Nintendo has a talent for bringing odd, wildly addictive, insanely fun (some might argue cute) games for all audiences to the GameCube. ANIMAL CROSSING is the newest game in this tradition, and can best be defined as a "communication game".
You're off to live on your own, and as you head to your new town, you meet someone on the train. Since you have nowhere to live, your new friend helps you out by taking you to Nook, a Raccoon businessman who runs the town shop, and is also your landlord. You'll take a part time job with him to begin paying off your house.
Another point to mention about ANIMAL CROSSING is that the game is entirely real-time. The current game time is what the time is where you really are. If you play at two in the morning, don't expect your neighbors to be up. Different people wake up at different times of the day, different seasons pass, and different events happen on holidays.
After completing the initial work for Nook, you'll have to find a way to make the rest of the money. Part of this will be accomplished by finding fruit and other items, and selling them to Nook. Another aspect is helping your neighbors out (a new one moves into your town every day) by running errands, which rewards you with more items to sell. Eventually you'll be able to sell insects and fish that you catch, for more money.
You don't necessarily want to sell everything you find, though; you also will need to furnish your home. Anything from NES games, carpet, wall paper, clothes, and furniture can make their way into your house. I'm personally proud of my pool table and my totem pole.
Another major aspect of the game is letter writing. You can write letters to your neighbors, and they will respond, sometimes with presents. Ultimately, everything in ANIMAL CROSSING deals with talking to your neighbors.
What makes the game more interesting is that up to four people can live in one town, each in their own house. You and your roommates, girlfriend, family, whatever, can all play in one town. You can each work on your own houses, trading items, and enriching the community inside the game. In Japan (where ANIMAL CROSSING is a giant hit), kids frequently play in the evening, and then as soon as they go to bed, the parents hop on and play more.
Yet one more selling point of the game is connectivity. This is the first time that it has been truly worth hooking up the Game Boy Advance and the GameCube. There are four main uses of the connectivity. One is to download the NES games you collect to your Game Boy Advance. You can then unhook and take it with you but you can't turn the GBA off without losing the data. Another use is going to an island in the game, and another is a miniature pattern designer for the clothes and wallpapers in the game. The last involves the Game Boy Advance E-Reader. By scanning ANIMAL CROSSING cards into the E-Reader while connected to the game, you'll get new mail that contains new items for you.
The sheer replay-ability and open-ended nature of ANIMAL CROSSING is what makes it so much fun to play. There are so many different things to do, so many bugs and fish to catch, and so much interior decoration. In essence, there is much fun to be had.
An N64 game originally, ANIMAL CROSSING still shows it, with less than stellar graphics. Nothing is very highly detailed, but the game is colorful, and it isn't painful to look at. But it's definitely sub-par for this generation of consoles.
The sound is also lacking. For instance, the music is very short, and loops very frequently. The sound effects are also all relatively simple, and the character voices in the game get annoying very quickly.
Despite these technical setbacks, ANIMAL CROSSING is one of the most innovative games to be released this year. The sheer fun factor of this title makes it worthwhile.