2 – 4 players Wireless (multi-card play)
2 – 4 players Internet
Animal Crossing - Wild World doesn’t have a storyline in the standard game definition. However there is a premise, that being you move to a new town and you become the center of attention. Once you have moved in you are free to do whatever you want within your town or, should you use the world wide web, you can also do what you want by visiting other peoples towns. Yes, this game seems to be void of a real story but Animal Crossing is so addicting you may find yourself having too much fun.
The graphics in the game are almost identical to the GameCube version, which was an enhanced port of the N64 version that was released only in Japan. The mix of bright, colourful 2D elements and exaggerated, crooked 3D elements mix together to create a very vibrant world to look at. The only thing it is missing is the texture smoothing that the GameCube applied, but as the DS’s screens use a low resolution, due to their size, it is barely noticeable. On the plus side however, this simplified, low poly style of imagery makes a lot more sense on the DS than the GameCube considering the processing power contained within the DS’s casing. I am sure they saved a lot of time by carrying over a lot of the game from the previous versions, but the texture artists must have definitely had their hands full due to the hundreds of textures throughout every object in the game, quite a few of which are new to this version.
The sound in Animal Crossing is handled very well. The faux-surround speakers that the Nintendo DS includes have amazed me more than once. For background music, the game follows its predecessor. Every hour, there is a new tune that is cycled while you are walking outside. Each building also has its own music when you enter. There are also dozens of songs you can acquire from the local musician, KK Slider, whom plays in the Museum’s Café every Saturday night from 8pm-12am. The one thing that users may want to change is the way the animals talk. I don’t mind it myself, but it uses a synthesized representation of the alphabet and reads out each letter as it is displayed on the screen.
The controls and interface are almost identical to the previous versions, allowing you quick access to your suitcase, map, letter stash, and fish/bug inventories, but a new tab has been added for the included chat feature when communicating to other systems. They do however benefit greatly from usage of the DS stylus. When using the on-screen menu, which you activate by touching a small icon in the top right corner of the touch-screen, the character display moves to the top screen so that you can still see your character while you navigate the menu. The streamlined process of just being able to drag items around when storing, selling or just re-arranging makes things simpler and faster from the previous versions of this game. Moving around your town is now as simple as touching your stylus to the screen and your character will move faster dependent on how far away the stylus is. If you want to interact with an item on screen just tap your character or the item when you are near the item. Typing is no longer a huge chore either, as being able to just tap the letter you want is much easier than having to move around the virtual keyboard, as before. For reference, you can still use the systems buttons to navigate the interface, but why would you?
The world of Animal Crossing takes place using the real-time clock and calendar of the DS. So as minutes, hours, and days pass by in the real world, the same minutes, hours, and days pass by for the residents of your virtual world. Animal Crossing is a game that is not meant to be beat, defeated or ever really finished. The closest you will get is completing full sets of furniture, fossils, bugs, etc, which will take a while as each set contains rare items which are harder to obtain. The point of the game is communication/interaction, whether it’s with the virtual townsfolk, with people sharing the same cartridge as you, or with people through DS to DS or online Wi-Fi play, the game opens up a lot of possibilities for communicating and sharing with others.
As previously stated, you start your life in the world of Animal Crossing, by moving to a new town. The game starts you off on a taxi ride to your new destination where the driver, Kapp’n, asks you questions to find out your name, gender, and the town name so that the game can create your personal virtual locale. Yes, everyone gets a unique character model and place to live in the Animal Crossing world, as your avatar and the towns are created randomly by the answers you give. The major buildings such as the Town Hall, Museum, and Nooks Store will all be placed in the town depending on how you answered Kapp’n. As the game supports up to 4 players living on the same game cartridge, the subsequent players will not have to give a name to where they are going, and will live in the same house as the previous players.
Once you have created your town, you visit Pelly at the town hall to register yourself as a resident. You will be told to visit Nook, the town shopkeeper, whom has set up a place for you to live. Then the fun begins, because Nook informs you that unfortunately the house you now occupy is not free, so you have to start paying off your mortgage. You are hired part-time by Nook to complete a few simple tasks in which the game teaches you the basics of interacting with the Animal Crossing environment. After this, Nook relieves you of your occupational obligations, and you are a free person!
Now the fun truly begins where you get to do what you want. If you have the tools, that is. You will need the basics, which carry on from the previous versions of the game such as a Shovel to plant trees and dig up fossils, an Axe to allow you to chop down trees and customize the flow of your town, a Fishing Rod for catching fish, and a Net for catching bugs,etc. There are also a couple new items added, such as the Watering Can to keep withering plants alive, a Slingshot to shoot floating presents out of the sky, and a Timer so that you can plan out timed games that keep track of what you have caught. It will take at least a few days to acquire all of these items, as Nook only keeps a select array of items in his shop each day.
With an open ended game like this, once you have freedom, it is sometimes hard to decide what to do first, and the development team made it even harder by adding a couple new features to the game. Chances are you will start off by either fishing, bug catching, or fossil hunting. Any of these 3 tasks allow you to either keep the item for your personal collection, sell the item to Nook (some for much more than others, depending on their rarity), or you can donate your specimen to the museum so that others may visit your fine collection.
Speaking of collections, that is another big portion of the Animal Crossing universe. Furniture, clothing and bugs, oh my! From decorating the interior of your ever growing house, to outfitting your character with the latest styles, there is something in the game that you will find to suit your tastes. Hundreds of furniture items, including carpets and wallpapers will allow you customize the house to fit whatever style you want to show off. Next to Nooks you will also find the Able Sisters who run the fashion store in town. There they feature select outfits and accessories of the day that you can purchase, but they also give you access to one of the best features in the game. In the shop, you can access the texture editor and create your own patterns which you can display on your clothing, place tiles around your town, or use as carpet and wallpaper for your house.
The level of customization in Animal Crossing doesn’t stop with stuff on the surface of the planet. One of the new features added to the game is the ability to create your own constellations from the night sky. Probably the most amazing part of this new feature is its integration with the online Wi-Fi capabilities of the game, but I will get into that more later.
Writing about all of this customization and collecting is overshadowing one of the major points of this game, communication and making yourself a big part of the community that you now reside in. You can do this in a couple ways. One major way is just venturing around your town visiting the animal residents either in their homes, or if they are out and about, finding them wandering about doing their own things. New in this game is the fact that the animals now periodically run up to you if they see you running around. Also, you can now eavesdrop on the conversations of the animals if you see two of them chatting. This feature was not in the previous version and left you wondering what actually happened when two animals parted ways with smoke coming off their heads.
The other way to communicate and another huge part of the game, one which you will be reminded of again and again by the animal residents, is their love of getting letters. Thankfully as previously noted, the inclusion of stylus control in the DS version makes typing letters much, much easier. You can buy paper from Nook, to which you will find dozens of paper styles are available in the game. Writing a letter is very easy, as you just select whom you want the letter to go, write what you want, and when complete, you can drag an item onto the letter if you feel like including a present. Take the letter to Pelly at the town hall, and she will make sure it gets to its intended recipient.
The major way for you as the player to communicate is by linking your DS to someone else’s, or more importantly by using the new online Wi-Fi service that Nintendo has started. Gone is the train station, and no longer do Copper and Booker live in a small cop-shop. The dynamic duo now have a new post at the town gate where you can either leave your town to visit someone else’s, or you can open your gates to allow up to 3 people to visit your town and interact with your townspeople.
Wi-Fi also opens up a lot of the new games functionality as hidden from the player, a lot of data gets passed back and forth. I have heard people describe the online functionality of this game as ‘viral’. What is meant by this is that certain things that you do in your town may end up in the town of perfect strangers. Constellations that you make will end up in the towns of the friends that you connect with, but as they connect with friends of their own that you have no connection to, your constellations may still find a home in their nighttime sky as well. Blanca, the cat with the customizable face that surprised you on the train in the GameCube version, makes a comeback by visiting your town in the DS version. Similar to the constellations however, the face you create will pass from DS to DS and she may end up showing up in the DS of someone whom you don’t even know exists.
There are a few drawbacks that I found that could have made wireless better. The first flaw is the way the game handles a dropped connection. Instead of just dropping that character from the town if they are a visitor, the game brings up an error screen to everyone that is in the town, and you lose any progress you have made since the last time you have saved. I myself have had the game freeze up with only my gate open and nobody visiting my town.
Another feature which I feel would have made going to other towns more interesting is if they were to allow you to shop from the catalog that the other player had unlocked. Even though they allow you to choose from the daily selection in that players town, they have the catalog locked out to the point that even the resident of that town cannot access their own catalog.
Writing a review like this is a big challenge, because there is a need to be informative yet also leave something there for the buyer of the game to be surprised by when they finally get a chance to play this game. Animal Crossing is a game that, as you can tell by the size of this review, has a lot of content. Once you move in you become the epicenter of the town leaving you to make more decisions than the mayor has to. Animal Crossing is not a game where you expect to be on the edge of your seat hoping you can find a health power-up before you come across your next enemy, or awaiting the next boss battle so that you can level up. It is a game that will have you investing a lot of time in finding the last couple fossils you need for the museum, searching for that final fish or looking for that end table for the furniture theme because you want the whole set. It is also a game that is meant to be played for smaller amounts of time, but over a greater period, since there is so much dependent on calendar dates and times of day. The game is designed to make you want to be a part of your community, whether for the better or for the worse. I can’t help but recommend this game.