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SummaryA unique game that can captivate the female audience (without being "girly")
The GoodHello. My name is *Legion*, and I got my girlfriend addicted to Animal Crossing.
As a result, I've seen the game from a couple of different perspectives. I am the "hardcore" (so to speak) gamer, and student game programmer, while she is the casual gamer that enjoys video games in the evenings.
I tend to describe Animal Crossing to people as, "it's like The Sims, except with talking animals that you don't have to tell to go take a leak". Though crude, it gets the point across, especially to anyone that has played The Sims. This is an open-ended game, less about achieving any goals, and more about community building through interpersonal relationships (i.e. helping the town to flourish by corresponding with your neighbors). And to the delight to most players, Animal Crossing lacks the kind of character micromanagement involved in The Sims (that's where that "leak" part comes in).
Unlike in The Sims, your character is not autonomous - you control every movement. Thankfully, the mundane tasks of things like eating and sleeping are omitted. Instead, you talk to the animals of the town, perform errand boy tasks for them, and do other such things to earn money and goodies for your house - including upgrades to the house itself. There are tons of items and decorations to earn, and creating a nice, matching interior to your home can take a long time.
Game industry analysts have long said that for games to capture the attention of the largely untapped female market, games that focus on typically female approaches like communication and cooperation are needed. Animal Crossing is one such game. While cutesy, the game is not overtly "girly" (something which has hamstrung many past attempts to lure females into gaming). Players achieve success through working with their peers, as well as collecting items. The game is never threatening to the player - there is no way of "dying" or failing in such an overt manner. No tasks are actually difficult - most just take time.
Animal Crossing is full of nice touches. The game "syncs" to the GameCube's internal clock - so the date in the game is the actual date, and the time of day in the game reflects the time of day at your small slice of the Earth. Special events happen on certain days. There are also ways to trade items with people over the Internet (trade in an item for a "code", and swap codes with your trade partner - the game itself has no networking facilities, though). Hooking a Game Boy Advance up to the Cube opens up a bonus island to visit.
Animal Crossing is best played by more than one person. Up to 4 people can create characters in the same town. Players can leave each other letters, post on the town message board, send each other gifts, and other little things. For a while, it was a nice little game for myself and my girlfriend,
The BadAnimal Crossing won't necessarily cause "real gamers" to wince. On the contrary, many may find it a nice change of pace, as I did. The game was a nice way to relax after a long day. However, after not too long, one may find the tasks tedious. There really isn't much to do, just a few things to do over and over again. One can only catch so many fish, write so many letters, find and buy/sell so many items, etc., before the whole experience gets a little stale. Your enjoyment of the game is directly related to how long the game's activities can hold your attention. If you're like my girlfriend, you may never tire of interacting with the town's residents, and there are always old locals moving out and new faces taking their place.
The game's "clock sync" can be a problem for people that always play at a certain time of day, especially if it's late at night. The town's store closes after a certain hour, which could create a problem. Also, most characters go to sleep at night. There is a way around this: you can alter your GameCube's internal clock. However, it would be nice if the game's options allowed you to set a "time offset" (like +5 hours, etc), or a "random time" function. While playing the game "in sync" adds a lot to the experience, concessions should be made for those where that is not possible.
A Game Boy Advance with an e-Reader is needed to have access to EVERYTHING. The GBA link opens up the island mentioned earlier, while an e-Reader allows you to use cards that you can buy at most game stores, which lets you unlock new characters and items and other such goodies. This is nice for people that have that gear, but those that don't miss out. These extras aren't necessary, but they're nice (especially after many hours of play, when things start to get old). I won't blame anyone for being unhappy if they miss out on them due to not owning a GBA/e-Reader.