As the entire continent of North America waits with bated breath for the arrival of Animal Crossing: New Leaf for the 3DS (or maybe you’re all playing it by the time this goes up), I’m reminded of my experiences with the first game in the series that saw Western light. The first Animal Crossing title was released in NA in September of 2002 and was a step in a completely different direction from anything Nintendo had put out prior. A little bit of Harvest Moon, a touch of Sims, and even some Sega Bass Fishing, Animal Crossing combines all sorts of seemingly mundane everyday activities and places them into one game. The result? An experience that’s surprisingly relaxing and addicting.
So the game begins with you, the player, moving into a small town by yourself. You’ll eventually run into Tom Nook, the slave-driving raccoon who owns the town’s only convenience store (monopoly, anyone?). Since you don’t have enough money to pay off your house, he’ll kindly loan you money. Of course, that means you’re at his beck and call to clear the debt. However over time, your actions will cultivate the town and draw more villagers to live there. Unfortunately, I believe there’s a ten or so villager limit, which means that old favorites may eventually move out. Or you could get lucky and that nasty stick in the mud might end up leaving town!
It’s this kind of pseudo-independence, while at the same time providing you with a sense of duty, that makes the play hours go by so fast. The game clock also synchronizes with real time, so it’s like hanging out with actual friends or going on actual adventure or doing actual chores! But let’s face it. Animal Crossing is probably a lot more fun than any of the aforementioned. There’s practically no limit to things you can do, and everything feels like a small little treat just waiting to be discovered. In fact, half of the fun is just discovering these secrets and Easter eggs, like planting money trees, digging up fossils, or even harassing your villagers with Pitfalls.
Animal Crossing has some of the best and most chill BGM ever. I also love how it changes every hour, too. My favorite track is the one that plays at 1 PM (otherwise known as the one with the cat). Just listening to it gives me a nostalgia attack. The music perfectly goes along with the pace of the game, adding to the escape from reality feeling that Animal Crossing embodies. This game actually features a lot of musical aspects, like giving the ability to change the Town Tune (which alters how the villagers greet you), the vocal Gyroids, and of course Totakeke the traveling bard. We had the chance to get a track from him to play in our homes every Saturday, given you knew the name of the track you wanted.
When I try to think of stuff to say about this game, all I can come up with are the fond memories I have of playing it ten years ago (and the funny commercials for the game). I would wake up at 7 every morning during that summer and play with my sister and friend. We all had our own houses in the same village. My sister had an Asian themed house, while my friend had a casino with slot machines and the NES games. My house consisted of an aquarium basement, a Kiddie themed main floor (I mostly just liked how the train set looked with everything), and a space themed upper floor. I’m pretty sure most people had an aquarium in their house at one point or another. Who can resist showing off all of their coelacanths?
So here we are ten years later, the popularity of the series has continued to skyrocket. I suppose they were spot on with their original catchphrase of “Population: Growing.” It’s a series that’s built upon the simple concept of having fun and doing things the way you want to. And yet, it has so much more to offer than a simple social game. From its many Nintendo references to massive character/hovel customization, Animal Crossing is a game that offers a multitude of modes for expression no matter who you are.
- No actual story, per se, but does it really need one?
- After you pay off your house, there really isn’t much else to do besides terrorizing the animals.
- Mr. Resetti.
- An incredibly addictive life simulator. All the fun of mortgage payments, except with possibly more sweat and tears.
- A totally jamming soundtrack that you’ll never get sick of.
- Infinite possibilities for customizing your home the way you want to. The amount of unique furnishings is staggering.