This article was originally published at Aussie-Nintendo.com
When Animal Crossing was first released on the GameCube back in 2002 (before a later PAL release) you could almost be forgiven for judging it by its appearance and giving it a miss. What lay underneath, like with so many of Nintendo’s greats was an enormously fun game with an entirely fresh game play experience that unlike the majority of games, never needed to end. Despite its dated graphics and childish look, Animal Crossing got many addicted across all age groups and is still regularly played all over the world. The game was not without its flaws though. The biggest gripe was perhaps the lack of multiplayer along with some awkward play mechanics that could get quite annoying, especially when you were in a hurry (the letter writing in particular). With the release of its sequel on Nintendo’s innovative handheld, we have a game, while very similar to its predecessor that almost seems designed from scratch to be played on the DS.
For those who don’t know Animal Crossing; Animal Crossing: Wild World is in many ways similar to the Sims but with animals and an unmistakable charm that you only get from Nintendo. You are a human character that lives with animals in a village and the object of the game is basically to live. You can do many different tasks like planting flowers and fruit, making friends and buying cloths & furniture, fishing and catching bugs. Animals may ask you to help them out and you will usually find you are far more willing to deliver a letter for them than for your mother in the real world. What sounds rather boring at first turns out to be extremely addictive and wrapped in a package that can be played at your leisure whether for five minutes or five hours. Most importantly, due to the use of an internal clock, the town doesn’t stop when you do and many things change or happen in your absence much of which you will regret missing.
If you have played the original on GameCube then the early stages of Wild World and indeed much of the game is not going to seem all that new to you. If you were one of the few people that disliked the Cube version then Wild World is definitely not going to change your mind. Wild World however does bring some interesting new features including the much desired online multiplayer along with some needed and impressive enhancements to the gameplay already in place on the GameCube. There have been some disappointing absences though. The most painful of which is the removal of the playable NES games that drew many to the original. If you were like me and were initially drawn to the game by these little bonus’ then Wild World may not be worth the purchase but if also like me you found the gameplay more than satisfying without them, then their removal may not be so bad after all.
The graphics in Wild World are certainly a downgrade from the original. They are just not as sharp as on the far more powerful GameCube. There have been some improvements namely over the sprites used for fish and items and the houses and buildings, while looking grainier, have a lot more detail. Oddly the cliffs from the original have been removed along with a few other buildings that at first make towns seem blander. This (like the removal of acres) seems to have been done to make traveling easier and once your town grows, you will notice that it doesn’t lack in detail at all. Players also no longer have to suffer as much with all characters wearing the same silly hats with the only difference being whether you are a boy or a girl. The characters now have the ability to wear a variety of different hats, eyewear and masks that make the players a lot more unique. You also now have the ability after playing a variable time into the game to get different hairstyles from the appropriately chosen poodle hairdresser. The game makes good use of the DS hardware from a visual standpoint and while certainly not being the best looking game, is far from being the worst.
The sound in Wild World while using many similar effects and music to the original is in many ways an improvement. From the introductory music on the title screen you will notice that Wild World takes on a lot more of a relaxed tone to the more upbeat original. Like the original the background music changes every hour and you also have the ability to make your own town tune that plays at different intervals. You can also go see the popular K.K. Slider on Saturday who will play you a tune before giving you a copy you can play back at your house. These tracks are all in the original although there have been a few more included. The music all suits the game although not many will be particularly memorable. The odd gibberish used to imitate that various animals’ voices also make an expected return although they are slightly altered from the original. I was actually personally disappointed that they changed some of these as many of the animals from the GameCube version now sound different. The sound effects are similar but whether they are an improvement is a matter of taste.
Wild World features many enhancements to the gameplay and this is perhaps its greatest strength. The biggest addition (outside of WiFi) is the use of the DS touch screen and stylus. This removes many of the biggest hassles from the original and is particularly useful for letter writing, chatting online and for use with pattern making. The menu systems have also been enhanced which makes selling items and posting letters less irritating. The benefits of the stylus outside of letter writing and chatting are debatable. While it works very well for moving around town, many will find it is just as easy to use the d-pad and buttons and have this stylus held under their right hand for when they need to chat or write a letter. Catching fish and bugs is little improved with the use of the touch screen as it merely involves tapping to open/catch/use or whatever it is you are doing. Wild World also makes use of the top screen most notable for viewing the sky. The addition of a sling shot means that players may see a floating parcel or other surprises floating in the air which can be shot down. Players will also be able to draw constellations in the observatory run by the appropriately named Celeste which will be visible at night. More could have been done in this area. The clock for example could have had a permanent place on the top screen as for the most part the screen is either black or just blue sky. A few other additions such as the watering can for looking after flowers have also been included. Veterans of the original will notice that the debt to Tom Nook the local merchant has merely been increased and it will just take longer to pay everything off. This is good for the experienced players who would have otherwise found it very easy to pay off their debt but may put off newer players. Being Animal Crossing though, there really is no hurry to finish everything quickly and new players can quickly become experienced when addiction sets in.
Interaction with animals has been noticeably improved. Players of the GameCube version would have at one stage or another noticed two animals chatting with each other which either ends with them walking off singing or in with a extremely bad temper. Players will now be able to join in with these conversations and in hear various gossip about other animals in the town. The townsfolk now also have specific interests which can help you form a lasting relationship. These interests range from fossils, fashion to fish. You will also have some warning before they suddenly move out on you as you can see them packing in their homes a few days before they leave and if you don’t want them to go, it is your chance to tell them. They will also learn little catchphrases from each other as well as you and your likely to end up with a nickname that gets spread around to all the others (they call me dumbbell).These additions along with a few others certainly make the towns feel a lot more alive than before and you can be pretty sure you will find at least one animal up to something at all times of the day rather than just wandering around just outside their houses.
The ability to go online in Wild World has been one of the biggest draw cards for this game; however it falls short of what it could have been. Going online can be rather difficult experience (often taking longer to organize than one would spend playing) and unnecessarily so due to the friend code system. While this system may be well meaning in that it helps avoid other players you do not trust entering and wrecking your town the viral nature of the game means that despite the best efforts, minors will not be protected from the foul language and other problems that exist in most online games. For example, if you have played online an animal could move into your town from another town with data from potentially hundreds of other towns. This could include foul mouth letters and rude words which the resident begins using the moment you first introduce yourself. The message in a bottle feature while great can also make it possible for even the most careful player to receive rude letters anonymously. Animals and other players can also bring images (potentially rude) and knowledge of constellations that can only be described as phallic. With all this in mind it seems ridiculous that Nintendo did not at least include the option for an easier connection that players take at their own risk. Realistically a small risk due to the ability to kick players out or merely sever the connection if you get undesirables in your town.
Once you get to another town in Wild World you may be disappointed to realise that there isn’t that much to do. Players are limited in how far they can interact. Obviously the ability to trade items, mail letters and do the daily tasks like fishing and bug catching are there but there is not much to do outside of this. A timer device has been included in this which allows players to set tasks like hide and seek or fishing competitions that have a time limit and using other towns for turnip trading on high price days and other special occasions are also good. Basically outside of item and pattern trading, players will be left to make their own fun. This I personally feel is not a bad thing at all. While more could certainly have been implemented, Animal Crossing is an imaginative game and as such players will be left to their imagination which leaves the potential for a lot of fun. There are already a number of guilds, clubs, clans, businesses and possibly franchises being set up all over the online community and this will only add depth to the game. Some of these clubs have more sinister intentions but this will only leave room for protection agencies to be formed to try and stop them. The WiFi play in Wild World is a definite improvement on Mario Kart DS even with the difficult time many players may have getting a game and while it isn’t as good as it could have been, it is still a very welcome and surely will be a widely used addition.
It is so hard to feel that I have written a complete review to this game and I’m sure in a year’s time I could still be saying the same thing. It is also hard to talk about the game without referring to the original as so much is similar. Like its predecessor this game is designed to last and even if you do manage to collect and experience everything there is to offer you will no doubt find pleasure in improving the look of your town or helping others out with what they might be completing. It is built for replay and whether you play for thirty minutes or four hours you can nearly always accomplish something and have a good time. It certainly isn’t as original as its predecessor but Wild World despite some shortcomings takes much of what was done in the original and enhances it and its new portable form can only make it more addictive. If you love and still play the original and are desperate for anything new then I suggest you get this, if you never played Animal Crossing before and you want something different for your DS then this is a must have. It won’t change the minds of those who didn’t like the original but Wild World is a pleasing sequel for fans and a definite attraction for gamers who missed out last time.