ANIMAL CROSSING / Nintendo / Gamecube
So, um ... the only other Animal Crossing game I've played prior to this one is Wild World for DS, and I kinda had an allergic reaction to it.
Maybe I'm just becoming more of a capitalist reactionary pig in my old age, but for some reason, I've totally enjoyed my time with the original Animal Crossing for Gamecube. While you do face the burden of constant crushing debt to scumbag Tom Nook in this one, you aren't forced to do as many fetch-quest jobs in his service, nor are the recipients of his deliveries as hard to locate as they rarely wander away from the area of their house. And you don't get abuse constantly poured on your head either. Debt sort of sits in the background with no real timetable of paying it off, and no real consequence to carrying it other than you can't make your house larger until you've paid off your current mortgage. The game's currency, "bells", are also really easy to come by in a number of autonomous and self-paced ways in this one; fishing, digging up the rather shocking amount of fossils that show up every day, bug-catching, special events and etc. The game just seems to have a much more gentle, "go and play in the sandbox" feel to it as opposed to Wild World's money-grubbing, materialistic, soul-crushing atmosphere.
Animal Crossing does break some rather sacrosanct rules for "hardcore gamers", however, so it's a tossup whether you'll be into it at any level or not. If you want twitch action or an RPG-like plot and sense of "progress", this is definitely the wrong place. If you can't live without those things this game will not appeal to you at all. It's meant to be played a little bit each day, or at least a couple times a week - maybe fifteen or twenty minutes at most each day. The game passes in real time in keeping with the Gamecube internal clock - you can only "grind" bells to a certain limited degree each game day, and there's only so much to wander around and do each day before you've tapped out the game environment and have to give it at least a day of real time to refresh. Obtaining items and new stuff in general is extremely random.
What the game is about is more a constant stream of little surprises to keep coming back to. New goods showing up in Nook's shop, raiding the town dump and lost&found for freebies, chains of mail correspondence, K.K. Slider's weekly song, presents on your birthday, holiday events, weekly visits from special characters. The clock bells playing your custom theme song at noon. Animal neighbors move in and out of your town periodically. Seasons change along with reality, bringing new opportunities (you can't really bug-hunt in winter, for example, but you can roll up giant snowballs and drop them on asshat neighbors.)
The one aspect of the game that has not aged well and is weaker as compared to its follow-ups is multiplayer. There's no online connectivity at all. Players can visit each other's towns, but have to physically exchange save files on a memory card, and can't play simultaneously.
Personally I find the game neat, and if you enjoy it the concept it is almost evergreen. It's a great de-stress game for fifteen minutes or so at the end of a long day or something, or a nice quick diversion when you're bored. Used copies are not expensive at all, and I think it's a worthwhile pickup for just about any Gamecube library.
* Animal Crossing Code Generator
* Gameplay Video