There’s never been a game that has hit me so out of left field than Animal Crossing. Launching on the Gamecube in the West but originally on N64 in Japan Animal Crossing is the worlds most cutesy life simulator. When I first played the game as a young teenager it was the first time I was exposed to anything like it. There was a real time clock in game, as the hours I played passed in the real world so too did they in my virtual town. My little sandbox where everything I did was persistent, and when I wasn’t there the world knew it, I was enamoured by Animal Crossing for months.
Since the original new instalments have come and gone, and the series has found itself a much better fit for handhelds, with the recent 3DS iteration being fantastic. But despite the improvements made over the years Animal Crossing will never be as magical to me again. I was introduced to the lovable world of Animal Crossing my a friends he was loving it, but I thought it looked kind of lame. Kindly to convince me otherwise he borrowed his copy to me so I could have a go to decide if I should buy my own. When I took it home I was hit with my first hurdle, Animal Crossing demanded a lot memory space, in fact it needed a whole 59 blocks of space – and that was a lot. My friend had neglected to mention that Animal Crossing came with a free memory card when he bought it, so large were it’s save files.
It took some convincing, but eventually I talked my friend into giving me one of his spare cards. So on my second night I actually managed to play. Animal Crossing was so very alien, unusual and childish in a way I’d never seen games be before. My character woke up on a train, a curious anthropomorphic cat waddled over to my passed out avatar; casually he introduced himself and invited himself to sit with me. He talked about the perils of moving away from home and asked me just where I was going. A small text box popped open I began typing in my towns name. The cute ‘animalese’ language noises began reading out the name as I typed ‘Coolstown’. I was anything if not creative in my younger years.
After I told him where I was going he began assaulting me with other questions. Are you a boy or girl? Where do you like to live? Isn’t this rain horrible?! Soon the questions subsided and the train ground to a halt. I didn’t know it yet but our little heart to heart was allowing Animal Crossing to create a randomly generated town based on my suggestions. Staggering off the train I was introduced to my town for the first time. A curious raccoon approached me, told me how to use my maps and asked me to meet him at my new house. I ran through the green field that was ‘Coolstown’ eagerly looking for my new home. On the way I saw many other intriguing houses, but these weren’t mine so I ignored them. I pelted through decorative flowers without a care and eventually found a small collection of four houses by the sea shore.
Tom Nook, the aforementioned racoon, was already here. He asked me to check out the houses and tell me which one I liked most. In truth, they all looked like prison cells, but one had a blue roof – so I took it. Now Tommy revealed all I need to do was pay him. “WHAT?!” he explained at the staggering reveal that I had no money. Appalled though he may have been Mr Nook was nothing if charitable, calmly he explained I could work my debt off at his shop. Slave labour, endearing, I thought. Through a series of tasks working at Nook’s store I learnt about my new anthropomorphic neighbours, including a well dressed lamb and huffy squirrel, furniture for my house and about how I shouldn’t really run through flowers. Finally my work was done, but Nook wasn’t happy. I could have my house but I owed him 18 thousand bells – that’s currency.
Great, now I had a mortgage skipping town seemed an impossibility. I had no choice, I’d have to hang around Coolstown and pay off the conniving bin rummager. I spent the next few real life and in game days learning the tricks Animal Crossing. Every day I eagerly ran to Nook’s store looking for new tools so I could do new cool stuff around town. I got a fishing rod first, I spent hours fishing in the towns shoreline and river. Then I got a shovel; I started excitedly digging for treasure. Eventually I got a net and began catching bugs. Between all this I was periodically emptying the every tree in town of it’s fruit so I could sell them for cash. I was doing chores, and I loved every second.
Finally, after a few longs days I’d paid Nook off. He rubbed his hands suggestively. “How about a bigger house?” He asked. “Hell yeah!” I yelled. He did his sums and said “great you now owe me 120,000 bells”. My jaw hit the floor, how would I ever get that much money? He didn’t care, it was a done deal, and the building work would be done tomorrow. By this point I didn’t care either. I’d spent a few days in Animal Crossing and I loved it. In time I’d spend months gathering materials, finding new ways to make money, decorating my house and upgrading my home. Oh; if your wondering I bought my own copy fairly quick. I even got my none gaming Sister addicted,.
I suppose all I’ve really done is talk about how much I loved Animal Crossing. But I hope my early adventures inspire you, and make you see why the game was so great. At the very least you saw my joy. Animal Crossing has an engrossing mystery to it, even today. I implore you to buy the 3DS version and start your own adventure.