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Life Lessons: “Animal Crossing: New Leaf” Edition

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at CU Boulder chapter.

The “Animal Crossing” game series has been popular for a while now, especially with Gen-Z. I am sure we all know of “Animal Crossing: New Horizons”, the newest game in the series. It became popular because it was a game people played during the peak of COVID-19 in 2020—so popular, in fact, that Nintendo Switches were sold out at my local Target when I tried to pick one up. 

“New Horizons” is lovely. If you have not heard of it, it’s a game where your character is on a stranded island with a bunch of animal villagers. Together, you build homes and make use of resources to make the island a livable place.

However, as mentioned earlier, “New Horizons” is just one of many “Animal Crossing” games. “Animal Crossing” has released many games over the years, including: 

  • “Animal Crossing” (2001)
  • “Animal Crossing: Wild Wood” (2005)
  • “Animal Crossing: City Folk” (2008)
  • “Animal Crossing: New Leaf” (2012)
  • “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” (2020)

Don’t forget that there are various spin-offs in addition to the main games! My personal favorite is “Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer,” but there are others such as “Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp” and “Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival.”

My experience with the game

Most of my “Animal Crossing” experiences come from the fourth installment, “Animal Crossing: New Leaf.” I remember when I first heard about it in elementary school: when I saw the advertisement in a magazine, I knew right then and there that I had to get the game. 

At the time, “New Leaf” was available on a Nintendo 3DS. There was this knob on the side of the device, and if you pushed it to the top, the graphics turned 3D. It worked for any 3DS game, hence the name “3D” in the console. 

I remember opening the game for the first time. I was playing with my friend. One of the first graphics we saw was a cat (Rover) on a train, facing the player. He asked what my name was, and where I was headed. I had to come up with a name for my town, but I actually misspelled it. I wrote ‘Eygpt’ instead of ‘Egypt’ because I was going there to see family in a few weeks. Now that I think about it, it makes the town name unique!

The train comes to a stop, and I come face to face with a few villagers and my “advisor,” Isabelle. This character told me that I would be the new mayor of this village, so I got to make rules for everyone. 

Since my character had no belongings, I had to live in a tent until I paid my rent. If you’ve played any “Animal Crossing” game before, this may be familiar to you. There is a landlord named Tom Nook. This character can charge you for thousands of “Bells” (“Animal Crossing” currency) if you want to make upgrades to your house. This is called paying off home loans. I know upgrading your home is optional, but most players do so regardless. 

life lesson #1: be ready to pay large sums

During this time of my life, I was also watching gaming content creators online. Many of these gamers had progressed far enough in “New Leaf” that they had two-story homes with a basement, and many rooms on the ground floor. I was therefore determined to get to this level. According to Nookpedia, the official game Wiki page, there are different types of home loans depending on what game in the franchise you are playing. With the first loan, you can buy a house with one room. This was not so bad, I just had to pay 10K Bells. But the next one (expanding the room) was 98,000 Bells, and that actually took me a solid month. What about my second room (298,000 Bells)? It felt like an eternity. 

Over time, these loans kept building up, and I could not upgrade to a new expansion until I completed the previous loan. Oh, and since I was mayor, I was not just responsible for upgrading my house. I had to upgrade public places too. For instance, if I wanted to install public works projects, I would need to gather a lot of Bells. Villagers could donate on their own, but the contributions were small. Therefore, I had to do most of the work.

Most facilities would upgrade automatically with achievements unlocked, but you would need to spend a bunch of Bells for these upgrades to work. Tom Nook’s twin mentees, Timmy and Tommy, had a shop of their own, which can always be upgraded in name and size. In the beginning, it was called Nook’s Cranny. For each store, you have to spend thousands of Bells for a new upgrade. 

Let’s say you wanted to upgrade Nook’s Cranny to T&T Mart (a store with more items for sale). You would have to spend 12,000 Bells. For T&T Mart to upgrade to Super T&T, you had to spend 25,000 Bells. This process keeps going with new stores until the final stage is reached: T&T Emporium. It’s an epic place if I do say so myself. There are many things sold, from furniture to plants to clothes, all in one place.

life lesson #2: pick up side hustles for cash

This money doesn’t come out of the sky in “New Leaf,” or from trees, unlike in “New Horizons.” So where does the money come from? I’ll tell you the secret: becoming a merchant. 

I’m exaggerating! There is no such thing as a merchant in this game. What I mean is that you have to sell a ton of things to get money for them. Most of the time, I sold fruit that grew on the trees (cherries are my town’s native fruit), seashells on the beach, extra furniture/clothes I didn’t need, etc… As for fruit, any non-native fruit (in my case, anything but a cherry) can be grown in the town and sold for more Bells (less than 100 Bells a piece. You can also combine fruits into baskets with up to nine fruits. You can repeat this for as much storage as you have available.. The most I have ever gotten from selling my things was 16,000 Bells! If you want to get non-native species such as fruit or plants, you will eventually be able to take a ride to Tortimer Island

I also fished a lot. You can fish in rivers, lakes, and oceans. Very rarely, I saw a fish outline with a fin sticking out. It took some time to catch the fish, but it was a shark! Sharks are worth 15,000 Bells. I would need at least seven of them to get over 100K in revenue. 

One easy way to make thousands of Bells is by collecting fossils. They respawn every day in new spots. When you dig one out of the ground (find a star-like patch), it’s an indigo disk with white carvings in it. That alone sells for 1K Bells. But for more profit, go get the fossil analyzed by the town’s historian, Blathers. He will let you know if the fossil is new. If so, you have the choice to build a fossil collection in the town’s museum. If that’s not your jam, then it can be returned to you once it’s identified. Then it turns into a dinosaur skull and crossbones and your pocket. Then you can sell it. Fossils can be worth a lot more than 1K, but only if they are classified by Blathers. 

As a mayor, I was able to enforce an ordinance called Bell Boom, where the value of all items increased by 1.2% from the original price (2% for premium items). Unfortunately, this means when buying items, the price goes up 1.2-2%. 

I sold some items, mostly to a shop called Re-Tail because it gave me better deals than whatever shop Timmy and Tommy were running at the time. Re-Tail is a business run by a husband and wife duo who upcycle unwanted furniture/clothes/whatever. They could also be customized and put up for sale to villagers (price should be reasonable), and vice versa. 

There are also rocks around town. If you hit the rock many times, you can get around 16,000 Bells! These rocks respawn daily. Also, you could occasionally find a gold nugget. If so, you could use a few of them to furnish gold furniture, but for the sake of earning money, you can sell them for up to 4K bells. Pro tip: dig some holes behind you when digging because your character moves each time you strike a rock. 

We need all the money we can get to afford large homes like this!

Life lesson #3: Watch out for scams

I saw this mysterious tent with a golden bust on it. When I walked in, I saw a gallery full of paintings and statues. And then I met the shop owner himself – Redd. The name of this gallery was called Crazy Redd’s. He was selling all kinds of art from paintings to statues, all of which are based on real artworks (under different names in the game). I remember having a replica of the “Nike” statue (the one with wings) and putting it in my house. Once I learned you could donate art to the museum, I bought a painting (which I can no longer remember).

When I gave it to Blathers, he looked shocked and told me he had “grave news”: the art was fake, so he was not going to accept this into the museum, and gave me the art back. I was mad at him because I thought he was being salty. I paid a fortune of almost 4,000 Bells! But then I realized that he was telling the truth. The painting was slightly altered from the original in real life. So I found this guide which breaks down each piece of in-game artwork available, with what’s real and what’s fake. By the way, some art can be just genuine without looking closely for details. The sunflower painting by Vincent van Gogh is one of them! I actually got it as a gift from a villager named Cesar, but I donated it to the museum. 

Redd in real life

so where are we today?

I have moved on to playing “New Horizons” more because it is a trendier game, but I still fawn over “New Leaf”. This is where my “Animal Crossing-hood” came to be! I still have my 3DS with the game loaded onto it, but I have not touched it in years. Maybe I will go back to playing it someday. After all, my town “Eygpt” just turned 9 years old this past summer. 

Jazzy Tung

CU Boulder '27

Jazzy Tung is a writer for Her Campus at University of Colorado Boulder (HCCU), and is a part of its social media team. This is her first year being a Her Campus member. She is so excited to be joining the HC team! Jazzy has always loved being involved with school media: in middle and high school, she was on the yearbook team. In her junior year of high school, she attended the National Student Leadership Conference in Washington D.C. (American University) for communication studies. That only fueled her love for journalism even more! She was also the president of her high school's Creative Writing Club. Currently, she is currently a freshman at the University of Colorado Boulder, who is majoring in journalism and planning to minor in international relations. She can't wait for the new adventures that college takes her through. Outside of school, Jazzy has a variety of interests. For example, she enjoys playing board and card games like UNO, spending time with friends and family, and surfing the internet for any interesting topic. Jazzy also has a large collection of notebooks in her room, most of which are from previous school years, that she saves in case she wants to write anything and everything later on. One of Jazzy's favorite hobbies, though, is stationery! She loves collecting pens, highlighters, sticky notes, and stickers.