On the eve of the release of Animal Crossing: New Horizons – I thought it’d be fun to share some memories of the GameCube game, which captured my attention for months when it was originally released in the UK, way back in 2004.

It was a long wait for us EU players to get our hands on the GameCube Animal Crossing. Japan had their version in 2001, the US in 2002 and the EU not until 2004. It was infuriating, especially given how quickly word had travelled on how amazing Animal Crossing was; though difficult to describe and categorise, it sounded utterly fascinating, relaxing and charming.

Thankfully, it was absolutely worth the wait. Arriving in the little town and interacting with all of the animals was an absolutely magical experience, one which – to this day – holds up across the various versions and still feels unique.

There’s nothing quite like discovering just the right item for sale in the store, finding a rare shell, digging up a fossil, catching an elusive fish or sneaking up to catch an unusual bug.

At the time of the GameCube version’s release, the events that occurred in town based on the real world’s calendar, season or day of the week felt nothing short of magical. There were times when I’d rush home on a Saturday after a night out with friends, eager to catch KK Slider’s latest gig and take home the song he played for me that week. Or hearing about – and then seeing – a meteor shower, gathering in the town square to watch it with all of the other animals.

Little touches, like sending an animal a t-shirt design, then seeing them proudly wearing it around town, gave the game a deep, peerless charm.

The GameCube version even had NES games that you could play in full in your house – a feature which is definitely missed.

I remember friends bringing their memory cards over so we could visit each other’s towns; though this has long been handled in a much easier and more instant way, of course, this was still a pretty impressive touch back in the day.

The open ended, relaxing nature of the game was – and is – utterly captivating. Despite the fact that I’ve enjoyed pretty much all of the Animal Crossing games that have released so far, none have quite had the impact on me than the GameCube game did.

Though the wait for that first game felt ridiculously long, it’s now been nearly seven years since the European release of the last non-mobile, mainline Animal Crossing game (New Leaf, on 3DS – which was updated with Amiibo support in 2016). Going even further back, the last non-portable version was released in 2008, with Animal Crossing; Let’s Go to the City on the Wii (known as ‘City Folk’ in the US).

So us Animal Crossing fans have been waiting a very long time for an update to the series; with New Horizons less than 24 hours away, I’m very much looking forward to spending time exploring my new island getaway. With all of the terribly negative goings-on in the real world right now, it couldn’t have been timed any better.

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