At a glance...

Reviewer Platform Publisher Developer Players Screenshots
GameCube Nintendo Nintendo 1 Here
Requirements Buy from Amazon.co.uk
At the time of writing, we did not have a requirements section. Click here to buy Animal Crossing (Import).

Animal Crossing (Import) review

Introduction

Animals are undoubtedly fun to keep as domestic pets, providing companionship and entertainment; equally, their habit of destroying furniture and opening their bowels in the most inconvenient places also makes them neck-wringingly irritating at times. Still, cutesy animals have long been a staple character source for games developers, and AC (known as Animal Forest+ in Japan) is one of the latest creations to emerge from Nintendo's labs.

N64 fans may recall the original AC - it was only released in the East, and unless your Kanji skills were exceptional there was no way of fully appreciating it. Being released in the N64's dying days, the original AC didn't get much coverage and Nintendo wisely opted to deliver it to a wider audience with the GameCube. Unfortunately though, a British PAL version has not been released (nor will it ever by the looks of things), which is doubly frustrating considering that the hardest porting chore, that of translating, has been done.

A few options remain: the Freeloader disc will play the American version perfectly well (check out CUBE magazine's July issue for a coverdisc version), or you could get your machine modified (this author is running a Japanese Cube with American switch). Failing that, you could always petition the big N for a UK release, but sadly there's little chance.

What's it all about?

Nutshellised, AC is a life simulator. Some writers have made a comparison with Natsume's lovely Harvest Moon franchise; this is still worlds apart. In AC, your task is to enjoy life in a small village, helping out the other inhabitants and getting involved in all the local events. Sounds tedious? Thankfully, AC doesn't recreate all the more annoying aspects of life, such as fixing broken consoles, brushing your teeth and emptying the rubbish bin. You're just there to relax.

AC is supplied with its own memory card - a decent idea, considering the game needs an entire card to store the village details. At the start, your character appears on a train, traveling to your new home, and you're given the opportunity to name yourself/your town and set various other options. Pleasingly, the town is automagically generated and certain parts are randomised: the geographical layout with cliffs, rivers and ponds; the inhabitants and their locations; the trees and fruit they bear; and all manner of other bits and bobs.

Once settled in, you'll have a house built by the raccoon shopkeeper (to whom you also owe money for the privilege), and you can set off to meet the other villagers. These anthropomorphic acquaintances include cats, dogs, birds, bears and a host of others - and best of all, their personalities range wildly too. Some are cheerful and friendly, some are gruff and coarse, and some are obnoxious and self-praising. They all have lots to say, though, and by doing little deliveries and other chores for them you'll receive furniture and accessories for your new home.

Paint the town red

There's more to life than the other residents, though; fishing, bug-catching, football and museum-donating all make the hours fly by, but Nintendo's best touch is the addition of NES games. Being able to play Donkey Kong, Tennis, Zelda, Mario and others is a marvelous feature, and the emulation works flawlessly.

AC uses the GameCube's internal clock to keep track of time, so developments in the village will continue whether or not you're present, with characters meeting one another, events being held and people leaving and moving in. Naturally, this makes it slightly inconvenient for those who play in the dark hours - most animals go to bed (save for the odd nocturnal one) but there's still plenty to do.

Similarly, the weather responds to the clock settings, with snowy, rainy and sunny days all appearing depending on the time of year. Various events are held throughout the calendar; it'll spoil the surprise to list them here, but it's fair to say that the Fireworks evening in particular is sweet and touching.

Travel light

Although AC would have bags of longevity with solely a single town, it's hugely extended by the ability to visit another player's creation. Pop in a friend's memory card and head to the train station, and you can go over and pick up rare items, talk to unfamiliar characters and just generally have a good time. Also, those with a GBA and link-cable can visit a permanently-sunny island and edit clothing patterns on their handheld. Nintendo's effort in the pseudo-multiplayer and link-up functions is applaudably good.

AC's background ditties and sound effects are pretty much stock fare, with hourly-changing tunes and a simplistic but appropriate speech-synth for the characters. This works on what appears to be a per-syllable basis, and no doubt it would've been far more appropriate in its original stress-lacking Japanese incarnation.

Conclusion

On the whole, Animal Crossing's esoteric game mechanics will clearly be a turn-off for many; the lack of cathartic quick-frap shooting action or in-depth adventuring gives it a tame appearance. Approaching AC with an open mind and willingness to devote time is essential, then, but the rewards are truly fantastic. Despite the cutesy characters and simplistic visuals, AC is definitely not just a kid's game - there are film/song/etc. references in the characters' speech (even a bit of innuendo) and the social-interaction aspects are well thought out.

Right now, Animal Crossing is rapidly becoming something of a cult title and must-own for collectors. Stacks of FAQs, tips and fansites abound on the Internet, and rumour and speculation is going wild for the upcoming sequel. Even after several months of play, the game always delivers new and fresh ideas. If you fancy something different, something warm and entertaining, something that reconfirms Nintendo's consummate ability to create pure fun, give it a try. Brilliantly executed and crammed with superb touches, Animal Crossing is one of the best and most innovative releases of the past few years.

Review by Mike Saunders (not part of the allaboutgames.co.uk team)

Please note: at the time of writing, Animal Crossing hadn't been released in Europe.

Ratings

Graphics Well-rendered and attractive, if somewhat minimal. 7/10
Gameplay Outstanding depth. No quick fix for trigger-happy FPS fans, but a huge amount of things to see, do and talk about. Letter writing is perhaps the weakest element, but otherwise first-rate. 9/10
Value At the time of writing, we did not have a value for money ranking. 0/10
Lifespan At least a full year if you intend to see all the events. The amount of characters and items, along with the variety of characters, will keep you returning. 10/10
Audio Daytime TV-esque muzak, but having a new tune every hour stops it from grating. 7/10
Overall Kudos to Nintendo for attempting to create a whole new game genre, and succeeding with perfect competence. 9/10

Click here to buy Animal Crossing (Import) from Amazon.co.uk.

Copyright Information

Website design and content (c) 1999-2012 allaboutgames.co.uk.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License, except where otherwise noted.

Smileys taken from Crack's Smilies.