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Finally after a long two year wait, Animal Crossing makes it to Europe; but has it been worth the wait...
The fate of Animal Crossingâ??s â??on-offâ? saga within Europe has become an indicator of the perceived state of Nintendoâ??s position within Europe in recent times; finding themselves in the impossible position of releasing a game that is probably too brilliantly quirky to appeal to the masses, yet receiving a stinging backlash from the legions of hardcore Nintendo fanatics whoâ??ve demanded a release since Day 1.
Plighted by issues of localisation for such a dialogue heavy game and the lack of a release for the e-card Reader, the fact remains that itâ??s taken at least two years to find a release on European shores; however finally European GameCube owners will be able to sample the delights of Animal Crossing on September 24th.
Originally scheduled for release on the Nintend64, Animal Crossing appears to be your typically cute, colourful Nintendo title with charm oozing out of your GameCube; however donâ??t be fooled by initial impressions, as the game has a mean streak running throughout that will keep you checking in daily to make sure youâ??re not missing out on anything.
Assuming the role of a young animal character, who has moved away from his parents house without reason; the task is to simply forge a life for yourself in Animal Forest, buy a house, decorate it, make friends, fish and just generally go about your business.
However no sooner have you moved into your first broom cupboard then the cruel overtones of the game become apparent; slapped with a hefty mortgage, your initial days will be spent performing tasks for Tom Nook the local shop owner, who also appears to have a monopolistic control over the island and the buildings built on it. Yes this may seem like your typical Nintendo title, however the fact that a little kid who has recently taken the big jump and flown the nest, is slapped with this daunting debt hanging over his shoulder, surely makes us question the genius who ever came up with the concept.
What transpires is a game quite unlike anything weâ??ve ever played before. There isnâ??t much of a structure to the game per se; once youâ??ve spent a few days working for Nook, which essentially serve as a tutorial of sorts to the manner of the game, youâ??re free to just go about your businessâ?¦ and well thatâ??s about it.
Naturally itâ??s Nintendo weâ??re talking about here, and for some strange apparent reason what initially appears to be a rather choresome gaming experience, turns into one of the most addictive titles weâ??ve picked up in recent years.
The most devilishly genius part of the game is the use of the GameCubeâ??s internal clock, so every minute in real-life transpires to a minute in the game; this isnâ??t like Shenmue where a game hour is condensed into 15 minutes, it borders on real-life. As such youâ??ll have mundane tasks such as taking out the trash to worry about, and not forgetting that Crook (sorry Nook) wants his weekly mortgage payments paid in full. Throughout the calendar youâ??ll notice key events occurring on certain days, and unless youâ??re playing on that day then youâ??ll simply miss out on it â?“ itâ??s this aspect alone that builds up a worrying sensation in the player that youâ??re missing out on something if youâ??re not playing, think Tamagotchi and multiply it by 1000!!!
Animal Forest is populated initially with a small cast of animal characters, which youâ??ll get to know and become friends; whilst as you progress through the game youâ??ll notice new characters setting up houses and others leaving. As you befriend characters, some will provide you with items which provide one of the main factors in the game. The game contains an absolutely huge variety of items to purchase, find and collect, ranging from different costumes to furniture in which to decorate your house. Naturally Tom Nook also sells a variety of items within his shop, with those on offer changing daily, and again resulting in a dynamic that ensures youâ??ll want to check the game daily, if only to make sure youâ??ve performed the bare essentials.
Thankfully thereâ??s a number of ways to generating the in-game currency of bells to pay off your initial mortgage; you can sell unwanted items to Nook, perform errands for the assorted characters in Animal Forest or perhaps catch fish to sell at the market â?“ provided youâ??ve managed to get hold of a fishing rod first that is.
Many games promise freedom to the player and usually result in a tedious, boring experience; weâ??re not quite sure whether itâ??s the typical Nintendo charm, but Animal Forest hits it nearly spot on. Players can walk around and build up friendships with the locals by chatting and writing letters to them, go fishing for the ultra illusive prehistoric Coelacanth, shopping, or designing your own logos to adorn the costumes you wear within the game â?“ it really is up to you how you play the game, and you never get the feeling that itâ??s trying to push you in a certain direction, whilst thereâ??s always plenty of activities to prevent the issue of boredom arising.
The game also includes a number of novel connectivity features that define the brilliance of the game, although sadly weâ??re not convinced as to whether gamers will take the most advantage of these aspects. Firstly players can hook up a GameBoy Advance to access a secret mini-island, which becomes downloaded onto your GBA and allows you to continue playing when youâ??re away from home. The island contains a new â??holiday homeâ? for you to kit out and an occupant who is always pleased to see you, whilst those looking for rare items and bells will discover this is the place to be.
Away from the island, hooking up your GBA also allows you to design logos and motifs using a rather nifty editor, which you can then use to decorate items of clothing, umbrellas, flags, doors and signs.
Even more innovative is the fact that you can visit a friendâ??s town simply by popping a Memory Card with their town stored into the other memory slot. Every single town created in Animal Forest is different, with varying characters and random object placements; the ability to travel to another town theoretically grants the player the ability to do such things as pick up oranges for cheaper and sell them back in your own town for a greater price; discover hidden items that you couldnâ??t find in your own town and meet characters that theyâ??ve never met before. Although we think itâ??s a bold plan and one that exponentially expands upon the base concept, again sadly we feel itâ??s one that few GameCube users are going to take to based on the lack of success of Nintendoâ??s idea for connectivity on this generation â?“ it simply hasnâ??t worked out the way Nintendo would have hoped for.
Finally, older Nintendo fans will be beside themselves at the prospect of collecting classic NES titles locked away within the game. The exact count remains a mystery, although weâ??ve seen the likes of Clu Clu Land, Golf, Balloon Fight, Donkey Kong Jr and Wario Woods, whilst the first Legend of Zelda and Mario Bros have also been highly rumoured in the past. As with many of the innovative features of Animal Forest, youâ??re free to play these in the game or download them onto your GBA and play them whilst youâ??re out.
If we had to find criticisms, it would be that the game can occasionally become too reliant on being a delivery-boy for the citizens of Animal Forest; often youâ??re tasked with collecting an item from another character, only to find that theyâ??ve given it to somebody else. Thankfully the island isnâ??t too large and you can quite quickly zip from one end to the other.
Another flaw that could put you off is the fact that the game begins slowly, with most of your tasks only taking a few minutes and having to wait until the next day or later to get your hands on such crucial items as the shovel, fishing rod or the bug net. Once youâ??ve put some hours into the game however and a few weeks have passed, youâ??ll immediately notice that the pace of the game picks up along with the choices of things to do.
As you can probably tell from the screens, Animal Forest isnâ??t the most technically accomplished title youâ??ll find on the GameCube; however that said the level of charm and just the fact it look so â??Nintendoâ?, manages to make you overlook such inadequacies. Itâ??s probably also got something to do with the nature of the game, Animal Forest is such a chilled, laid-back experience that you canâ??t help but forget about such trivial aspects as visuals.
It’s certainly not perfect and isn’t for everyone; however if you’re looking for something suitably different, something that you can just whack on and enjoy for a few hours here and there and more importantly something so Nintendo, then you may just end up devoting your life to Animal Crossing.
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