Nintendo's second-half lineup for 2002 reads like a laundry list of gaming's biggest and most beloved franchises. But amidst these massively anticipated games--which include the likes of Super Mario Sunshine and Metroid Prime--lies a relative unknown that could easily turn out to be one of the surprise hits of the year: Nintendo's quirky new life sim, Animal Crossing.
As the game begins, you find yourself on a train headed for a small forest village that you'll soon be calling home. Once you arrive and get settled in your new digs, you're free to do pretty much whatever you want, whenever you want. This is what makes Animal Crossing so unique--the only real objective in the game is to live life as you see fit. With literally dozens of things to do at any given time, you'll never find yourself feeling bored or restless. But don't expect any puzzles to master or huge bosses to slay, 'cause you won't find 'em here. The point with Animal Crossing was to keep things simple and fun. "The gaming industry has a trend of creating really big action games that are too difficult for a lot of people," says AC producer Takashi Tezuka. "We wanted to make a game that was accessible to all players, even those who weren't hardcore gamers." Up to four people can participate in any one village (each person occupies one of the four available houses), so your friends and family can get in on the action as well. This is where the "communication" aspect of the game kicks in. You can even take things a step further by taking your memory card to a friend's place and having your character "visit" their village (no two villages are alike). There, you can meet new characters, trade items, or even nab some of the local rarities which aren't available back home. And since everything takes place in real time, if you play at 3:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 20, that's the time it'll be in the game as well. Day turns to night, seasons change, holiday events take place and so on. You'll want to check back often to see what's going on, else you might miss out on something big.
We could go on and on about all the cool and unique aspects of AC, but half the fun is finding them out for yourself. Needless to say, if you're up for something fresh and different, this is one GC game you won't want to miss.