Review by Mega

Reviewed: 09/22/02 | Updated: 09/22/02

Pure system selling brilliance.

It happens. Sometimes, Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft have a huge brain fart and release a game that is on the same level as Donkey Kong 64. They make mistakes. We all do. Sadly, the three major companies seem to make more mistakes than humanly possible. They feed us slop that is covered by the promise of great graphics and beautiful sound. They continually make repetitive, boring games that lack any flair of originality or fun. Yet, fanboys rush and buy this crap and call it “the best game ever!!!” simply because it was put out by their favorite company. Thus, the circle continues.

But, when they have a stroke of brilliance, boy, do they ever! For every Luigi’s Mansion, we have a Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. For every Donkey Kong 64, we have a Halo, waiting and ready to scoop us out of the crap. We cherish these brilliant games, because they provide escapism from both the real world and the terrible games the companies feed us.

In a time when the Gamecube is lacking any powerful, system selling muscle, Nintendo has a stroke of brilliance and sends out Animal Crossing, a real-time life simulator (Real time means that when it is midnight in real life, it is midnight in the game). Before you go “Bah! I already have a real life!” listen up. This isn’t your ordinary Harvest Moon or The Sims game. In this game, you are tossed into a village filled with only animal inhabitants, given a shack for a home, and that is it. You are expected to pay off your debt to the local shopkeeper (who pays for your house himself) and turn this town into a beautiful land and attract villagers. You don’t need to plant crops daily to survive. You don’t exercise a God like power and control the animals. You are just… well… you.

Once you get your poor, small home, you realize that you need to buy some furniture and pay off your mortgage to the local shopkeeper, Tom Nook. Tom employs you to help work off your debt to him. After doing some tasks such as planting flowers around his shop, as well as posting some ads, he will let you go to meet the other inhabitants of the village, who will all play a crucial role in this game.

First, you start out with a small amount of villagers in your town. Once you beautify the landscape and start working on furnishing your house, however, new villagers will start moving in. After you play for a few weeks, you’ll soon be wondering “I wonder what my villagers are doing.” You’ll become so attached to these villagers, it’ll frighten you. It is odd how these animals are artificial and products of the game, yet you will grow attached to them and actually feel like you’ve befriended an actual person, not just a part of the game.

Each villager has his/her unique personality. My resident bear, Murphy, is a grump. Kitty, the cat, is a snob. Buck, the horse, is an exercise fanatic. Each one has their own little tendencies and nuances that make them unique and all the more fun to talk to. For the most part, the dialogue isn’t static and boring. You can talk to the same villager for about 10 times, and about 7 of those time he’ll/she’ll be saying something different. If villagers have the same types of personalities, such as being a snob, they’ll often use the same phrases and words as the others. Boring? Hardly! The repeated phrases that sometimes come up don’t detract from the score or the gameplay at all!

The interactivity that is available with the villagers is astounding. Write them letters, and they’ll write you back (They pick up on certain words like “love” and “hate”). Ask them for an errand, and if you choose to do it and complete it, they’ll give you a reward. Talk to them, and sometimes they’ll ask if they can buy an item or trade an item with you. If you attend one of the town’s many special events, you might get a gift from one of them or a prize (a huge model of the moon, for example). This interactivity makes the animal villagers seem all the more real and adds a large amount of life into this game.

Speaking with villagers certainly is a big part of the game, but there still is a horde of other things that you can do. Remember that you owe Tom Nook a huge debt! The currency is called “bells”, and bells can be earned in many ways. Running errands for the villagers might get you bells as a reward. Fishing and selling your catch to Tom Nook will often fetch huge bells. Selling rare seashells and bugs to Tom will get you some cash. Selling villagers your items will often fetch you a large amount of bells, because they will often buy your items for much more than Tom Nook would. Of course, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy! Don’t worry. Animal Crossing offers tons of ways to kick back and play.

You’ll need furniture to make your house look good, and Animal Crossing offers tons of different ways to design and furnish your home. Different beds, tables, and closets add variety and spice to the game. Wallpaper and carpeting is a must, too! Don’t be surprised to find yourself changing your wallpapers and carpeting constantly, trying to find which ones match with each other. Better make your house look good, too, because the Happy Room Academy will rate your house daily according to Feng Shui. Having a higher rating will increase the general rating of the town, and attract more villagers. It is surprisingly tough to get a high score, so you better start praticing!

Once you find the Mable Sisters’ Tailor Shop, you’ll be able to actually design your own clothes to wear during the game. They will rent you their supplies for a small fee, and this opens you to let loose with your creative juices. Using a grid-based system, you are able to color, stamp, and paint until you finally have the clothes of your dream. I’ve already made a Pac-Man shirt, a ghost shirt, along with an alien shirt. You can put these designs you made in your home as wallpaper or carpeting, or even put them on your umbrella! Neat, isn’t it?

Quite possibly one of the coolest features in this game is being able to play classic NES games! Put them in your house, and you’ll be able to play them whenever you want! Connecting with a Game Boy Advance allows you to download the NES games to your GBA to play on the go. Available for your playing pleasure are classics such as Excitebike, Donkey Kong, and Balloon Fight, along with the underrated Tennis, Pinball, and Clu Clu Land. Rumors of having the classic Legend of Zelda or Super Mario Brothers have already circulated on the Internet, but these will probably promotional prizes, such as Pokemon’s Mew.

How can these be promotional, you ask? With the release of Animal Crossing, the (not included with the purchase of the game) E-Reader was born. This neat gizmo allows you to scan different cards through use of the GBA/GCN Link cable and the GBA that open up different things, such as giving you an NES game or more cash. The E-Reader works like a credit card sweeper. Each card has a little code on it and this transfer the data to the game when swept. The E-Reader will no doubt become a staple of Nintendo’s future of gaming, which, of course, isn’t a bad thing at all!

There are many, many surprises that await you in this game. One time, I was puttering along the beach, when I found a seagull that was lying flat on the ground. I talked to him, and he woke up and told me that he washed up on the beach after he fell off of his ship. He claimed that he would’ve been sleeping forever if I didn’t come along, and he said that I saved his life. He gave me an item that wasn’t available at all in the game, a model of a Tokyo Tower. He told me to cherish the Tower and remember him by it. I cherished it for a few minutes, and than sold it to Tom Nook for tons of bells. Little surprises like those drag you all the farther into this fictional life in this world, and make you appreciate the game even more!

Sadly, though, most people have seen the silly graphics and have already been put off by the game. Being a revamped N64 title, the graphics are a tad strange. Textures look terrible, and the villagers and other parts of the town look blocky. Your character’s face is randomly created when you start the game, and if you are unlucky, you’ll be stuck with a ridiculous looking fool for a character (I was lucky… ^_^). Every item (except the things in your house) is 2D, along with every tree. Is this bad? No! I’d hate to spin this old yarn again, but graphics do not make the game! I found that the graphics fit the atmosphere of this game perfectly! Think about it… Would you enjoy delivering Murphy’s watch over to Kitty more if Murphy had huge, glistening fangs and individual hairs that moved in the wind? What if Kitty was dressed in all leather and sported a whip? Well… Kitty would look hot in a dominatrix outfit, but that isn’t the point! These animals could all be a third-grader’s stick figure drawings, and the game still would be the best game on Gamecube!

While the graphics look a little odd, the sound section makes up all of the graphical faults. Every hour, new background music plays. That itself takes away from the repetitiveness and tedium that made the many Harvest Moon games so boring. Your house at the start of the game comes with a tape deck that allows you to play some terribly catchy and fun tunes, written by K.K Slider (Super Smash Brother Melee players will remember him as the dog trophy, Tokkate). The animals speak “Animalese”, which at first sounds like gibberish… but if you listen closer, you’ll be able to hear actual words! They took the voice actors’ dialogue, and warped it to make it sound like strange gibberish. What I find amazing is that they pronounce your name and other personalized things you make (like the town name, etc.) as well! It sounds trivial, but it is in fact very, very cool.

Controlling you character is very simple, with most of the actions assigned to only the A and B buttons. Once you put a tool in your hands, such as the shovel, you’d press A to use it. Simple! Writing letters is also very simple and surprisingly quick to do. As soon as you open up your stationary and address the letter to someone, a Gamecube controller pops up at the bottom of the screen, and in the middle of the controller are the keys and letters, set up like a regular keyboard. This makes writing letters painless, quick, and easy! Navigating menus is breeze, but a clunky and somewhat tough to learn item interface will sometimes frustrate you.

With it being in real-time, you have unlimited amount of replay value. You’ll want to keep playing for months; just to experience Toy Day (The Animal Crossing version of Christmas) and to see what gifts you get on your birthday. Plus, the game actually encourages you not to play for 3 hours a day! The animal villagers will get annoyed at you if you continually talk to them for hours, plus tree saplings you plant won’t grow if you constantly walk by them. That type of “don’t play me for hours upon hours” attitude takes risks, but I admire and respect the game for that.

The moment when I realized that Animal Crossing was truly a stroke of brilliance was a few days ago, around 10 PM. It was a cool, late summer night, and I had my window open to feel the breeze. I was fishing by the beach when a suddenly, a massive feeling of peace washed over me. The cool breeze entered my room, and I felt amazingly relaxed and peaceful. It felt that I was actually in the game, fishing, and feeling relaxed. That is what Animal Crossing will do to you. That inner peace and tranquility has never came to me in any other games I’ve played, and the fact that Animal Crossing manages to pull that off so effortlessly and flawlessly makes it a system selling masterpiece.

Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

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