to the scenery.

Rocket found himself truly surprised by how comfortable he felt returning to Telebuni after so much time away. His previous residences had always gone to seed and quickly been abandoned when he took even a short time away, but this town was different. The village's plucky administrative secretary, Isabelle, mentioned that she had been working hard in Rocket's absence, and maybe that made the difference. Then again, maybe it was the fact that Rocket had established a "clean town" ordinance that required residents to weed the place and otherwise keep it tidy. Funny how forcing them to maintain the town's image also keep them from moving out. Maybe, Rocket mused, working for something is the key to properly appreciating it.

And, really, that was true of his own relationship with Telebuni. After investing so many months into landscaping the town and reshaping it to his own specifications, returning felt easy. Comfortable. Telebuni was his town, built to suit his tastes. The change of seasons brought with it a number of new interests to explore, too -- snowmen to build, new bugs to collect, twinkling lights on the trees, and the serenity of a nighttime snowfall. For a town where so little happened, Telebuni certainly offered no end of reasons to stick around.

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