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Animal Crossing for Gamecube was originally a Japanese game (Dobutsu no Mori, released in 2001) which finally made it to Europe in 2004. First impressions may well be that it is a kids' game, as the graphics are bright and cartoon-like, and it seems like a simple premise to live and work in a fantasy town, but there is far far more to the game than that.
At the start of the game, you are taken on a train to your town. At this point you name your own character and your town, and you enter into conversations with a couple of key 'cast members' in the game. As your character arrives in town he or she is whisked off by Tom Nook, the shopkeeper and landowner, and given errands to run in order to earn yourself a little house. These errands teach you the basics in the game; communication with other characters, finding goodies in various places, etc. After that you're on your own, but Tom Nook is always on hand to help you out one way or another, and there are clues to be had from the other residents in town, too.
The game progresses in real time with the Gamecube clock, with important things happening at different times in the day.
The game progresses in real time with the Gamecube clock, with important things happening at different times in the day, or at different seasons. There are also special events that happen throughout the year, such as fishing tournaments, fireworks night. For this reason the game can hold interest for a really long time - unless you want to time travel by re-setting your Gamecube's clock - but care needs to be taken if you decide to do this, or you may end up with some unwanted results as well!
Your character can while away the hours catching bugs and fish, and these are time/season specific, so you are pulled into playing at different times of the day. You might want to spend some time gardening, as fruit trees and flowers are not only pretty but can provide some serious income! A good gardener could even end up with a special gift for creating that perfect town!
After gardening, fishing and bug-catching, you can go fossil hunting. Different fossils appear each day in the game, and these get sent away via Blathers at the museum for identification. The committed player will want to complete all of the collections in the museum (fish, insects, fossils, and paintings) which will take a while!
Some items are special and can only be obtained by communicating with visiting characters who appear in the game at different points.
Serious collectors will also be attracted by the many sets of furniture and accessories which are available in different ways, but mainly through Tom Nook's shop. You can use these to furnish and decorate your expanding house, and make it look as beautiful as possible to earn points from the Happy Room Academy! Some items are special and can only be obtained by communicating with visiting characters who appear in the game at different points. After you have owned an item once it is added to your catalogue and you can then re-order it from Nook whenever you like.
Of course, to fund all this collecting you may find you need some money. The in-game currency is Bells, and you can earn these by selling things that you find back to Tom Nook. You can also play the Stalk Market, by buying turnips from Joan the turnip seller on a Sunday morning, then finding a good price to sell them back to Nook during the week. Big profits can be made this way if you play your cards right! You can keep your money safely deposited in your account at the Post Office. When you have a really high bank balance you even earn a golden statue of yourself to display in town for all to see!
All in all, this is a game that can be enjoyed on many different levels.
The other main activity in town is interacting with your neighbours. Each town can have 4 different players sharing one house (although only 1 can play at any one time), and then there are 8 other possible residents, the animals. These are all individual and have different characteristics and catchphrases, and will help (or hinder!) you in various ways. Depending on how you relate with them they will stay for a while or eventually cross to another town. If you have an Animal Crossing town in each GC memory card slot they will cross between the towns, enabling you to share items and animals that way. You can also connect your GBA to the game which gives you an extra island to explore, obviously with special items to collect there as well!
All in all, this is a game that can be enjoyed on many different levels, but will certainly have a long lasting appeal to anyone who likes social simulator games.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: