"I'll be the first to admit it: I fell head over heels for the cutesy charm of Animal Crossing on the Gamecube. Its simple, yet meaningful tasks paved the way for a digital experience unlike any other video game I've ever played. Upon hearing of a DS version in the works, I was simply elated. Portable fossil unearthing, fruit planting, and house customizing action sounds excruciatingly irresistible; and it is, for the most part. A couple flaws keep this one from transcending the original (al..."
I'll be the first to admit it: I fell head over heels for the cutesy charm of Animal Crossing on the Gamecube. Its simple, yet meaningful tasks paved the way for a digital experience unlike any other video game I've ever played. Upon hearing of a DS version in the works, I was simply elated. Portable fossil unearthing, fruit planting, and house customizing action sounds excruciatingly irresistible; and it is, for the most part. A couple flaws keep this one from transcending the original (although, it's merely Animal Crossing's inherent repetitive qualities that keep it from doing so), but no matter how you slice it, Animal Crossing: Wild World is an endearing title.
The new addition of online play is the main attraction in this rendition. You can visit your friends' towns across the globe at any wireless hotspot and trade items or chat to your heart's desire. Sadly, the built-in microphone on the DS is not used, leaving text chat as the only option. I see the motive behind adding online play (and don't get me wrong, traipsing through a friend's town with up to three other people is a good time), but the potential of it isn't nearly fleshed out enough to be considered a paramount feature. Point in case: you must not only give your friend code to someone (what made Nintendo go the route of a code is beyond me) but you must also rely on them entering yours into their system. To finish off the arduous task, you must then enter theirs. A you can see, Nintendo could use some helpful tips from Microsoft, but the fact that there is online play at all is a plus.
Offline, the quirks of having a readily available town at your fingertips is nice. Up to four people can have files on one game card, and their actions when you're not playing have direct effect on everything you'll experience. Similar to the Gamecube version, you can leave letters and messages to your roomies and live out your own life to your liking.
Almost every feature from the GCN iteration is in Wild World and this is both a blessing and a curse. Sure, we all love partaking in town activites, mortgage paying and house customizing, but what used to be exciting because it had a fresh coat of resplendent paint is now merely amusing. One of the new features is the ability to draw your own constellations in the sky and have them show up at night. While new, this is nothing of great impact. You see your constellation in the sky, say 'cool' and walk on.
All the previous time passers, like fishing and bug catching, still play a prominent role. A smorgasbord of new fish and insects is available and help to change the pace a little. And this brings me back to my point: almost all of these things are so familiar and unchanged that they lose some thier original luster. I'm still going to go fishing and catch insects for hours on end, but it won't have that same feeling of awe attached to it.
The touch screen, at times, is an utter godsend. Menu navigation is a smooth breeze. The whole process of selling items to that loser Tom Nook is done with ease now, and makes me never want to go back to the laborious ways of old. You can even control actual movement via the touch screen, but I found using the d-pad much easier. I just held the system in my hands, and kept the stylus in my right hand, ready to take action at a second's notice for menu duty. The second screen merely presents more room for menus and and when you're outside gives a constant look at the changing skies. Some days it's cloudy, some it's clear and pristine. Nintendo obviously wasn't very inspired to utilize the second screen for more than frivolous concerns, but it doesn't damper the quality much. The Animal Crossing vibe still seeps through every pore of this game.
Characters that inhabit your town have quite the personality, and are really the reason Animal Crossing has so much quirky humor. Every character has his or her own taglines that incorporate funny quips of dialogue into the mix and help to lend the atmosphere some frolic joys. Sadly, Cube, the best character from the GCN version. looks to be MIA (don't question me, Cube rocked!). Although there are a lot of the same characters, a plethora of new ones are here as well.
The best new feature of Wild World is the unprecedented personal fashion possibilites. Not only can you create your own designs and apply them to your clothes, but you can now buy individual hats, glasses or accesories from the tailor shop. Some admittedly hilarious accesories include a scuba diving mask that completely envelops your head and a bevy of wacky glasses that you would never sport in public. Mixing and matching can prove to bring out your best fashion sense and make other AC players envious (I'm still looking for that darn Link hat). If you choose not to wear a hat you can even go to a hair salon and fix up your disheveled appearance in no time. An abundance of styles are available, but I like to personalize my look with sweet hats.
A lot of items the from the original are still present, but there are a considerable amount of new ones as well. Sticking to vintage Nintendo, marquee franchises like Zelda, Mario and Metroid make cameo appearances in the form of rare items. Nintendo fans can devote a whole floor of their house to Nintendo inspired items if they desired.
Aesthetically, the game is drastically different in some aspects. Instead of utilizing shifting screens to traverse the town, the world actually shows things pop up on the horizon and slowly make their way into view. This feature lends the experience more cohesiveness; It feels more like an actual world now.
Graphically, Wild World is on par with the original in some facets, but others are noticeably less sharp. My major gripes with the grapchics are partly because of the limitations of the hardware and partly the size of the small screen. When you create your own designs and put them on, say, your town flag, the design you made is not what it looks like on the flag. Instead, it's a jaggy mess, somewhat ruining some of the beauty of customization. The other gripe is the fact that you can't discern what your shirt looks like on your character. Because the screen is obviously smaller than a television screen, your shirt's only distinguishable feature is normally its color.
Everything else, though, is relatively clean, and the environments are detailed to a respectable degree. There is no need for hyper-realistic graphics in Animal Crossing; the bright, vibrant visuals serve this type of game perfectly.
I really enjoyed this game immensely. Although it's a bit repetitve in nature, the game as a whole is still a needed break from the incessancies of most other video games. Thanks in large part to the portability of Wild World, another trip into town is well worth the money and time, and is a fine example of a quality game. Whether you're a returning fan or are merely looing for something different, Wild World will not dissapoint.
Community review by Linkamoto (December 18, 2005)
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