Review: Animal Crossing

US Review

To see such a 'Japanese' game released in the Western hemisphere is a rare occurrence, but for such a game to carry so much promise and potential is unheard of. We've all seen huge trends like Pokemon and Tamagotchi's, and I'm going to explain why this quirky Japanese title could start one all over again. A big stumbling block for many gamers when they first lay eyes on Animal Crossing is the graphics, it has its roots firmly set in the N64 era, and it does show. Animal Forest was a Japan-only N64 game released back in April '01, and this is it's follow up, not even a true sequel, it's essentially an N64 game at heart, but it's not all bad in the visual department.


Looking somewhat like a 3D 'Link To The Past', the graphics reflect the mood and atmosphere of the game. The rain looks nice enough, and there is a satisfying splash of water with each footstep as it falls. Needless to say, it's no technical masterpiece, but it's satisfactory, and very fitting for the nature of the game.


The same can be said for the sound, the background music is catchy and uplifting, and the sound effects serve their purpose. The synthesized speech of the non player characters may annoy some gamers, but it can be easily switched off and changed to a slightly less annoying beep.


The magic of this title, and it certainly does have the 'Nintendo Magic', comes, as you might expect, from the gameplay. In stark contrast to its presentation, the core of this game is very deep and complex, you may already know of the link up ability to the e-Reader and the Game Boy Advance, which I will touch on later, but these are just the tip of the iceberg. Even without any extra peripherals, Animal Crossing could be the most enjoyable game you experience this year, and that includes Mario.

Categorised as a 'communication' game, its genre really does it no justice. You begin as a tramp, albeit a clean one, who meets a bipedal animal on the train to your chosen town. After giving out your details, you are thrown right into the immersive world of Animal Crossing. You step off the train and find yourself in a small village with no more than 6 or 7 residents, and, handily, 4 empty houses that are going very cheap. The owner of the local store takes you under his wing, giving you small errands to help pay off the debt. After completing about 6 tasks your freedom is returned, along with the debt.

Possibly the most pointless game of all time (quite possibly a good thing), the only objective in Animal Crossing is to pay off your debt, which in turn gains you a bigger house, which of course increases your debts, and so on. But this isn't a game that requires completion, there are no boss fights, in fact, there are no fights, the fight to catch 'the big one' will quite possibly be the biggest boost of adrenaline Animal Crossing gives you. Do not, however, let this put you off, it is still one of the most addictive and satisfying games in recent years.

Earning money can be done by a variety of different methods, running errands for other villagers, selling off items you no longer need and so on, but most of these methods are left up to you to figure out, providing the gamer within us all at least some challenge. Nintendo also seems to believe that there is a 'collector' within us all too, because a large part of the game is centered around the collection of furniture, fossils (which can be found buried around your village), fish, insects and those elusive NES games.

In one of the smartest moves I have ever seen Nintendo make, they have included within the game, a whole bunch of NES games, to be collected and played. The games, however, are not easily found, Nintendo Of America have been very kind by providing two NES games on the included memory card. There have been rumours flying around the internet that such games as Zelda and Super Mario Bros are among the rarities to be discovered, if this is true, Nintendo are on to a sure fire hit as people will stop at nothing to find them, and even if it isn't true, there's nothing to stop people looking.

Part of Animal Crossing's appeal is it's ability to immerse the player in it's world. Using a real time clock (if it's 5pm in the real world, it's 5pm in the game), players are forced to wait patiently for certain things to happen, such as mail arriving, trees growing (the sneaky among you may even figure out how to plant money trees) and the shop opening. This radical feature admittedly cuts down the amount of time you can spend in your town in one particular day, but the longevity of the title is extended two fold. Nintendo themselves estimate that people could theoretically still be playing the game in 30 years.

There is a very good reason for Animal Crossing being given the title of a 'communication' game, not least the communication between your character and his/her fellow townsfolk. Confusingly, and once again, contradicting the simplistic presentation, you can send and receive letters within the town, which they even appear to understand. The amount of work put into translating this beast must have been immense; there is not a single bit of bad English in the game, unless you count American slang.

The heart and soul of the communication, and the aspect of it which I for one feel could start a trend all of its own, is the communication between humans. What Nintendo have achieved without a single use of an internet connection is astounding. You can trade items with anyone from around the world, using a simple password interface. Much more than that, you can take your memory card to a friend's house and visit his town, and vice versa. You may also get residents moving from town to town, just tonight one of my most recent arrivals showed me a letter that my friend had written to her days ago. Some items may be easier to obtain in one town or another, and to get full enjoyment from the game you really need to enjoy the community feeling that just oozes out, it takes the ideology of MMORPG's and makes it work.

To cut a long story short, I could spend all day talking about the many fun things to do in Animal Crossing; alas I have neither the time nor the space. But two interesting 'optional extras' have gained much hype within the Nintendo community, and rightfully so.

Firstly, the new Nintendo e-Reader. Yet to be released in Europe, it's a simple device which slots into your GBA and has the ability to read e-cards, as they have been dubbed. This is not a peripheral specific to Animal Crossing, Americans can already buy special Pokemon trading cards, and even, you guessed it, NES games for this device. October 28th will see the US release of the first series of Animal Crossing cards, which will each have a special present should you input it into the game. With the ability to produce such cheap cards, extending the longevity of this and other titles by simply giving a consumer piece of cardboard is an excellent idea, and one that I hope Nintendo continue to push.

An even larger part of the Animal Crossing peripheral experience is the Game Boy Advance. With the correct equipment (GBA, link cable), the player can access a wealth of previously unusable features. Firstly, those NES games can be downloaded onto the GBA, to be played on the move, though they are unfortunately wiped if you switch the machine off. Upon entering the tailor's in your town, you will be given the option to download the texture design tools onto the handheld. Once complete you can draw to your heart's content, and once you are pleased with the result, it can be uploaded back to the GameCube for use on your umbrella, clothes, and whatever else you can find to splash it on.

Entrance to Animal Island is only given to those with a Game Boy. A fairly large addition, you take a short boat trip to a small island just off the coast of your town. Here you will find your very own cabin, and another islander, who invariably steals your items. The real fun actually begins when you leave though. A 2D version of your island is projected on the GBA screen, and you can do such things as feeding fruit to your islander, who gives you money in return. The beach on this island is also the only place to find some rare items in the game.

Final say:

To summarise, if that is at all possible, Animal Crossing is perhaps the deepest and most immersive game I have ever played. The community aspect is on a par with any MMORPG you care to mention, which is a hell of an achievement for an offline console game. Those of you, who are willing to overlook the dated presentation, get on the phone to Nintendo Europe, if dealt with correctly, this could be one of the biggest games of all time, and giving us Doshin really is no substitute.

For even more screens, info and details on this mammoth of a title check out our in-depth look at it through the following link!

- Animal Crossing: In Depth

N-Europe Final Verdict

Deep, immersive, and a bucket load of fun. Nintendo magic is in abundance.

  • Gameplay5
  • Playability5
  • Visuals4
  • Audio4
  • Lifespan5
Final Score



NES Games
Community feeling
So much to do
Very involving


Dated looks and sounds
Sometimes feels pointless
No Euro date as of yet

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