Animal Crossing isn’t actually a new game. About two years ago it appeared in Japan and the US where it sold incredibly well. Fans demanded a European version but always got to hear the excuse that it would take too long to translate. Pretty strange, seeing that the only available language in the game is English and that that sounds pretty familiar with that one language they speak in Europe. But anyway, Europeans now finally get the chance to play the game and it’s up to me to say whether it’s worth anything.
When you start a new game, you end up in a train where a fellow traveller addresses you. He asks your name, the city you’re going to and a whole bunch of other questions. Depending on the answers you give, your appearance gets set up.
A little later, I arrive as “Bruno” in my city, “Fragland”. Each city is unique; animals, fruit, … even the map differs from city to city.
One thing that remains is Tom Nook, the local salesman who, at the beginning of the game, helps you get a house. However, since you don’t have enough money, you’ll need to do some things to pay him.
That’s the only bit of storyline Animal Crossing has. For the rest it all depends up to you. There are no people in the village but animals and the idea is that you get a good relationship with them. You can do this by chatting with or doing stuff for them.
These chars quickly become monotone and boring as they’re almost always the same. Get back an item someone loaned to someone else. In return you’ll get money, furniture, and other things to lighten up your house.
You can also write letters to the inhabitants of the town to sustain your contacts but they don’t always react as they should. An acquaintance of mine said something about the weather in his letter and the day afterwards, the recipient also started about that. When I on the other hand said something like “I hate you, I never want to see you again”, the recipient remained happy as ever (maybe has something to do with you – ed.).
Next to socialising and doing chars, there’s plenty of other stuff to do. Luckily, as the animals start to get bored if you talk with them too much.
In each town there are some fixed buildings.
Let’s start with the police office. Here you can take all lost objects, whether they’re yours or not. They have no clue who they belong to so they don’t really seem to care.
There’s also a clothing store where you can design your own pattern to afterwards use it for your clothes or umbrella.
The Wishing Well is where you can check the status of the town. When you maintain is well – make sure there’s enough flowers, trees, and such – more animals will come to live in it. You can also apologise there if you had to deliver an item to someone but couldn’t because that person left to another town.
The most interesting building is the museum. Here you can deposit fossiles, captured fish or insects, or also paintings. This increases the attractiveness of your city.
Next to it you’ve got Tom Nook’s store, the post office and the garbage dump.
In your search for the hundreds of items you can ask for help from your friends. You can have Tom Nook generate a code which you have to pass on to a friend so that he gets the item in possession. That way you can collect things that aren’t present in your town like for instance fruit which you can afterwards plant to set up a big farm and make loads on money. Also complete NES games can be found like Donkey Kong, Excitebike, Clu Clu Land and others.
The most fun about this game is that it uses the Cube’s internal clock. In the game a day lasts exactly 24 hours, it gets dark when it does that in real life, seasons are present and holidays aswell as your own birthday are celebrated. In short: it’s a complete second life. You can check out your watch and see that it’s ten hour, realising that’s the time the shop in Animal Crossing closes.
That gameplay is the more important than graphics is something we already knew but that doesn’t mean the latter may be forgotten. The images in this game are the worst I have ever seen on a Gamecube. They’re a straight port from a far less popular N64-version.
It’s not surprising that the upcoming Nintendo DS-version will look exactly the same or maybe even a bit better.
The sound is also below par, and luckily you can adjust it. When someone talks, having it adjusted is a must as the standard sound works extremely on your nerves.
This game nicely uses the connectivity between the Cube and a GBA. When connecting both devices you can travel to another island where you can find other fish and instects. You can also download the island to the GBA where you can control the only inhabitant of it. Finally, designing patterns on your Game Boy Advance is also an option.
Concerning gameplay, things are quite alright. The use of the internal clock really gives you the feeling of having started a second life. However, don’t play this game TOO much on one day because after a while the jobs to do and the running around become tedious. With some better graphics, this title would certainly have achieved a way higher score.