The Definitive 50 GameCube Games: #17 Animal Crossing

The series so far: The Definitive 50 GameCube Games.

Three sizes of official memory cards were eventually released for the Cube by Nintendo: the Memory Card 59, 251, and 1019. Early on though, only the 59 was available, and was small enough to be filled by just a few games, depending on their save file sizes.

To give memory deficient gamers a break, Nintendo actually included a specially stickered Memory Card 59 with copies of Animal Crossing. The game’s save took up the whole card.

Animal Crossing defies classification. It’s a sandbox game, city simulator, messaging service, and retro collection rolled into one.

The game begins with the player selecting a few options for his or her character before becoming a new resident in a town populated by big-headed humanoid animals.

You’re stuck with a sizable loan from resident salesman and crook Tom Nook for your new house, and after that, the game is whatever you want it to be.

Players are free to wander the game’s patchwork of trees, lakes, beaches, and housing in search of, well, things to do.

Tools can be acquired to dig for treasures, collectibles, and home decorations. The game includes a number of natural history relics the can be discovered and used to populate a local museum, for example. Or the player can work to acquire alternate clothing for his or her avatar. Many objects that serve no obvious purpose work best as simple home decorations.

Should the player be especially motivated to pay off Tom Nook and expand his or her house, fruit can be mined from trees and sold to help pay down the crushing debt. Additional trees, carefully laid down for maximum yield or not, may be planted and regularly harvested from.

Communications can be made directly or through letter writing to the town’s many animal residents, as well as the other human residents, should the player’s family choose to move in.

Perhaps most exciting, a number of classic NES games may be acquired in game, and played. This includes titles like Balloon Fight, Excitebike, Wario’s Woods, and Punch-Out!!

Animal Crossing began as an N64 title, and was even released as one in Japan. The game we in the west eventually got is actually an up-port of that version, which explains the somewhat simplistic graphical style. Not that I’m complaining, the appearance of the game is smartly stylized for a cartoonish look that fits with the laid-back gameplay and nostalgic atmosphere.

Animal Crossing can be explored at the players own pace. It’s up to you if you want to focus on making in-game friends or collecting everything that there is to be found. It’s not a complex puzzle to be pulled apart and mined for accomplishments. Animal Crossing is an experience.

It’s something a person can go back to and play regularly or only occasionally.

Thanks to changes that occur as the Cube’s internal clock ticks on, life goes forward within the game and among its residents even without player participation.

By the way, Nintendo had long promised an SD card adapter for the GameCube, but it only ever came to Japan. And the Memory Card 1019? Yeah, they can easily be corrupted when used in the Wii, so don’t trust them. Stick with 59s and 251s.