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Animal Crossing

Developer: Nintendo | Publisher: Nintendo
Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 09/15/02 | Genre: Simulation

Back at E3, Nintendo showcased Animal Crossing as one of their premier GameCube titles for fall. I wasn’t impressed by their promotional video or of any of the gameplay I witnessed during the show. Instead, I stood in awe of the other first party titles like Zelda, Mario, Starfox, Mario Part, Metroid, and Eternal Darkness. However, quietly in the background, I missed out on one of the most surprising titles of the year--Animal Crossing.

Animal Crossing is a game that contains no action, no violence, no levels to gain, no princess to save, and nothing to accomplish other than decorating your house, writing letters, running errands for other animals, and paying off your mortgage. Sound boring? That is exactly what I thought. In fact, I almost wrote off this game completely after a few hours of play. Here is why...

At the beginning of Animal Crossing, you have to name your town, your character, and your gender. After this is done, you take a train to the town to start a life of your own. Unfortunately, that means you must get a mortgage on a place to live. Your house is almost empty--with only a stereo and a notepad at your disposal. After examining your house, you must then go work for the local store in order to make some bells (money in Animal Crossing). However, this job is short-lived. You must then work on your own to pay off your mortgage, gain possessions for your house, and make a life for yourself in your town.

Most of the fun in Animal Crossing comes from the non-linear gameplay. There are no “realâ€? goals in this title. You can spend your time in the game world doing whatever you wish. If that means you want to go hunting for dinosaur fossils, fishing, catching bugs, running errands for other people in town writing letters, or even visiting your friend’s town, you can do it all. Better yet, Animal Crossing takes place in real time. Once you set the clock in the game, if you log in at 6:30 AM on a Saturday morning, more than likely, everyone will be asleep in the game world. Also, the shop you can buy and sell items at will be closed too. If you log in during the different seasons of the year, you will see the town’s surroundings change. For example, in the winter, there will be snow and the graphics will change to a frigid environment. In the fall, there will be weeds growing up and leaves falling. This helps add to the realism that the game you are playing is similar to the surroundings you are actually in.

Graphically, Animal Crossing is everything you would expect from a Nintendo game. The graphics are bright and cute. While none of the characters or environments are extremely detailed, Animal Crossing was originally a Nintendo 64 game that was redone for the GameCube. However, one nice element is that the characters in the game world blink and move their lips to the words they are speaking. While the characters don’t speak English, their mouths move perfectly to the strange animal dialect they speak. So while the graphics aren’t going to blow anyone away, that isn’t what Animal Crossing is about.

The heart of the gameplay in Animal Crossing is communication. Whether it is speaking to other animals in the town, writing letters to them or to fellow players in the game (more on this later), or leaving bulletin board messages, you will spend the majority of your gaming time communicating in one way or another. When writing a letter or leaving a bulletin board message, Nintendo has set up some very easy controls to do this. Although having a keyboard would be easier, by using the control stick, you can select the letters you want to use. Pressing A types it onto the screen. You can also use the R button to create a space or hit B to backspace. Besides letters and numbers, there are a special characters that can be used to further customize your message. After you have finished writing a letter, you must bring it to the post office (which just happens to be open 24 hours a day) so it will be mailed. However, the mail is only sent out certain times during the day… so don’t expect your message to be sent out immediately.

Like I mentioned above, more than one person can join in the world of Animal Crossing. Using the Memory Card 65 that is included with the game, you can store a world for yourself and up to three other people. The only drawback to this is that only one person can be in the world at a time. However, this can be a springboard for families to leave messages for each other and interact within the game world. If more than four people want to play Animal Crossing on one system, you will need another memory card with 65 blocks free. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to interact in the same world with each other. But you can visit each other’s world if you have access to their memory card by traveling on the train. Once there, you can interact in the new town, visit the houses, and even communicate with all of the residents.

Nintendo is using Animal Crossing to draw attention to the GameCube GBA Link cable and the e-Reader have created demand for two great products. In Animal Crossing, players use the GBA link cable to hook up to the GameCube in order to download perfect NES ROMS to their GBA. In addition, you can also play these NES games on the GameCube if your GBA is not handy. However, once you turn off the GBA, the game will be lost until it is downloaded again.

Players can also use the link cable and design clothing for your character at the tailor shop. This will cost a small number of bells--but will provide you with totally unique clothing to showcase your sense of fashion.

To further draw gamers into Animal Crossing, you can use the e-Reader to unlock special items within the game. These range from special pieces of furniture, to music, and more. Currently, there is only one e-Reader card available that will provide you with an extra song that can be played in your boombox at your house. Soon Nintendo will release a line of e-Reader cards that should retail for around $4.95 each. This will ensure future enhancements to Animal Crossing will be available to gamers who have a GBA and the e-Reader.

Animal Crossing is an addictive adventure in a world with no action and no violence. It is perfect for gamers who want to experience a different type of console game or families that want to have a gaming experience together. With the addition of the e-Reader and the link cable, Nintendo has a way to keep the popularity of Animal Crossing for a long time. Now if you don’t mind, I have a mortgage to pay off and some letters to write in Animal Crossing. I hope to see you there soon!

By Kaleb Rutherford - 10/07/02
ESRB Details: No Descriptors
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Screenshots for Animal Crossing

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