Animal Crossing GameCube Review
Life getting you down? Don’t worry – Nintendo have made you a fantasy town all your own. Don’t like animals? You will…
While technically the game wouldn’t have looked out of place on an older Nintendo home console, the cutesy character models and bright primary colour scheme work exceedingly well in Animal Crossing in true Ninty style. Everything is bold and unashamedly cartoony in appearance, and a great deal of thought has evidently gone into the creation of every member of the games’ mammoth cast; no two creatures look the same, or are without some defining aspect to their plumage/fur/clothing.
From the second you start the game, emphasis is placed on taking you away from reality to an alternate world: you have a first-person conversation with Rover, a travelling cat, while journeying on a train and are informed that he can set you up with a new home; you’re given a job for the local business, Nook’s Cranny; you start getting letters and introductions from the members of your new village. Nintendo know the strings to pull to make this concept work, and the outcome is remarkable; after just a few in-game minutes you’ll be chatting with your new-found “friends”, writing letters and digging up cracks in the earth for loot – or, in less glamorous fashion, raiding the dump and lost-and-found for abandoned goodies.
The first few minutes of the game form a mini-tutorial in which Nook, the proprietor of the local store, sends you on errands to help pay off your mortgage. Your house is constantly upgradeable and customisable, and the later pressure of your debt is never enforced; you can pay off your loan whenever you like. This is a pretty good decision as it means your game has no time limit, leaving you to wander and do whatever you like.
The game progresses in time with the GC clock; therefore, if you only play at night you may miss something important happening during the day. Similarly, Wintertime only comes once a year, so be prepared for some lengthy waits to see all the game has to offer. Alternatively, the impatient may spin the GC clock back or forth at will; however, be warned that this may have adverse affects on your town, such as people leaving or weeds growing, and Mr Resetti – a rather grumpy mole – will reprimand you before you can actually take part in the game again. This lecture gets longer and longer the more times you change the clock or turn off the machine without saving, which is a nice way of stopping would-be cheaters.
During each month several events will take place that your character can visit, such as the Fishing Tournament, fireworks night, and Aerobics Day. As well as this, more familiar events such as Hallowe’en and Christmas play an important role. Sadly, your character cant take an active part in all of these events, but they can still be amusing to watch and break up the regular wandering around talking to people.
As well as these events, collection is an important part of the game. Your town plays host to a rather empty museum, for which you can undertake the task of restocking. The four rooms that comprise the museum have space for fish, insects, paintings and fossils, and this allows for a great deal of variety amongst the items to be found. Fish, for example, are vast in species and can only be caught at certain times of year; similarly insects can only be caught when the seasons are right. The fact that all the unique items you donate to the museum are put on display really makes the museum a kind of hall of fame for the player – and there’s really nothing more satisfying than seeing the “big one” you hooked swimming about in its tank. As if this weren’t enough, the game features literally hundreds of different furniture schemes and individual items; these can be found in a number of ways, from being bought at the store to digging them up from the ground. Once an item has been obtained it becomes available in the store catalogue, meaning that you can go back and order any set that takes your fancy and decorate your house with it. Not only this, but you can also customise your clothes to your hearts content; a quick visit to the local tailor lets you design a print and have it appear on clothing, umbrellas or signs. Have them advertise your design in their shop and see your villagers wandering around in the latest fashions! The satisfaction to be gleaned from this is unreal.
Unfortunately, while wandering around an animal-dominated town catching bugs and planting trees may sound idyllic, the game does begin to seem repetitive after a while. The dialogue in-game rarely changes, and you will frequently get the same responses from the animals. Similarly, very little you do seems to influence anything; you can decide where a new bridge will be built, plant trees and flowers and put down signs, but very little of this actually seems to affect gameplay which is a bit of a shame.
Thankfully, there has been no attempt to realise true voiceover for the characters of the game; instead, you are given the choice of a bleeping sound to accompany speech, or a cute garbled high-speed rendition of the text that is reminiscent of The Sims in its meaninglessness. Several different pitches of this dialogue have been recorded to represent the different genders and moods of the animals, which again does wonders for the charming atmosphere of the game. As well as this, there are several small samples, such as the “Victory” music that accompanies the successful catching of an insect of fish that really sum up the mood perfectly – imagine the “Battle Won” music of FFVII and you’ll get the idea.
The background music is ambient and pleasant; which is a bit of a godsend, as these are comprised of several tunes that can be obtained from one particular town member. These recordings of his music can be played in a music box, and really allow for some great variety in the in-game music; various animals also betray their particular tastes by the music they play. As well as this, you are able to change your town “tune” as you see fit; this is played whenever you speak to any of the town members, albeit in a different register depending on the nature of the creature you have spoken to. This is pretty smart, and really makes the player feel as though they have contributed to the game community; sadly, however, your villagers may feel inclined to comment on how badly they dislike your tunes which can put a bit of a damper on things.
With a supposed programmed life of 30 years, this is probably technically the “longest” game you will buy; how long it will last the average gamer, though, is another question. The initial charm and freedom of the title, accompanied by the debts to pay off and the items to collect, will last a while; however, once you’ve played the game a few weeks you’ve really seen all it has to offer. The special events that take place will abate the boredom, but only for those that stick with the game for the vast amounts of time between them. You can abstain from playing for several months and pick the game up in a different season; however, be wary of angry animals demanding to know why you haven’t returned their comic book yet.
Connecting the GBA to the console allows you to travel to a nearby island, which you can again name and decorate. This helps the gameplay, as certain fish and insects can be caught there all year around. Similarly, a mini game in which you can take care of your “islander” (a randomly selected beastie that will live on the island) can be downloaded to the GBA.
As well as this, you can have up to four players on the same memory card; while you cant technically have more than one player on screen at any time, any marks that your fellow players leave behind can be observed by others in the same town. Your friend was foolish enough to leave an item on the floor? Finders keepers. You can also travel to another memory card with Animal Crossing Data to visit an entirely new town with new inhabitants. If you don’t have anyone living near you with AC – fear not! Nintendo have provided for everyone! You can still trade items with other players by taking the object to Nook and specifying the name of the player and their town as its destination; this allows for any two people with the game to trade items, no matter how far apart they live. This is really a stroke of genius, and has pumped more life into this game than any other feature could.
While most people wont see anywhere near the lifespan this game offers, it really doesn’t hold back on the addictive gameplay. Get past the adorable façade and realise just how much there is to this game; if you can dedicate time to your town, trading and own a GBA, there is no reason you shouldn’t buy this game now. If you don’t, get it anyway; you’ll be sacrificing everything for it soon enough. Trust me; no console game will last you quite as long as this.