In Depth Review: Animal Crossing [GCN]
Ever since I learned about Animal Forest +, I was crazy over it. I thought, "living on my own in a forest full of animals, decorating my house and trading things with them? What a great thought!" Then I learned more about the tiny nuances that make this game original. The animals in the game celebrate holidays, and remember things about you. You can travel to other people's towns to explore their lands and maybe take home some of their animals. You can invite three close friends to live in your town and make changes when you are not around. It goes on and on. Back then, I thought that I would be playing this game for about a year, and I would let it go. Now that I have it, I see that I won't be letting this gem go for at least 3 to 5 years.
The gameplay is very simple. You control your character with the left analog stick, accept and make actions with the A button, run, cancel and pick up items with the B button. The X and Y buttons activate the map and inventory menus, respectively, and the L button also allows you to run (making navigation with one hand while eating, writing, typing, etc. very easy!). The C stick can change the camera angle inside houses, allowing the player to see the entire house they're in. There's not much else to it. In the game, the player will find themselves completing a variety of tasks, including fishing, digging, chopping down trees, running errands for neighbors, catching bugs, and searching for fruits and money in trees. Although this is just a simple game of collecting items, there are several things you can do with the items you collect. You can keep them in your house if it fits your style, or you can mail them to any of your neighbors. Oh, you don't think your neighbors deserve your unwanted item? Go to another player's town and send it to them. You can sell it too, but don't expect too much money from the official merchant of Animal Crossing, Tom Nook. One of the advantages to mailing items to neighbors is that they mail you items in return, no matter what town that animal is from.
Another major part of the game play maintaining the relationships you have with the animals in your town. It is almost guaranteed that you will lose or gain a member of your town when traveling to another player's town, so it is important to have good relationships with the animals you would least like to see leave. In order to accomplish this, you'll have to speak to them daily, run errands for them, and send them letters. As long as they like you, they're sure to stay, right? Sometimes your neighbors want to see more of the world and may ask you if it's a good decision to leave, or just disappear and leave you a letter explaining their urge to depart. If you're tired of the neighbors or the weather in your forest, you could always visit your local island. If you have the NGC-GBA connection cable, you can travel to an island where it's always summer. Enjoy a couple of songs from Kapp'n, the forest's dockmaster and ferryman to the island. When you get to the island, you can do quite a few things. You can plant some trees, or take some coconuts (that only grow on the island or by the beach). If fruit isn't your deal, you can have a chat with your island native, or decorate your island bungalow - a very large house that doesn't receive a rating from the HRA (described below). When you're done, you can upload the island on the GBA and feed the island native fruit to earn bells.
The other major part of the game involves interior decoration. Early into the game, you will be able to join an organization called the Happy Room Academy (or the HRA). Just about every day, the decoration of your house will be rated. A lack of decoration will net you a low score, and a good combination of furniture, wallpaper and flooring will make you the new pride of the HRA. There are many different sets to choose from, including color based sets, outdoor themes, a classic set, modern set, cabin set, and more. It is your option to stick to a certain set or combine sets to create a killer room. As you progress further into the game, you will be able to expand your dwelling so that you can fit more furniture and increase your score. If you so desire, you can even create your own patterns to post on your walls and floor to give your room a sense of originality.
The in-game graphics are simply a small step up from the N64's base, but along with this simplicity is a wide variety of pleasing images. The neighbors exhibit many different emotions such as happiness, excitement, shock, anger, sadness, and more. Not only do their faces change dynamically, thought bubbles, question marks, turning gears and colorful flowers appear to help convey their feelings to you. The forest itself is also quite dynamic, changing colors to correspond with the seasons. Rainfall and snowfall are also present in the various seasons, adding to the environment around you. You can dig holes to plant trees or leave items for later retrieval. Planting and tearing down trees and flowers makes your forest an everchanging world, where you can create small gardens and orchards as you please.
The sound effects in the game are very interesting. The animals speak in what's called "Animalese," a nifty creation by Nintendo where every letter of every word is spoken as fast as they are printed on the screen. This results in the animals almost really speaking to you at times. When you're not out speaking to the animals of the forest, the insects do a great job of providing ambience in their distinctive cries. Crickets chirp at night, while grasshoppers and locusts click during the daytime. It is a wonderful aural experience to just walk around the forest and hear the life around you. When you return to your home or visit your neighbors, you will be greeted by small clay statues called Gyroids.
Gyroids move in many different ways and make an assortment of sounds depending on their type. If you put plenty of Gyroids in a room together, they all move and make sounds at the same speed, to produce their own music. You can also throw in a radio and pop in a tune to watch them move in time with the song that's on. The music in the game is very soothing and relaxing. There are several different songs that play during the day and night as you travel through the forest, and each song adds to the environment in its own little way. When you're not outside, you can listen to one of around fifty different tunes, all written by the resident musical genius, Totakeke, or K.K. Slider. He's got tunes that cover just about every genre, and will play requests on a particular evening. If you request a song that he's written (he does play songs that are not his, and you'll have to find out what they are) he'll give you the recording to listen to at home.
There is so much to this game, I cannot fit it all in this (relatively) small review. The best way to experience all of the gameplay elements of the game, you simply have to play it. I deliberately left out such features as playing NES games through this title because it's not at all related to the main gameplay of Animal Crossing. There are other features, such as creating patterns, interacting with the wishing well, and the wide array of clothes that you can wear, but they are better experienced than explained. If living in a world with inhabitants that seem to mold according to your actions piques your interest, don't hesitate to give Animal Crossing a chance to tickle your fancy!