updated 6/13/2013 11:45:28 AM ET 2013-06-13T15:45:28

Nintendo has certainly become known for its popular franchises over the years, including "The Legend of Zelda," "Super Smash Bros." and, of course, the "Mario Bros." games. But one series that has picked up tremendously since its inception back in 2002 is "Animal Crossing" — a sort of mini “SIM City.” With the latest version, "Animal Crossing: New Leaf," just released for 3DS (and likely later for Wii U), the franchise should continue to grow in popularity.

"Animal Crossing" puts you in the middle of a quiet virtual village, where you play as a young, cartoonlike character and interact with the town's inhabitants, including both humans and walking, talking animals. These characters tend to display certain personalities that grow on you, whether it's the snarky, advice-spewing gopher Mr. Resetti; the helpful salesman (well, sales raccoon) Tom Nook; or the guitar-carrying dog musician K.K. Slider. [See also: E3: ‘ Disney Infinity’ and ‘Skylanders’ Combine Toys and Games ]

Players establish their virtual lives however they see fit, whether it's buying accessories for their character, or purchasing a house and sprucing it up with landscaping and furniture. And a number of activities can keep players busy, whether it's fishing, visiting the local "Club LOL" nightclub (with Slider at the deejay table) or interacting with the message boards around town.

"Animal Crossing" runs in real time. So if it's nighttime where you are, it'll be evening in the game as well. Holidays also coordinate within the city, so don't be surprised to see Christmas trees in December.

"Animal Crossing: New Leaf" takes the development of your world one step further. You've now moved up to the role of mayor, where you can not only decide on your own home, but also build necessities around the town (like a new bakery or police station), and even set the hours of business, depending on what time of day you play the game.

“New Leaf” benefits from a very easy control style. It’s a breeze getting around the virtual city and visiting its many inhabitants and locations, and creating buildings isn’t a difficult process at all — you simply choose your spot and get to work. With something new around the corner — literally, at times, with items in the distance coming into view as you walk up to them — it’s a game that will keep you transfixed for hours on end.

Multiplayer interaction has also gone up tremendously in "New Leaf." Friends can hop on with you, either locally or through Nintendo Network, to engage in minigames or share city plans with you, so you can see how your town is flourishing compared to theirs. From the sessions we’ve had with the game, we’ve run into no problems connecting with the Nintendo Network and interacting with friends.

Anticipation for "New Leaf" has been quite high among fans and new 3DS owners alike. It'll probably only be a matter of time before "Animal Crossing" makes its debut on Nintendo's new Wii U console. For now, though, if you have a 3DS, you should definitely pay this portable version a visit. You might be surprised just how much of a life you can establish in a few short hours.

"Animal Crossing: New Leaf" is available now as both a retail release and digital download for the Nintendo 3DS, priced at $34.99.

Follow Robert Workman@TheDCD. Follow TechNewsDaily@TechNewsDaily onFacebook  orGoogle+.

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