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First Pokemon, now this, Nintendo has mastered the addictive game

By James Stevenson     January 21, 2003

The Christmas holiday is always a wonderful time in the videogame industry. A chance to kick back, play a lot of games you missed out on, and just enjoy the lack of PR folks calling for a couple weeks. Over the break, I had a chance to dive into STEEL BATTALION again, make a trip back to Vice City, and play a bit more of ROCKY. Most importantly though, I finally picked up a game that had been neglected since I first reviewed it, and started a brand new town.


The game I speak of is ANIMAL CROSSING. I've been getting this growing urge to play it again over the past couple of months, and it finally caught up to me over the break. There is something oddly relaxing and stress-relieving about playing a game where pulling weeds, planting trees, decorating your house, and running errands for neighbors is the objective. I'm not sneaking around, throwing punches, blowing up buildings, or anything else, I'm just living in a new town.


To top all of this off, I finally picked up some of Nintendo's Animal Crossing E-Reader cards. I have to say, this is brilliant marketing. First, let's make people own a copy of Animal Crossing and a GameCube. Then if they have a Game Boy Advance, buy a fifteen dollar link cable to hook

Collecting fossils in the field yields big results at the museum in ANIMAL CROSSING

it to the GameCube, the forty-dollar E-Reader and then buy packs of cards at 3 bucks a pop they can get a few new items of furniture (there is also a non-connective way of using the cards as well). And get this, I'm dangerously on the verge of buying a box of these cards.


There's also the pesky problem of my unhealthy addiction to a game where all of the residents are animals, cute ones at that. More than a couple friends have asked me why the hell I'm playing the game. Strangely though, about an equal number of people have sat down and just watched, mesmerized, as I play. It's really quite fascinating to see "macho" guys become completely engrossed while I run around trying to pay my mortgage off.


Yes ANIMAL CROSSING is one of the best games from last year. I can't wait until the release of the sequel programmed and ready to take advantage of the GameCube hardware (this one is a Japanese N64 port). In addition, all of the wonderful retro games that will be included in that version will make it completely worthwhile (here's hoping for Super Nintendo titles on the next version!). If you haven't had a chance to play this gem, buy it as soon as possible, you won't be disappointed.


TIDBITS


The Xbox is now the second best-selling console in Europe, outpacing the GameCube... Sega of America President Peter Moore has resigned and joined Microsoft... COUNTER-STRIKE 1.6 has been released... SOUL CALIBUR II has been unveiled; each console will have its own specific bonus character such as Link for the GameCube, and Spawn for the Xbox... RED FACTION II will be released on PC, GameCube, and Xbox this year.


ON SHELVES 


This week my recommendation

The Getaway

goes to Sony's THE GETAWAY. The game looks great and fans of the cinematic elements of GRAND THEFT AUTO will enjoy this game immensely. For the teenage boys in the crowd (who can play Mature-rated games) DEAD OR ALIVE BEACH VOLLEYBALL is a sure winner.

Gamers' Thumb is our weekly Video Game column.

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