Animal Crossing: Wild World  (Nintendo DS, 2005) Reviews
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Animal Crossing: Wild World (Nintendo DS, 2005)

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Animal Crossing: Wild World: A Wild Wi-Fi Wonderland

Jan 29, 2006 (Updated Jan 29, 2006)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Neverending gameplay, multiplayer Wi-Fi connection, open-ended goals

Cons:Cutesy, underdeveloped graphics; daily investment

The Bottom Line: Everything that was good about the original with added twists (especially WiFi). You can't experience it through a rental, unfortunately. DS's killer app?

Overall: 8
Gameplay: 9
Graphics: 5
Sound: 7
Concept: 9
Replay Value: 9

It's hard to explain Animal Crossing: Wild World to anyone who hasn't played it. You live in a village with a bunch of animals and, uh, do stuff. I think the best description I've ever heard came from a friend of mine when I let him see what it was all about; he called it "A soap opera that you control, but with animals."

He also said "Why would you want to play this?" That's the problem, you either love it (like me) or you just don't get it (like him). It seems that the problem lies with the point of the game -- that is, there is no point. This is a game where you choose your own goals and decide your own path. There's technically no "end" to the game and no way to "beat" it. Instead, the fun comes from discovering something new each time you play.

All of this was true of Animal Crossing on the Nintendo Gamecube. Animal Crossing Wild World on the DS, however, takes it to another level with the addition of WiFi connectivity with other players, but more on that later.

When you first turn on Animal Crossing: Wild World, you may be a bit underwhelmed by the graphics. They're exactly the same as on the Gamecube, but that means that now they're about six or seven years out of date. The characters are fairly rough, the environment is made up of houses and trees that all look alike, and overall it looks like something that could have been done on the PS1. Thankfully, everything is bright, vibrant, and crisp on the DS. The graphics may not be stunning technically, but after a couple of hours they become familiar and help set the tone of the game.

You start out with a specific goal: when you moved, you didn't have enough money for a house and you've got pay off your mortgage. How you do this, however, is up to you, as there are many ways to make money. Collect shells on the beach and sell them, or grab a rod and go fishing. Talking with the animals in the town and maybe they'll give you items that you can use or sell, or they'll buy things from you. Send them letters and you might get gifts back. Dig up fossils that are worth a mint. Plant fruit trees and sell the harvest, or see if you can find hidden bags of cash by shaking empty trees.

All of these things lead to other possible goals. Fish and fossils (as well as insects and paintings) can be donated to the museum. Your town is rated on its beauty, and planting trees and flowers with some good civic planning increases its attractiveness. You can create your own clothes, collect all of the hundreds of items in the game, make friends (or enemies) with your neighbors, or try to get a high score for decorating your house. You can interact with your animal neighbors, or just watch them interact with each other (complete with listening in on their bizarre conversations).

But, while all of these things are possible, the real draw to Animal Crossing: Wild World is that you don't have to do any of these things. You can choose your own goals, or even make them up. Want to drive all of the animals out of town? Go for it! Want to cut down all of the trees and tear up all of the flowers? You can do that too. Creative players can even use self-designed ground tiles to change the entire look of the town. It's all up to you.

This open-ended play doesn't appeal to everyone, though. If you need solid goals and clear ways of accomplishing them, this isn't the game for you. The pace of the game can turn off other players. Since it's synched with the DS's internal clock, game time passes at the same rate as real time (and when it's night outside, it's night in the game as well). This means that Animal Crossing: Wild World is best played for thirty minutes or an hour every day, keeping up with the neighbors, maintaining the town, and seeing what's new. Sure, you could fish for five hours straight, but that's not too exciting.

Wi-Fi connectivity with other players opens up the options, though. Through either local DS-to-DS or Nintendo WFC connection, you can visit other town or have up to three people visit yours. People can trade items with one another, hold fishing contests, write filthy messages on each others' town boards, dig up flowers and chop down trees, annoy each others' townsfolk, and generally have whatever fun or wreak whatever havoc they choose.

The WiFi play really opens up the game in a way that the Gamecube version was really missing. You can now connect with people anywhere and share your towns, making the game seem like a living world. There's also a "tag mode", which sets the DS to sleep but will communicate with any other DS with Animal Crossing: Wild World in tag mode. This will silently and surreptitiously exchange mail messages you've written, constellations you've drown in the sky, and more with strangers as you pass them on the street.

The only real drawback to Animal Crossing: Wild World is its style. It's practically a textbook example of a "kiddie game", with underdeveloped, cutesy graphics and slightly irritating sound effects. When animals talk with you, they make annoying "animalese" sounds. The music is well done and changes on the hour, but it's fairly simple and composed of piano, bells, and xylophones. You really have to be someone who can look past the game's presentation to really enjoy the experience underneath.

An experience is exactly what Animal Crossing: Wild World is. It's not your typical game, that's played through and beaten one or two times and then shelved. It's almost like a digital pet or your own little microcosm that you have to take care of regularly. It's a long-term investment; to collect all of the insects, for example, you have to play through all four seasons throughout the year, when different ones are active. But it's all very rewarding. As opposed to a traditional game, where the reward comes from completing the final goal, this game rewards you every time you play it.

Recommend this product? Yes

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Based on the GameCube version of the title, Animal Crossing Wild World casts players as of the newest resident of a happy little village, populated by...
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