Animal Crossing

January 7, 2003

Innovation in video games is rare. Actually let me rephrase that; innovation in video games, and actually being successful, is rare. All games nowadays try to bring something new to the table. Whether it be a new and improved way to utilize lighting or a higher polygon count, games will try to bring “that something else” to the table. Animal Crossing is no different in this regard; however it succeeds where others have failed. It made me say, “Oh my god, I can’t believe they pulled this off.” Allow me to explain.

This game is odd. It is odd in the sense that a video game can be so complex and simple at the same time. I have to believe that the developers of Animal Crossing planned for a very long time how to engross the gamer and make him come back for more. What they did was implement a real-time world. Real time as in 5:00 pm here is 5:00 pm in your town. When you eat lunch, the good folk that live around will be eating lunch as well. The game plays even when you are not there. Most everything you do will have an affect on the people and town you live in. Don’t talk to your neighbors; well they will begin to not like you. Don’t take care of your yard; then good luck pulling up weeds. The game has a way of keeping you playing for a very long time.

The objective of this game is to…well…you know? I don’t know if there is a real objective, but what you do is move into a randomly generated little town. The town is filled with townsfolk (all animals) and things to do. From the beginning you can pick a house which is yours to decorate as you see fit. Then of course you have to pay off your little place and then you can renovate it and make it bigger. For those of you who are thinking it sounds like a Sims type of concept you could not be further from the truth. The point here is to be occupied and happy. You make money by running errands for the townsfolk, and in turn they will give you bells (money) or something interesting (a new shirt, wallpaper, or furniture). If you, like me, are not the working type you can spend all day digging up treasure or shaking trees and selling junk for cash. Of course there is so much to buy, as you will be no doubt decorating your all the time, or buying new gear to wear.

The graphics are intentionally bad. At first you will think they completely suck as the Gamecube is able to handle much more than what Animal Crossing brings. The characters are very pixilated as is pretty much everything. I’m sure the developers could have just as easily created real time lighting effects with bad ass texture mapping, but the graphics bring Animal Crossing to a playing field all its own. It’s a bit weird at first as by now you are used to some pretty stunning looking visuals, but it will grow on you and you will appreciate the game more. Trust me.

The sound in the game is fantastic. The music never gets old as you can always go into your house and jam on some tunes in your HiFi Stereo. The midis are very catchy and to be honest with you, you will not ever find yourself annoyed with it at all. You will hear your shoes mush in the snow, as well as trample on leaves. If you go into the museum in town, everything gets real quite and hollow sounding, a very nice touch. Hell you can even edit your own jingles that will play when you speak to the people, I’m pretty sure you can even get the tunes for old NES games down if you played around with it long enough.

The games controls are a breeze. You can navigate to you inventory screen easily with the X button and Y button brings up your map. The A button of course is the predominant button as you will use it to talk and activate your new toys. The inventory screen is easy enough to use, you have a hand (a very Mario like glove) to grab items from their slots and either equip them or drop them. Special items like the butterfly net and Shovel can be dragged and dropped onto your character as easy as cake. The game is very responsive as you run from place to place you will not encounter many difficulties.

The fun factor for Animal Crossing is where this bad boy shines. You are really in charge of your time spent there. You have to raise enough money once you start the initial job, but after that your schedule is open to do what you see fit. The great thing is that you will not be able to just go out and start digging treasure. You will either have to wait for someone to give you a shovel as a present or the shop to have one in stock. While that may sound lame it makes that item come off as special. For instance the shovel is used to dig up buried items and even moneybags. Soda had already bought the shovel earlier that day. I run to the store with that shimmer in my eyes as today will be the day I can dig crap up! Alas when I get there my dreams are shattered as a big SOLD OUT sign lays where my shovel once rested. I then beg and plead with Soda to let me borrow it, and he did. But in other situations I could have traded items with him or sent him nice letters asking if I could borrow the shovel so I can dig a bear trap for him or something. You really do interact with the environment around you. While you can play this game by yourself it is much better played with some friends by your side. The game plays alternatively so after I save, someone else can go. This causes a lot of conflict with me as Soda always yanks the good stuff from the dump or the lost and found. Up to four of your friends can live in the town including the countless citizens that are already there, who happen to move in and out of town.

Better yet with the use you your handy dandy memory card you can visit other people’s towns. For instance Snowcone on a GameCube has his own thing going I can take my memory card over and stop by his place and say hi. There will be items that are only available in his town that I can loot and take back to my place to sell for a premium! Technically you can start your own apple tree plantation if you live in a city that only has pears…MUHAHAHA! Also I have come up with the great idea of being the only place in town to have pears. I will chop down every other pear tree in town, all the while I sport a big lush pear tree in my own back yard and become the Pear King of Snackbar Town!

Whoa…excuse me I went off on a tangent…

This game is a definite buy as I have yet to get bored with any activities that happen in Animal Crossing. You will find yourself playing for hours, trying to get that fishing pole or raise enough money to buy that something you really want. Animal Crossing is a gamer’s game. I was a bit standoffish about it, but now I am glad I was able to play such a fantastic game. In my opinion it is the best GameCube game out right now. Sorry Metroid but you got a swift kick in the butt by Animal Crossing. Do yourself a favor, round up some cash and head on off to purchase this bad boy.

Now if you will excuse me I must go back to my nefarious Pear King plan.