Animal Crossing is a unique game with no overall aim or any way to complete it. You start out on a train heading towards a village. You start talking to an animal who eventually puts you in contact with a friendly racoon who can sell you a house in your village - yes, that's right, you have a house! One of the strongest features of Animal Crossing is the way it uses the time and date. Time passes in real time, the shop opens and closes at set times, your neighbours will sleep sometime during the night and the rubbish is even picked up at 6:00am each morning. The game world will continue even if you don't turn on your Gamecube and if you leave the game for a few weeks you will most likely have a load of post waiting for you when you eventually do turn it on.
Animal Crossing initially looks more functional than beautiful but after you play for a while you realise that the small details matter. For example, you can (just about) see mosquitos and capture them (if you're quick enough) before they bite you. The game runs at a smooth 60fps - hardly surprising when there isn't really that much happening on screen at a time - but unfortunately you have no control over the camera and the view can be obstructed every now and then.
The sound is ok - nothing special again. The animals have an odd animalese language that might annoy some people but you can change it to silence if it does.. Music is the typical cute Nintendo style, with matching sound effects. Every hour the clock strikes and plays the village's theme tune which reminds me of old American comedy show themes.
You can pretty much do whatever you want: collect insects, fish paintings and fossils for the museum; send letters to your neighbours and friends, decorate your house inside and out (including having an NES system), visit friends' villages and trade items with them. However, in the beginning you'll spend most of your time running packages around for your neighbours, earning various objects in the process. Later in the game there are better ways to get new stuff, like earning money by selling fish. It's also possible to have up to four players live in the village at the same time, each playing seperately and leaving messages and items in the game for the other players. It's also possible to connect a GBA using the link lead for extra things to do: you can visit an island and even play NES games on the GBA. The E-Reader is also supported: with this you can scan in a special Animal Crossing card to unlock items and set the village theme music.
You may find yourself getting addicted to this game, playing at least once a day to see if you get any mail and to see whats different in your little game world. With real holidays as well as game ones noted in your diary, there isn't a fortnight that passes without an event of some description. As the year progresses leaves, then snow falls - even the fish and insect wildlife change with the seasons!
We wouldn't recommend Animal Crossing to everyone because you'll need a lot of time to play it properly - not in huge chunks but small doses, daily. It is a shame that the best thing about AC is also one of its worst features: the real-time aspect. If you play in the evening there is less to do than in the daytime, with the shops shut and some neighbours asleep. We can't think of another game similar to this - which isn't necessarily a bad thing! If you want a different experience in a game you just might like it!