Animal Crossing: Wild World
Animal Crossing: Wild World is a game that's easy to talk about, but very difficult to sit down and review...
By Heidi Kemps
Animal Crossing: Wild World is a game that's easy to talk about, but very difficult to sit down and review. There's really nothing at all out there to objectively compare it to, and the sort of enjoyment you get from the game varies wildly from person to person. It's a game based on the concepts of living in a small community of friends and enjoying the simple activities in one's daily (virtual) life. How are you really supposed to score something like this?
I don't know, but I'm going to try anyway.
So after the worldwide success of the Gamecube Animal Crossing (which, it should be noted, I hadn't played prior to this review), Nintendo decided to take the concept and shrink it down for their DS platform - a match made in heaven if there ever was one. Besides the convenience of being able to take your town and your virtual life with you wherever and whenever you want, it also allows for greatly expanded socialization capabilities via Nintendo's recently established Wi-Fi network.
What do you do in Animal Crossing: Wild World? That's a pretty tough question to answer, because there's just so much to do here. There's no set gameplay goal in particular - the fun in Animal Crossing comes from what you make of it. Maybe you like collecting things to fill up your item catalogue. Maybe you like building and decorating your house. Or maybe you just like chatting with neighbors and visitors to your town. There's a lot of different ways to enjoy AC, and it's up to you to find your own.
When you first start playing, you get to name your player character and your town. After answering a short series of questions to determine your character's appearance, you wind up in your brand-new (and quite tiny) house. You'll need to get started with decorating and expanding your living space, but there's also that home loan from raccoon business mogul Tom Nook to worry about... so you'd better get out and see what you can do.
You'll quickly discover that there is no shortage of activities to do in town: you can shopping for furniture and decorations at Tom Nook's store, trading and making clothes with the Able Sisters, or drop off some mail at the post office. The main activity you'll find yourself engaging in, though, is talking to and visiting your neighborhood critters. You only begin with 3 random neighbors, but more start to move into town almost immediately. Each animal has a distinct look and personality type, which is conveyed through very amusing and well-written dialogue. This affects their general mood when speaking with you and the other townsfolk, and also dictates their tastes in things like clothes and furniture. Once you get to know people, you can run errands for them or give them gifts to recieve new items and forge friendships.
Of course, you're going to be needing money for your daily life, and there's plenty of ways to earn it. At first you'll simply have to collect fruit and shells lying around and resell them, but once you're able to afford tools like a fishing rod, a net, and a shovel, you'll be able to do things like planting fruits, catching fish and insects, and digging up fossils. All of these will take some work and a little bit of luck, but once you've got the knack of these activities, you'll be able to make a steady income from selling your yields. If you're a philantrophist type, though, you can donate your goods to the town museum for display instead.
One notable aspect to all of these activities is that they place in realtime, coordinated with the internal clock of the DS. Day and night in the Animal Crossing world sync up to that of the real world (provided your clock is accurate). This has many different effects on the game. For example, certain fish and insects only appear around dawn and dusk. Also, your neighbors keep a set schedule as to when they retire for the day and when they wake up the next (or close/open their stores). Fruit takes a few days to regrow after it's been harvested. And, of course, we can't neglect to mention the special holidays that take place from time to time... among other things.
I've only really scratched the surface of the things you can do in Animal Crossing. I've neglected to mention activities like flower breeding and gardening, meeting with special visitors to your town, trading stock in turnips... et cetera. By now, you get the idea.
While the audiovisual part of Animal Crossing: Wild World isn't as terribly important as it is in other games, it is still worth touching upon. The graphics won't be winning any awards anytime soon, but they do the job they need to do, and do it very well. Objects and characters are well detailed with good construction and nice texture-maps in spite of the DS's weaker 3D capabilities. There are a few cases of slowdown when a lot of townsfolk are occupying the screen at the same time, and the framerate tends to be a tad on the choppy side, but in a slow-paced, relaxed game like this, those things don't matter so much. Much like the graphics, most of the music in AC:WW is nothing noteworthy. It just bops along happily as you go about your daily life, making for pleasant but nondescript background noise. However, special note does need to be given to the local canine folk musician K.K. Slider, who shows up every Saturday night to play some sweet tunes. You can collect these charming little ditties and play them on your in-game audio equipment as you please.
The controls are always of interest in a DS game, and Animal Crossing offers use of both the traditional D-pad and the stylus/touchscreen to control everything in the game. Control through the D-pad and buttons should be familiar to almost everyone, but if you plan to play primarily with the stylus, it might take some time to get used to to the "simulated analog stick" method of controlling the player's movement. From my experience, the most easy and convenient way to play the game is to make use of both inputs - using the D-pad for precise movements and actions, while using the stylus for things like writing, drawing, and making menu selections. (I've heard some complain of a delay in response when switching between the stylus and the D-pad on the fly, but I have yet to encounter this issue myself.)
Out of everything in Animal Crossing:WW, the Wi-Fi connectivity is what has been receiving the most attention in the press, and it expands the game's key element of socialization across the globe. Here's how it works: Every Animal Crossing player is assigned a Friends Code which can be shared with others. When two players register each others' Friends Codes, they will be able to visit each other's towns. You can have up to four people (including yourself) visiting a town at once. The game lets you easily register Friends Codes of other people who have come to play in a host city, thus allowing you to meet new people and create a large extended friends network. While visiting another town, you can chat with other players using an on-screen keyboard, exchange money and items, go shopping, visit the locals - almost everything you can do in the standard game, with only a few exceptions. If there isn't a wireless access point around, you can use the local DS-to-DS wireless function to visit other players, as well (provided they're in a close proximity to you).
Still, it's a good idea to connect to the Wi-Fi service often, since it sometimes sends you some nice offline surprises as well. Generally, lag isn't much of an issue in Animal Crossing, since it's not a game that requires split-second response. There are occasional problems with sudden disconnections, though, which can really leave players frustrated - especially since progress from the last save will be lost when communication drops. Still, considering how enjoyable multiplayer in AC:WW is, it's a small risk to take in exchange for fantastic fun.
I could say a lot more about Animal Crossing: Wild World, but by now I think I've managed to cover the important points that make up a review. If I went on any further, I'd just start rambling about how I enjoy trying to figure out deep, dark secrets of my neighbors by inferring things through their dialogue, or my quest to find the last fossil for my collection, or maybe even the story about one of my friends costing me a great tuna catch... yeah, it's probably better that I spare you all that. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go pay a visit to that shady fox salesman who's set up his tent in the middle of town today...
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Animal Crossing DS
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Animal Crossing DS
E3 2004: Direct feed gameplay (640x480, 1Mbps)