Animal Crossing - GameCube

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Viewed: 3D Combination Genre:
Strategy: Management
Arcade origin:No
Developer: Nintendo Soft. Co.: Nintendo
Publishers: Nintendo (AU/GB)
Released: 24 Sept 2004 (GB)
Oct 2003 (AU)
Ratings: 3+, ESRB Everyone
Accessories: Memory Card


The premise for most videogames enables players to do things not normally possible in real life: firing shotguns into crowds willy-nilly, driving through residential areas at over 200 mph and so on. Animal Crossing, however, is a different creature altogether. This original Nintendo title embraces the mundane and banal, yet somehow manages to be a hugely appealing game.

The Animal Crossing adventure kicks off as the player arrives at the local train station of a randomly generated village. After acquainting yourself with the new cottage that awaits, your new life as a funny looking rag doll-type thing begins in earnest. As you wander around your new village community, you’ll bump into fellow residents (all animals, hence the title) who’ll be keen to stop and chat. Whilst some will give you hints as to exciting village events taking place in the near future, others will ask favours of you.

This is as close to a ‘normal’ video game as Animal Crossing ever gets, lending an almost mission-like structure to proceedings. However, when the favours involve helping an elderly hedgehog lady find a missing piece of furniture, you’ll appreciate that even these elements are a far cry from the usual. So too are the rewards. Instead of opening up further missions, the player will receive a gift for helping out fellow villagers. A gift, for instance, such as a chest of drawers or a shirt.

At its heart, that’s what Animal Crossing is all about: collecting gifts. The idea is to get your cottage looking as nice as possible, and keep the community vibe in full swing. To do this, you will need a little cash at your disposal. This is best earned by hunting and collecting various examples of the local flora and fauna. You can pluck wild fruit from trees and sell the produce; or indeed re-plant it and build your own orchard. You can chase butterflies and rare beetles with a net; donate unusual exhibits to the local museum or simply sell them at the local shop. You can even go fishing or dig for fossils on a spare afternoon.

It’s this sedate pace that makes the Animal Crossing experience an enjoyable one. The player is at liberty to pootle around, doing as they please. But because the game engine is powered by a real-time 24 hour clock, the game is always progressing, even when you’re busy trying to snag a particularly elusive breed of Cicada. If the village is looking picture-postcard perfect as time goes on, new villagers will arrive, offering the player further opportunity as a professional favour-doer.

However, because the state of Animal Crossing is constantly evolving, even when you’re asleep, keen players can develop on unhealthy obsession with the game. Indeed, it’s not unknown for Animal Crossing players to structure their real lives around the village timetable. If a bear has promised to serenade you with an acoustic guitar and a cheery song, at precisely 7.00 pm that evening, you’d better make sure you’re sitting comfortably in front of your Gamecube by that time, or it’s a lost opportunity.

Animal Crossing never really comes to a conclusion and could go on ad infinitum. Even after you’ve collected enough bugs, etc. to afford the maximum extensions to your cottage, it takes a while to fill it with bits of furniture and various pets. Even after that, there’s the option to customise clothing and wallpaper to your personal tastes. But best of all is the delicious Nintendo touch that lets players collect classic NES games to play in their cottage (or download to their GBA). Working hard to save up for a virtual copy of Excitebike or Dr Mario is a surprisingly rewarding experience.

Although the PAL version is two years late, it will still entice the more open-minded and young-at-heart gamer; and indeed, get European Nintendo fans familiar with the franchise in time for a Gamecube sequel, and perhaps most interestingly, an outing on the Nintendo DS.