We have a brand new Animal Crossing game coming out for the Nintendo 3DS this month (in the USA anyway)! So lets take a second and reflect back on the original classic that started on the N64/Gamecube and has been on the DS, and then the Wii. Because working off debt to own your own home has never been so fun until you had to pay off a sneaky Tanooki (Tanuki) who ran the local store in a town full of animals.
Animal Crossing or Dobutso No Mori (actually called Animal Forest if literally translated) was original released in Japan on the Nintendo 64, the game was essentially the same from its Gamecube counterpart but there were some differences, mostly things left out. That game came out really late for the N64, April 2001, and was ported to the Gamecube as Dobusto No Mori+ by December which was closer to the US version. The US version went through a major translation cycle and got holidays that fit the region better and tons of extra text; that was released in September of 2002. It was so well received that Nintendo actually translated that back and Japan got Dobusto No Mori e+. Confused? Good
If you’re new to the Animal Crossing franchise you’re probably wondering where the game falls in terms of genre and gameplay; it is actually pretty hard to describe in a way that doesn’t make it sound tedious. It is essentially a slice of life simulator, kind of like Harvest Moon but without all of the farming. You’ll do social things like talk to your neighbors, help them run errands (which are essentially just tasks to fetch or deliver goods), participate in town events and join them for holiday celebrations.
The most impressive thing at the time and the main staple of the entire series is that the world moves around you in real time, there is no fake fast time like most simulators which gets you through a whole day in 30 minutes. Here each minute is only a minute in your Animal Crossingworld and even cooler is when you’re not playing the game still moves in that real time; well technically, it really just loads data based on how much time has passed from your last save. This makes sure the world always seems fresh with neighbors moving in and out, weeds and trees growing and flowers dying day by day and not just based on pre-set in game times. Plus those holidays happen on the same day as their real life counterparts, or close to it; It encourages you to visit your town every day because you really have to.
When you want to be alone you can decorate your house, buy stuff, fish, catch bugs, hunt for random items by digging or combing the beach, plant flowers and trees; or even just chop trees down. Most of those tasks are there to just fill your days or flesh out something else; all the gathering you do affects the local museum if you wish to donate them for example. When you dig up a fossil you can mail it off to get it identified and then when it comes back you can donate it and see it on display. If they already have it you can sell it for cash, or bells which is the currency of the game, and that goes for all of the collectibles. Besides donating them, they are all kept track of in your inventory menu; all you completionists out there have your work cut out for you.
That is really all there is to it, though at the same time it isn’t. There is a lot to do while at the same time all of it can be avoided. You can take each day as slowly as you want and live through the game in as much of a stride as you like. That is the charm of Animal Crossing, living your life in this simulated world full of cute animals and plentiful trees and doing so how ever you want, well to a certain extent of course. From the start when you move in and gain your debt to Tom Nook until the “end” when you have the biggest house in the land and all the things you can shove in it, you get to experience it day by day and calm activity by activity.
Animal Crossing was such a fun experience and such an original one at the time. The first sequel on the DS was another smash hit but the Wii game titled City Folk got mixed reviews leading the way for a heavily anticipated game that we are finally getting on the 3DS. There have been some big changes over the years but the original continues to be a classic and if you haven’t played it it is still worth checking out even if you have one of the newer releases; if you are more of a console gamer the original is far superior to the Wii version.