Animal Crossing (AC) is one of those games that quickly became a success purely on word of mouth and cute graphics. That said, it was released in 2001 for the Gamecube, so does it stand the test of time? Is it worth playing today? The short answer is yes.
AC has some catchy tunes, charming sound effects and plenty of kid-friendly humor. Children of all ages will love this game. I put it in a higher rank than The Sims in how long it can hold your attention.
The game has a fairly simple but slightly dynamic plot. To start out, you talk to a cat, Rover, on a train. He asks you what your name is. Then, he asks where you're headed, and he'll say he loves that place and continue to ask you about where you're staying and how much money you got.
Haha, I love dynamic names.
After a long talk with the cat, you arrive at the town you specified, and you meet your new employer and landlord, Nook. He sells you a nearly empty house for 19,800 Bells. Bells are the currency of the game, and they're not hard to come by, so don't worry about what Nook says, because you'll pay your debts off fairly quickly.
Now, this is when the game starts showing you the ropes. You get one of four houses. The other three belong to three other potential player characters, should anyone want to play in the same town. This game allows up to four players in one town, but unfortunately, you can't play at the same time.
Once you visit Nook's shop, you'll get your first task as his employee. He'll ask you to plant flowers next to his shop to make it look nicer. He'll give you the money for the task, and you can either pay off some of your debt or splurge the money. You could potentially put off paying Nook back for the rest of your life, but if you pay off your debts, you unlock more features to your house and allow Nook to make his shop fancier. It's similar to The Sims 2 Pets. The more money you spend, the better the shops get!
To make money without working for Nook, you can sell Nook items for his shop. You can get items by picking fruit from trees or digging up treasure. You can also catch bugs and fish. Oh, and you can pick up items which appear at the shore of the beach. You can also win contests and sell your prizes. There are plenty of ways to get Bells.
As a casual game, AC excels. From a hardcore gamer perspective, however, AC is to be avoided. It doesn't offer any multiplayer experience and requires no skill. It's good in small doses but not good to play for hours every day. I recommend it as a game you can play with your family. I also recommend it as a temporary babysitter for your little brother.
My word on Gamecube emulators:
Gamecube emulation is getting pretty good (far from perfect), but I strongly advocate the use of an actual console for Gamecube games. This is because Gamecube consoles are cheap and can be easily connected to your television. Also, Gamecube games work in your Wii, if you have one, and the Gamecube controller can even be plugged into your Wii.