For those unfamiliar with the series, you start the game on a train, headed to a village where you're planning on settling down. The game randomly generates villages, and you get to pick one that looks good. It also determines what you will look like through a series of questions presented to you by a cat. When you arrive in town in this game, there's some sort of mix-up and you become the mayor. You pick a spot for your house, and the characters in your village start explaining things. There's really no guide after that though. You can chose to build up your house, do different projects around the town, talk to other villagers, shop in the stores, etc. The more you do, the more options are presented to you.
The big hook of the game is that it runs on a real-world clock. That means if it's 4 pm in the real world, it's 4 pm in the game. The villagers go on and things happen even if you're not there. If you let the game go too long, you'll notice weeds and garbage around your town when you get back. You may even find some pesky roaches have moved in to your house. It's a good incentive to check in every day.
The game can get off to a slow start, for people that don't know the benefits of continuing on with the game. At first you have very limited options on what you can do, but as you build up different stores, locations, landmarks, and projects, the game becomes more rewarding, and collecting and unlocking various things becomes an obsession. It's kind of like The Sims I suppose, which I've also never found to be very appealing on paper, but once you get in to it it becomes almost a second life.
On the 3DS, the game looks and plays great. Even when visiting other players towns online, the game responds very well and keeps a great framerate. The online features are a welcome additions, and visiting other towns and collecting guest houses via Streetpass is one of my favourite things to do in this new version.
Overall, I can't say Animal Crossing is a game that's going to be fun to play like a Mario game is. I find it's good in short bursts, which is why I opted for the digital download version. It's always on my system, so when I'm finished playing something else, I can pop open Animal Crossing, check what I want to do for the day, then move on to another thing. I've been very impressed with the sheer amount of things that keep happening in this game, and I'd recommend it to anyone looking for a reason to keep their 3DS handy for the foreseeable future.