Happy Thanksgiving to everyone in America [and a belated Happy Thanksgiving to Canada]! You're probably going to be with family a lot over the holidays, so I'm going to review a classic Gamecube game that you can show everyone. Every now and then, we need a break from all the action that most games give us. We need a break from the high-octane power fantasies that are most prevalent in gaming today, and simply try something more soothing. We just need something to calm our nerves. I heard someone say once [although I don't quite remember who] that Animal Crossing is not just relaxing; it's practically healing, which is why it is good that games like it exist. Animal Crossing fills a much-needed gap in the gaming world, and it is appreciated for that. So, what exactly makes Animal Crossing not just a good game, but a necessary game?
Animal Crossing is a Life Simulator, in the same vein as titles like Harvest Moon or The Sims. You go about the game day-to-day, talking with neighbors, collecting items/furniture, making money, decorating your house, etc. There's always something to do, so you're sure not to get bored for some time. The game was first advertised as "the game that keeps playing, even when you're not", and it really lives up to that idea. Everything in the game happens in real-time, so when the sun rises/sets in real life, it will probably also do so in the game. Certain activities are only available at certain times on certain days, while many very rare events happen randomly, in which case, you just have to keep looking for them every day. Holidays in Animal Crossing generally involve some sort of festival in which every member of the community participates. It's actually quite fun to play on these days; some of the outcomes of festivals may even get you a really rare item. And therein lies the core of the gameplay; item collection. Your ultimate "goal" in Animal Crossing is to pay off your debts, expand your house, and decorate it. There are other goals to accomplish, such as completing every entry in the town museum, but as I said, the main goal is to make your house awesome. There are hundreds of different items and pieces of furniture to collect, and you can make your house look like whatever your imagination and pocketbook will allow. You can even collect miniature NES systems that include certain games, which is a really nice touch. Some items can only be obtained through extensively complicated and difficult means [more than one has you participate in an event on the Animal Crossing website!], but usually these items are really interesting and fun. As with all Life Sim games, Animal Crossing is extremely addictive, meaning you can easily log months of game time in, seeing everything the game has to offer. Also, when you're done in your town, you can visit a friend's town, too. All you need is their memory card, and you can visit, meet your friend's neighbors, check what is available in their shop, etc. These things add infinite replay value to the game [if you could call it replay value; the game never really ends]. Animal Crossing also features a certain level of multiplayer; up to 4 players can live in the same town, so if you'll forgive the horrendously-overused cliche, it really is a game for the whole family. I do wish Nintendo would have incorporated direct online features into the game. The Gamecube needed to prove its worth in this area very badly during its life, and it was never utilized very well. A feature where you could download new holidays, events, items, or neighbors would have been a great feature, and would have given the game even more play time, and always give you something new to do. The sequel, Animal Crossing: Wild World for the DS had online functionality, but only to visit other player's towns in multiplayer. This was still a great idea, but I just wish it, along with the DLC, would have been with the series from the start. It would be the final piece in the puzzle of a truly living, breathing world in your 'Cube.
In Animal Crossing, you play as [insert name here], a new citizen in the quiet town of [insert name here]. As you progress though the game, you meet new neighbors, such as [various] or the ever-cheerful [to be determined]. Okay, enough with that joke. As you can see, a lot of the game's story is either nonexistent, random, or player-determined. The only things that remain predetermined are certain NPCs that stay in town regardless of what events happen, like the extortionist asshole shopkeeper, Tom Nook [to whom you must pay back your SUBSTANTIAL house debt], the incredibly lazy museum curator, Blathers, and the absolute bane of my existence, Resetti, an unbelievably long-winded mole that shows up every single time you neglect to save your game, and whose lectures get exponentially longer and more irritating each time you do so. Your normal neighbors are much more manageable, and are actually nice to you. There's really not much else to say about the story in the game; there is none. This doesn't mean that the Life Sim genre is universally devoid of story, though. Certain games in the Harvest Moon series have completely demolished this barrier. Once again, a game like this doesn't need a story, because the gameplay is more than enough. I'm starting to sound like a broken record, aren't I?
I'm going to be honest; I din't like the music in Animal Crossing. It came across as bland, repetitive, and even irritating at times. The sequel's music was actually much better, and conveyed a more soothing, pleasant tone. I don't know what happened with the Gamecube version, though. The whole thing just feels wrong. It feels like Nintendo wanted to create an almost comical effect with the audio, but it really falls flat for such a slow-paced game. The one good thing I will say is that each tune seems to fit the situation well; they are just for the most part not very good songs. There a few nice ones in there, like the rainy day song, which I posted here, but overall, it's just not very good. As I said, the music in Wild World is leaps and bounds better, so don't get too discouraged. Nintendo should have gone back and taken another look on what this series is really about to make good music for it. As it stands, the music is mostly tolerable, but certainly not great.
Animal Crossing actually originally debuted on the Nintendo 64 in Japan, where it was called Doubutsu no Mori, translated into Animal Forest. There were several differences between Forest and Crossing, but the core game remained the same. The good news was that Animal Forest was a really great-looking N64 game, which translated into a good-looking Gamecube game. Also, the updated Gamecube version supports 480p, a higher resolution than the N64 version offered. But realism isn't everything. Far from it; the best thing about the game's graphics is its charming art style. Everything in the game is presented in a cartoony fashion, with basic, pastel textures and definite angles, which are all very easy on the eyes. While the game failed in finding suitable audio, it greatly succeeds in a suitable art style. Some of the objects in the game, particularly background objects, are in 2D, which help even more with the game's aesthetic. While the game's graphics won't blow you away, they certainly fit the gameplay like a glove.
I mentioned before that there are a bunch of neat easter eggs in Animal Crossing, like the collectible NES games, for example. There is a bunch of hidden furniture to collect, which gives you a real sense of accomplishment when you collect a whole set. There is also an island that you can visit off the coast of your town, which can only be accessed on a Game Boy Advance via a Gamecube-to-GBA Link Cable. It's a nice little bonus feature, and there are some special items that can only be obtained on the island, so if you want to get something really rare, you might have to hook up your GBA. There's another function that the GBA has in the game, though. You can use the E-Reader device for the system, and scan cards on it to unlock even more things in the game. While the E-Reader may have been a commercial flop, it is still a cool idea, and demonstrates Nintendo's resourcefulness. There is so much to unlock in this game that I don't think anyone has ever legitimately unlocked everything. Even if it has been done, it might take a couple years of play. You're really going to get your money's worth with Animal Crossing. Speaking of which, the game is currently $10 at Gamestop; not too shabby.
Animal Crossing is not meant to be a game that is played constantly [although many people do so]; it is meant to be played in short bursts, and is designed around that style. It is a game that you can put countless cumulative hours into, perfecting and completing everything over time. Nintendo really made a good move in localizing this oddball title, because it is really something unique and fun. Of course, it has now become a lucrative series, but it was a bit of a risk back when it was first released. I can now honestly say that this is one of the 'Cube's best time-wasters, and is a joy to play. If you haven't tried Animal Crossing before, you should probably try Wild World first, but the Gamecube version holds up well, too.
This is Lisalover1, and I know you cried a little at that last image.