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Animal Crossing Package Art
†GENRE
††Communication
†DEVELOPER
††Nintendo
†PUBLISHER
††Nintendo
†NUMBER OF PLAYERS
††1-4
†CONNECTIVITY
††yes
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Animal Crossing

Back when the N64 was getting ready to fully succumb to the pressures of the market, Nintendo managed to pull off a final unique addition to their own wide array of games. Unless you havenít been paying attention so far, you should know that I am talking about Animal Forest. Word soon spread that this game was to be released in the states, but instead of a direct port Nintendo started working on a upgrade, Animal Forest +, for the GCN. A few months of translating, a few new additions to the US version, and a name change, and Animal Crossing for the GCN was finally born.

There is no linear story in this game. Instead, they let the game fall into your own hands after a brief introduction. You start out on a train, headed to (insert village name here). A helpful cat you meet on the train, named Rover, calls up the local merchant in that town, Tom Nook, and they get you settled into a rather shanty looking shack. Of course, they expect you to pay off the loan, so your primary concern is to scrounge up enough currency, called bells, to upgrade your house. From there on, itís more upgrades, NES playing, fishing, and an array of other activities for you to do.

visuals

The graphics are suitable. The game essential looks like an updated port of the N64 version. Bright and dark colors mash as the seasons and days change, and it all adds to the general feel of cartoon realism in the game. You run around on an isometric map and talk to the other creatures running around. Characters are exaggerated; they have giant heads that are a little bigger than their bodies, and most have large eyes.

There isnít an excessive amount of detail in the game, unless youíre looking at some of the furniture and wallpaper designs. Some of the designs for the clothes are appalling, and there really are only a few that are wicked enough to wear. Good thing you get to design your own walls, floors, clothes, signs, windows, and umbrellas.

audio

The music in AC is great. For each hour of the day, a new song plays. Sometimes when you wake up in the middle of the night and pop the game in, you might be surprised to hear a song you never even heard before. If youíre not a morning person, youíll miss out on some really great music. Whatís even better than that is the inclusion of a ďboom box.Ē On Friday nights at 8, you can collect songs from a certain singing dog down at the railroad station, plug it in at home, and listen to the song you just picked up. Unfortunately, they didnít add a portable Walkman or boom box to the game, so you canít listen to these songs outside of your house.

Sound effects are pretty cool, and there are plenty of them. At the beginning of the game, you can choose for your animals to speak Animalese, which is like babbled English (they actually sound out the words), Bebebese, which is just the same sound repeated (Bebebe), or Silence, where they donít make any sound at all. There are sound effects that accentuate how they are feeling. Sometimes when you make them mad, they will even yell at you. Then there are the sounds the bugs make, the sounds of the shovel hitting different surfaces, the voices of each of the different animalsÖ there are some really nice audio touches in the game.

gameplay

The game is best described as a life sim, with emphasis on item collection. You take control of this bigheaded guy (or girl) and you run around a town making friends, playing tricks, and earning money. Of course, you want to make friends with your neighbours, so you can talk to them and answer questions they ask to learn more about them, yourself, and upcoming events. The game is customizable to your needs; if the shop isnít big enough for you, shop a lot and it will grow. Don't have a net? One will pop up soon enough so you can run around and catch bugs, adding them to the local museum if you wish. There are options to fish, you can collect seashells and fruit, and you can even weed your property. There is a lot of maintenance to be done at first.

One of the main aspects of the gameplay is the ability to collect items. You can get items by talking to the other animals until they swindle you out of your money, trade with you, or just give you an item. Each time you talk to them, you have the option to ask about a job also. They will usually tell you to go fetch an item from another animal, and you will be rewarded for doing so, though it isnít worth it to get an item to/from an animal that has moved away. For that, they added a wishing well where you can give it items you donít/canít return. You can put the items you collect in your house and move them around, even interact with some of them. Sometime after the first day, you will be able to join up with the Happy Room Academy, where they judge your house and give you points based on how well things are organized, the rarity of the items, and how much each item costs. Itís not a big thing to worry about though; just design your room the way you want it.

If you grow bored of that, you can always write letters. You obtain stationary from animals or from Tom Nook, and then you can sit down and write whatever you wish. They needed to work on this part a little more as animals often get confused. It is best to write small letters with the simplest words you can think of. Otherwise they will complain about how long and complicated it was, and send you an angry letter in return. Donít worry though; they never feel resentment for you for longer than a few minutes, no matter how bad you treat them.

There are a few new additions to the US version of the game. There are a few sets of items that are unique (like the lawn set) and they included some extra options with the GBA. Unfortunately, they might have ended up taking out a password system that was in the Japanese version, where you mail a few characters to any animal, and you get a rare NES game like Super Mario Bros. and even the Legend of Zelda. A NOA representative mentioned that they might hold contests so people could win these gems, but nothing has been confirmed so far.

Special things happen during different days. If you talk to the town mayor on, say, Halloween, he will often give you a very special present. Sometimes strangers will wander into your town, giving you a fortune, a job, or items. Of course, a calendar really helps out as you can plan ahead when to talk to the mayor or look out for special happenings. Another good idea would be to check the local bulletin board to find out what is going on in your town.

Finally, a very big part of the game has to do with the GBA and linkup cable. Yes, you can earn NES games, even though they are rather sparse. You can play them in Animal Crossing, or put them on your GBA and play them there. You can also design patterns in-game, or you can download a program to make your own patterns on the GBA. With the e-reader you can scan in designs, music, and other goodies. Also, you can access a special island with the GBA where you control your character more like a virtual pet and can get goodies and extra cash that way.

multiplayer

While there is multiplayer in this game, it isnít simultaneous. You can have up to 4 different characters in one town, but only one at a time, and you can also go over to other characterís towns by inserting a friendís memory card into slot B and taking a rather tedious train ride. That way you can check out their shop, mess with their characters, dig up all of their flowers, or do whatever else you want to do while saving the sanctity of your own town.

overall

This series has great potential and hopefully they will work on this type of game again. Having played this game for a relatively long time, I have to warn that even though you will get your moneyís worth and many, many hours of play, it does end up getting very tedious after a couple of weeks. Thereís only so many times you can hear the animals talk about their picnics, or about your bee stings. The train ride is probably the worst because there are only a handful of conversations that can take place. It would have been nice for them to put in more mini-games, like a simple soccer game or even a betting game, but that didn't happen. If you bore easily, you might want to wait for the next game in the ďSimsĒ series. But if you need a game you can play for 20 or 30 minutes at a time, stop stalling and pick up this unique game.

dojo doubletake
I love Animal Crossing, for the one reason that itís one of the first games Iíve played, that hasnít forced me to do stuff. With other games, you turn it on, and youíre given a bunch of objectives to complete. Whether itís blowing up an ammunition dump, or collecting a shine, or earning a gold medal, thereís always a set of linear paths that youíre forced to go through throughout the game. What usually happens with these games is that by the time youíre two thirds through it, youíve had enough, and youíre just putting in time to see the ending. Animal Crossing has no objectives. That is not to say that thereís nothing to do, quite the contrary, the game is filled with millions of things to do, however, no oneís forcing you to do them. Letís say that one day thereís a festival going on in town, you could choose to ignore it, and go fishing the whole day. Itís completely up to you.

Other games have tried to create this feel of freedom before, but none have done it so perfectly as Animal Crossing. In Harvest Moon (A farming sim), you were given the choice of doing what you want all day, but the consequences for doing that were too severe. Animal Crossing is the video game equivalent to Seinfeld. Itís a game about nothing. What did you do today? I got up, visited the townsfolk, caught a butterfly, and now Iím here. The fun, and the beauty of this game, is that youíre not Ďforcedí to play a game, rather, live through an experience. In the end, it comes down to wanting to play the game. Thatís what makes it so special. I had a choice of a few games to play yet I always found myself putting Animal Crossing underneath the purple lid, and having a blast with it. Pure Nintendo magic! 9.2/10

-- Casey Reece



final score 8.9/10





WRITER INFORMATION
Staff Avatar Ty Massei
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"Mother 3 (Earthbound 2): Proof that Nintendo cares about it's fans."


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