Okay, here's my review.
First, some important information:
There is a set of NES games that can be found in the game somewhere.
There are most likely hidden games that will be unlocked due to some sort of Nintendo competition. Soccer, Donkey Kong Jr. and Clu Clu Land D have been obtainable by an ad on the official Animal Crossing website (http://www.animal-crossing.com), although they can be probably be obtained in the game as well. Wario's Woods and Baseball can only be found on the Island, which is activated with the Game Boy Advance connected. Besides these exceptions, anyone can get any game either for their Birthday, Tom Nook's monthly lotteries, at Crazy Redd's, or by interacting with villagers. You can also get any game via a trade with someone else by exchanging passwords.
UPDATE: It has been confirmed that two more games are in Animal Crossing, but up until now remain locked away (as no one has gotten them yet). These games were discovered by Datel, makers of cheating peripherals, and that they had unlocked these games with their product. It is unknown when Nintendo will release codes on their website for obtaining these games:
The game requires 57 memory blocks, plus 1 for extra data (NES high scores) However, the game comes with a 59-block card. The card comes with a non-transferable gift packet (which takes up the last memory block) that unlocks when you play the game. If you start your village on that card, you will recieve a gift from Nintendo in-game of 2 free NES games. Villages cannot be transfered between cards, but your character can 'visit' villages on other cards, and interact with the other village in simmilar ways.
The game resembles a cross between The Sims and Harvest Moon, with gameplay resembling the latter with some additions from the former.
The game was originally released in Japan as Animal Forest for the N64. It was re-released for the Gamecube as Animal Forest Plus, before being released on Sept. 16, 2002 in North America. There is no confirmed date for release in Europe. It appeared early in Blockbuster stores, without the memory card.
E-reader Animal Crossing Cards. Connecting the Gameboy Advance along with the E-reader peripheral unlocks a few new features. Apparantely, you can get Animal Crossing-e cards wherever collectible cards are sold (and presumably for about the same price)
There are three types of Animal Crossing Data:
- Character Cards. Scanning them unlocks a special item in the game for you get. Alternatively, a code is printed on the card itself, and it is rumoured that if you write a letter with the code to an animal, they will mail you a present in return.
- Tune Cards. These cards contain jingles that you can upload to your game's theme song board.
- Patterns. These cards contain neat patterns that supplement the ones you can design yourself. In other words, they can be used for clothes, wallpaper, carpets, etc.
In addition to these uploadable features, each card will have information about things in the game, and kids will no doubt be trading them in schools if it catches on.
Now I will try and document everything I can about this game...
When Animal Crossing starts, you are introduced to the guitar-playing dog, Totakeke, who prefers to be called K.K. Slider. He emphasises that this is meant to be a communication game, and the more people you get involved, the more fun you will have.
You then fade-in to a train scene (1st person), where you meet an outgoing cat that won't leave you alone, prying vital details from your hands like your name, gender and the name of the village you're moving to, and how can you be moving to the village when you don't have a house. He then sets you up with a friend of his, Tom Nook, that can get you a place to crash in your new village.
You emerge from the train in an overhead view (which continues for the rest of the game, now that they know your gender), and are greeted by Tom Nook. He shows you the houses on the block (all 4 of them), and let's you pick one. Of course, if you think you're getting it for free, you're out of luck. Unless you want his Racoon Mafia to jump you, you're going to work for him at his store until you pay off your debt!
Through his various jobs, you get to know your village and its people. Every village has a Post Office, a Public Bulletin Board, a Lighthouse, a Dock, a Museum, an Able Sisters, a Police Station, a Dump, and of course, Nook's Cranny. Every village also starts with about 6 villagers, and a new one moves in every day until you reach 15 or so.
Eventually he runs out of jobs for you, and just laughs. He has a monopoly as the only store in your village, and you can't go anywhere, so you have to pay off your debt eventually... (insert Animal Crossing lauging sound here, it sounds like high-speed panting)
Anyways, at this point, the game becomes pretty much open-ened, and you can do as you please. Here are some of the things you can do:
- Pay off your debt. Every time you do, he remodels your house, making it bigger, adding floors, and leaving you with an even larger debt.
- Chat up the villagers. You can do errands for them to get gifts, teach them catch phrases, play games with them, piss them off, make their day....
- Become a Museum contributor. The Museum starts off empty, but you can have it written that you gave them that rare bug specimen, that exquisite painting, or that ancient dinosaur bone. Which leads to...
- Collecting. There is a lot to collect. About 40 fish (caught with the Fishing Rod), 40 bugs (caught with the Bug Net), 20 fossils (dug up with the Shovel), 8 kinds of fruit, NES games, around 1400 different types of furniture, wallpaper and carpets, which can be bought from Tom Nook, or found at the dump, or in the lost in found...
- Interior Decorating. There are tons of furniture, both sensible (couches, clocks and beds) to the insane (UFO's, Gyroids, Mossy Stones). There are collectable 'themes' (Citrus, Blue, Space), and you even get a score from the Happy Room Academy which is based on how things look. If your tastes are good Feng Shui, you will also have better luck in other pursuits.
- Designing Patterns. There are tons of wallpapers, carpets, clothes and umbrellas to find, but you can even design your own patterns (simmilar to the stamp maker in Mario Paint), and watch as villagers tune into your taste in style.
- Landscaping. There are lots of kinds of flowers, and you can plant fruit in the ground to make more trees. And you can use the Axe to chop down trees (or to take out your anger).
- Play the 'stalk' market. You buy turnip stalks on Sunday morning and sell them to Tom Nook at a profit where prices are high! Just make sure to sell (or eat) them before they go bad!
- Listen to and Write music. Because there's no ending in this game, you will be dying to get to the Train Station on Saturdays at 8 pm, because that's where Totakeke (also known as K.K. Slider) hangs out, to take requests and sings the classics you remember, from "Only Me" to "K.K. Salsa" to "K.K. Rock", as the credits scroll by. You can also change the town song to whatever you want. It get's played every hour by the bells (which I have never seen).
- Celebrate. There are numerous holidays and festivals you can take part in to get free gifts. The game is synched to the Gamecube's system clock, so when it's day in real life, the villagers mill about, and when it's the middle of the night, very few people are walking around. Certain real holidays are in the game, along with some bonus ones (Sport Fair comes to mind), and you will find yourself constantly chaning the clock to catch important events. Of course, purists will find this to be against the nature of the game, and will avoid their real life to find the mayor to get the prize for the day. ;-)
- Communicate. This is what the game is all about, and this is where it's at. Up to 4 people can play on the same game (although not at the same time), and you can send letters to your friends, set up a Buried Treasure Hunt for them, buy that one item they want and sell it to them for 100,000 Bell (the game's currency), and watch as the villagers comment about so-and-so's bad taste in furniture, or how nice so-and-so was when he brought a ball to play with, or showing you letters that they write each other. Yes, you can even write letters to the A.I. villagers, and they respond! (It's not too intelligent, and they don't comment on things you say) You can visit a friend's town, and take a fruit that's rare in your village and make a profit selling them. You can even trade items by any medium using a password system. (One password is good for one item for one name in one town)
Concluding remarks: All in all, this game has lots of things to do, and can keep one very busy for a long time. It's strangely addictive even for me. I would recommend this to just about anyone who likes replay value. I would especially recommend it to fans of The Sims and Harvest Moon, as well as families who want a game they can play together.