The GameCube version of Animal Crossing was one of the most addictive games I’ve ever played. I didn’t normally play it for hours at a stretch (though I did that more than once), but I played it for at least ten or fifteen minutes almost every single day for about a year. You live in a house in a village; there are other animals who live there, with animals moving away or moving in occasionally; you can get stuff to furnish your house, either from the store or as gifts from other animals; you can catch fish and bugs, dig up fossils, keep them or sell them or give them to your local museum.

If you don’t talk to another animal for a few days, they’ll notice. You can write them a letter; they will write back. They’ll notice if you don’t change your clothes for a week. There are occasional holidays or special events. You can enlarge your house, to provide more room for stuff. Every Saturday, a dog performs songs, which are quite charming. Multiple people can play, living in different houses in the same village.

This may not sound like much, but it adds up to a great game, and one that is addictive out of proportion to its greatness. As far as addictive goes: it hits the collection aspect very hard, in multiple ways: collecting fish/bugs/fossils, collecting songs, building a nice house containing interesting (and perhaps rare) items, building a nice wardrobe. And we’ve learned over the last decade that this is a great way to get people hooked – see Pokemon, for example. Also, there’s the whole social interaction aspect, where animals notice if you’re absent for any length of time, which keeps you coming back. (Not to mention that you get cockroaches in your house; ick.)

As far as greatness: it so boldly ignores many of the traditional video game conventions (fighting? plot? What’s that?), and you don’t mind a bit. And the social interaction aspect of the game is relatively new. And the songs are charming! And it’s quite well executed in general.

Anyways, there’s now a DS version of the game. Quite similar, though there are tweaks. The biggest issue is that, if multiple people are playing, they share the same house; I don’t see how this is a good idea. Though, to mitigate this problem, you have more storage space, which is good. The parser for your letters is better (or at least animals complain less often that you aren’t making sense; it’s not clear if the game does any real parsing at all). Animals are much less likely to send you on errands; on the whole, this is good (before, I would be leery of talking to animals if I only wanted to play for a few minutes), but I think the pendulum has swung a bit too far. If I had friends who played this and a WiFi connection, we could use that to visit each other’s villages.

Having said all of that, I’m not nearly as addicted this time: I gave it up after a month or so. Liesl, however, is still going strong after about two months. I don’t think my lack of addiction means that the DS version is in any way inferior to the GameCube version: I just need something new, which I’m not seeing. But if you haven’t played either version, you’re missing something.

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