When my friend first asked me if I was buying Animal Crossing like he was, I honestly didn’t know anything about it. I looked it up and saw some screenshots and my initial thought was “Erm… no.”, but then I read about it, about the game’s randomly generated villagers and how it uses the internal clock to simulate what time of day, month and year it was. Sounded quite fun… then when I got it, the addiction began. While I sadly couldn’t take any screenshots of my actual Gamecube copy (that is now 90% overgrown grass anyway) let’s take a look at the game overall…
What took me so long? Well, I’ve been doing it in reverse order of franchise debut, so you’ve got off easy, Nook!
Animal Crossing started out life as a Japanese N64 game known as “Dobutsu no Mori” in April 2001, which was then ported to the Gamecube as “Dobutsu no Mori +” December that year, then a slightly improved version was released in the US as “Animal Crossing” in September 2002, the improvements then leading to a re-release in Japan as “Dobutsu no Mori e+” in June 2003. Following? Well, Animal Crossing then finally made its way to Europe September 2004, just two days before my Birthday, which was handy.
Who needs furniture? This’ll do nicely…
Being an open-ended, life sim type game, the gameplay is varied, but simple. You arrive in a town with randomly spawned anthropomorphic villagers and are given a house by property dealer (among other things) Tom Nook. You then pay off your mortgage by doing various activities or selling things, which then gains you a new floor to your house… which you then have to pay for. You fill the house with furniture, music players, a NES and many other objects, as well as choosing roof and floor colour and patterns.
You can talk to villagers, fish, dig for objects, collect insects, and general buy and sell stuff. New villagers will random move into town as well, and your invented catchphrases and clothing and colour style can rub off on them spread across the village. The whole game runs on the Gamecube internal clock, meaning if you play as 11:00am, it’s 11:00am in the game, so if you want to catch a type of bug that only appears when it’s dark you have to wait until it’s dark in real life and play the game then. The look of the village also changes depending on what season it is, again based off of the internal clock, and the village also holds celebrations in relation to actual holidays at the right time.
The NES games that you have a chance of getting include the likes of Punch-Out!!, Excitebike, Balloon Fight, Clu Clu Land, Golf, Tennis, a whole bunch of Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Jr. games, and more. They’re all fully playable, if you’re lucky enough to get one (I only got Balloon Fight and Clu Clu Land…)
It might sound dull, but expanding your house and filling it with furniture is extremely addictive…
Graphics and Sound:
“Yay! A bridge!”
The graphics are quite simple, but nicely stylized and quite unique. The patterns on the floor and trees do give off a unique feel that I now instantly recognise as “Animal Crossing-like”, but otherwise it’s a simple 3D look, which helps when you have as many assets as this game does.
Sound-wise there are some pleasant themes in the opening menu and such, and the sound effects are fine (though the high-speed talking sound effect that plays when you talk to someone can get a bit annoying if someone’s very chatty…)
Environmental message?! How dare they!
There were a few weeks where I became properly addicted, then a good year or so where I checked in with my village from time to time, especially during holidays before eventually running out of things to do. It’s not normally my thing, so it’s a testament to how purely fun Animal Crossing is…
It’s bigger on the inside…
I enjoyed my look back through my village, though it’s now mostly grass and I don’t remember any of the villagers, so… Yeah. Still, if I had the time or energy, I’d gladly start a new game on it. I haven’t played any of the games since, though given I’m not really a handheld gamer, that’s not surprising. I wouldn’t be shocked if I get re-addicted with the Switch AC game next year though…