Platform: Nintendo 64 / GameCube | Release Date: 2001 / 2002
Nintendo’s quirky village simulation game Animal Crossing would be one of the GameCube’s best selling titles, but it was actually released in Japan for the Nintendo 64 first. The graphics weren’t impressive, but the dynamic relationships you could build with animals that settled in your town were and the multitude of activities that could be partaken for fun or for profit was enough to keep gamers hooked for hours, days and years. There was fishing, clothing design, bug catching, fossil collecting and more plus games-within-a-game with a naively generous selection of fifteen NES games which could be played in full.
Tomorrow is the release of Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer so it’s a good time to take a look at the game that started it all and why it was a standout hit on the GameCube!
Why it was great
As mentioned before, Animal crossing had a lot of stuff to do. Personally, one of the most exciting things to do was go out and hunt some rare insect specimens for the Museum. Unlike the static fossil displays or art exhibits, bugs that were collected were free to roam around their area of the building and the more that were added the more interesting the room got. The variety of fish was also exciting (especially the more unique-looking catches like eels), but confined to their tanks made them a little less visually appealing than the wilds of the insect room.
Decorating was, of course, another high point of the game. Each day was a new opportunity to check Nook’s shop for furniture, wallpaper or more to complete a collection or just add some pizzazz to a tired layout. My rooms always took on a distinctly jungle-esque theme and were overflowing with whatever plants I could find, borrow or steal (I admit, I didn’t really lose that cute polka dot shirt Officer Booker). Clothing was another way to uniquely represent yourself with almost limitless fashionable (and unfashionable) outfit combinations.
Animal Crossing was also one of the only games I was willing to watch someone else play as a fidgety 13 year old. My sister and I would take turns talking to the villagers and each had our favorites who we’d send gifts to and stop for extra conversations if we saw them. I still remember who we liked; I was very connected with Stella the Sheep and she developed a friendship with one of the gorillas. Back then it was hard to imagine anyone wanting to spend their free time observing someone else gaming, but this is the age of Twitch and now I’m more than happy to watch pros get some nice ganks in League of Legends or watch a master Pokémon trainer battle up the ranks online.
All in all, it was a great early simulation game that didn’t simply focus on building a town or kingdom, but challenged players to be themselves inside a fantastical setting and impact the world around them.
What do you think? Any favorite memories? There are some great Animal Crossing stickers that just came out for LINE messenger as well!