Animal Crossing: Population Growing (GCN)

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Animal Crossing.jpg
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Distributor(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Nintendo GameCube
Engine Doubutsu no Mori
Release date(s) NA September 16, 2002
AUS October 17, 2003
EU September 24, 2004
Genre(s) Life Simulation
Modes Single player
Media GameCube Optical Disc
Input methods GameCube controller
Game Boy Advance
Nintendo e-Reader
NIWA Strategy.png Guide/Walkthrough at StrategyWiki

Animal Crossing (sometimes subtitled Population Growing) is a life-simulation game released for the Nintendo GameCube in 2002. It is a localized and enhanced port of Doubutsu no Mori+, and is the first title in the Animal Crossing series to be released outside Japan. Gameplay is very similar to its Japanese predecessors; the game does not have a set goal or plot, instead allowing the player to have full control over their own life and play indefinitely, with time passing as it does in the real world. Animal Crossing introduced the concept of region-exclusive holidays and special events that would later become a series staple.

Due to its popularity, Animal Crossing became a Player's Choice title about a year after its North American release. The game was so commercially successful that it was ported back into Japanese with a few additional features and released as Doubutsu no Mori e+. Animal Crossing was also well-received by critics, and was included in many year-end 'best of' lists upon its release. It has also been featured in several all-time top video game countdowns, and has received multiple awards and nominations.


File:Tom Nook (GCN).png
Tom Nook helps new residents settle into town.

Players assume the role of a human setting out for a life of their own in a town of anthropomorphic animals. Each town is randomly generated, ensuring that no two players' experiences are exactly the same. Gameplay within each village is open-ended allowing players to engage in a variety of activities that suit their playstyle. Players can pick fruit, grow trees, garden, hunt for fossils and fish, catch insects, do favors for the villagers, decorate their homes, play NES Games, or visit a summer paradise on Animal Island.

The game relies heavily on the GameCube's internal clock in order to produce seasonal changes in the player's town and to schedule variety of special events and visitors. A complex system of in-game experience upgrades is available if players follow a prescribed pattern of placing furniture in their homes that have been assigned Feng Shui color points.

e-Reader connectivity

Main article: Nintendo e-Reader

Animal Crossing is the only title for the Nintendo GameCube released outside of Japan to feature support for the Nintendo e-Reader peripheral. By connecting to the e-Reader via a Nintendo GameCube Game Boy Advance Cable players can access the island, play NES games, and scan Animal Crossing-e cards to access special items, patterns, and mini-games.

North American localization

Animal Crossing introduced the concept of region-exclusive holidays and special events that would later become a series staple.

Doubutsu no Mori+ features many culturally specific items and events that cater to a Japanese audience which Nintendo altered or removed in order to make the gameplay more appealing to Western players. Some examples include the transformation of the Bell Shrine into the Wishing Well and the removal of the spa items, which are typical of Japanese onsen. In an effort to preserve the game's unique real-world character, events were introduced that would be familiar to North American players, such as Groundhog's Day and Thanksgiving.

The NOA localization team began writing game dialog in early 2002, however translation of the game's hundreds of items began months earlier[1]. Unlike the extended localization and development process for recent titles in the series, Animal Crossing was localized in the short span of eight to twelve months. During this time, the team translated 30,000+ files of text[2], worked to develop new items (such as the camping gear) and added support for the Nintendo e-Reader, which was launched just two days after the game's release in North America.

Announcement and release date

On May 16, 2001[3] at Nintendo's pre-E3 press conference, a six second montage of footage from "Animal Forest" was shown to members of the media as part of a larger reel featuring upcoming Nintendo Gamecube titles[4]. The clip did not feature any dialog, however the presence of the Bell Shrine indicates that it was still early in the localization process, if not footage straight from Doubutsu no Mori+. This was the first time the game was shown in North America, and the first evidence of its English localization.

As early as October of 2001[5], Nintendo established a page on their website for Animal Forest noting it was "being optimized for its U.S. debut on the GameCube."[6] A few months later on February 28, 2002 at a Nintendo Roundtable Conference, Shigeru Miyamoto confirmed that localization of Animal Forest was "progressing and moving along quite well" with Satoru Iwata projecting it to be released "sometime in the fall."[7] About a month later on March 30, 2002 the game's name was officially changed to Animal Crossing[8], as reflected on Nintendo's website at the time.

On May 22, 2002 at Nintendo's pre-E3 press conference, an extended video was shown introducing Animal Crossing and highlighting its ability to connect with the e-Reader and Game Boy Advance[9]. Iwata also confirmed the game for September release in North America. Later that day, Animal Crossing made its second E3 appearance, this time as a playable title on the show floor[10]. It was generally overshadowed by high-profile titles, however it still snagged a third place spot on the Game Critic Award's list for Best Original Game of E3 2002[11]. Despite conflicting information on modern gaming websites[12][13], Animal Crossing's North American release date was set for September 16, 2002 as noted on its official sites[14][15] and a press release from Nintendo of America[16]. There were reports, however, that select Blockbuster Video locations had received and began renting advance copies of the game as early as September 6th[17].

This page needs an expert. Eh wot! This article or section needs attention from an expert in global logistics and game studies for Animal Crossing.
The specific problem is: Discrepancies in NA release date need resolution, research into release date(s) in South American countries is needed. Starting point: Research South American distribution by Latamel Inc.

Website and promotion

Main article: Crossing Guardian

In early September 2002 the official North American Animal Crossing website, the Crossing Guardian, went live. It mimicked a real-life newspaper and featured articles on different aspects of the game, sometimes written from the perspective of in-game characters. The site was also used to distribute secret codes for exclusive NES games as well as items from the Mario Theme.

Animal Crossing Pioneers

On August 7, 2002 Nintendo of America announced a contest whereby 125 teams of two would be selected to receive advance promotional copies of Animal Crossing[18]. The submission deadline for the contest was August 12th. To be considered for selection, applicants had to submit a written response of 50 words or less explaining why they should chosen as Pioneers. Those selected received a special Animal Crossing disc marked "for promotional use only", along with a 59 block Memory Card and a promotional Animal Crossing calendar. Pioneers received the game a month early and were expected to help Nintendo generate online buzz in advance of the title's release. Pioneers were also given exclusive access to their own web forum[19] where they could discuss amongst themselves as well as provide feedback to Nintendo representatives. At the end of the experience, the Pioneers were invited to an online chat with a few of the members of the game's localization team[20]. An analysis of the standard and promotional game disc concluded that the two were byte identical[21], meaning that no changes were made to the final version as a result of Pioneer feedback. The promotional copy and calendar have since become collector's items, selling for over $500 together on eBay as of March, 2014[22].


On August 30, 2002 Nintendo of America initiated the Animal Crossing "Deck Out Your Room" Sweepstakes. One grand prize winner received a TV, headphones, and CD player from Panasonic, a Nintendo GameCube, a Game Boy Advance, five GameCube games, five Game Boy Advance Games, two WaveBird controllers, and a one year subscription to Nintendo Power. Five first prize winners received a Nintendo GameCube, a copy of Animal Crossing, and a one year subscription to Nintendo Power[23]. The sweepstakes ended on October 15, 2002[24]. Those who registered for the sweepstakes received an Animal Crossing screensaver[25].

Commercials and trailer

Nintendo of America began its advertising campaign in early September, 2002 with the release of four live-action commercials featuring players living in an Animal Crossing world[26]. These commercials along with a trailer for the game appeared on a Preview DVD for the Nintendo GameCube that was distributed by retailers (both in North America and internationally[27]) in late 2002 and may have also been an insert in Nintendo Power magazine[28]. Video trailers for the game were also included on Interactive Multi-Game Demo Disc Versions 5[29] and 7[30], released in July and September of 2002, respectively. These game discs were sent to retailers for use in Nintendo GameCube demo kiosks.

Pricing and sales

Animal Crossing shipped with a $49.95 MSRP in North America[31]. In a press release from Nintendo of America dated October 28, 2002 the game was reported to have sold over 100,000 copies in its first four weeks of sale[32], ranking eighth in video game sales for the month of September[33]. Animal Crossing would fall off the charts the next month and would not reappear near the top of an industry-wide cumulative sales chart (monthly or otherwise) for the remainder of its life cycle, however it would remain a popular title in terms of GameCube software sales. In December of 2002, it sold over 130,000 copies[34], not far behind Super Mario Sunshine, which was released a few weeks before Animal Crossing. By October of 2004 Animal Crossing had sold upwards of 760,000 copies, making it the 11th best selling title on the system at the time[35]. On September 25th, 2003 just over a year after its initial release, Animal Crossing became a Player's Choice title, with a new MSRP of $29.99[36]. All-time sales figures place Animal Crossing as the sixth best-selling GameCube game with somewhere between 1.68[37] and 1.92[38] million units sold, just ahead of the critically acclaimed Metroid Prime. Comparing it to the Pikmin series, another new Nintendo IP debuting on the GameCube, Animal Crossing sold more than both Pikmin titles combined—a considerable feat considering the original Pikmin had been available since the console's launch.


Animal Crossing was met with mostly positive reviews from critics, with many praising its charming, unique gameplay and long life span. e-Reader connectivity was seen as a welcome addition, however some criticized its outdated graphics and felt that it did not offer much of a single-player experience. Animal Crossing was included in many year-end 'best of' lists upon its release in 2002. It has also been featured in several all-time top video game countdowns, and has received multiple awards and nominations. Review aggregator Metacritic notes a Metascore of 87/100 for Animal Crossing[39], which places it just behind Animal Crossing: New Leaf's score of 88.

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Result
2002 Game Critic Award Best Original Game of E3[40] Nominated
GameSpot's Best and Worst of 2002 Game of the Year[41] Nominated
Best Role-Playing Game on GameCube[42] Won
Most Innovative Game[43] Won
Funniest Game (Purposefully) [44] Nominated
GameSpy's Best of 2002 GameCube Game of the Year[45] Nominated
2003 The Game Developers Choice Awards Innovation Award[46] Won
Interactive Achievement Awards Innovation in Console Gaming[47] Won
Outstanding Achievement in Game Design Won
Console Role-Playing Game of the Year Won
Console Game of the Year Nominated
Game of the Year Nominated
Outstanding Achievement in Gameplay Engineering Nominated

Top lists

Year Source List Placement
2003 Entertainment Weekly The 100 Greatest Videogames[48] 72
2006 Electronic Gaming Monthly The Greatest 200 Videogames of Their Time[49] 126
Nintendo Power Nintendo Power's Top 200 Games[50] 51
X-Play 10 Best GameCube Games Ever[51] 7
2007 Edge Top 100 Games of All Time [52] 49
ScrewAttack! Top 10 GameCube Games[53] 5
2008 Nintendo Power Best of the Best - Nintendo GameCube (Top 20) [54] 19
2012 TIME All-TIME 100 greatest video games[55] -


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