Animal Crossing: Wild World
Reviewed by Danielle Riendeau
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2006-07-16 Nintendo DS Simulation E (Everyone) Nintendo

As a self-confessed Animal Crossing (GameCube) fanatic, I had mixed feelings when I first heard there would be a DS version. Part of me couldn't wait to pillage other towns over the new Wi-Fi connection, and another part was more than content perfecting my happy village of Dreamyst in the original game. I went into Wild World with all the experience of a seasoned, three-year veteran of the quirky AC world, and found myself experiencing profound deja vu. Wild World is definitely more of the same, although it has enough new features and quirks to warrant another raging addiction.

You have to be a certain kind of gamer to truly appreciate the Animal Crossing experience. It is, at its heart, one giant non-event, a "town simulator" that takes place in a tranquil village populated with wacky animals, all with their own unique personalities and decorating styles (playing interior decorator is a huge part of this game).

Gameplay basically involves talking to the animals, running errands, catching fish and bugs, and buying items to decorate your house (which gets bigger as you pay off improvements). Depending on your personality, this process will either be sheer bliss or profound boredom, but this game grows on you in unexpected ways.

The beauty is in the freedom of the gameplay; you can go anywhere in your town at any time, and if you get bored running errands, you can create new designs for clothing, or go shopping at Nook's, or teach all of your animal friends colorful phrases. The possibilities are endless, and once you learn to appreciate the small scale and slower pace (there's no saving the Earth from certain doom here), Wild World truly charms.

The interface and controls are perfectly suited to this style of gameplay, and represent a huge improvement over its GameCube big brother. The touch screen is used intuitively, and the menu system has been simplified so that all of the items in your "pockets" can be reached with a quick touch or drag and drop. Likewise, the graphics are crisp and colorful, and the game is presented in pseudo-3D. The music and sound effects are appropriately cutesy and low-key, fitting in very nicely with the atmosphere. There are also various music-based pastimes, such as song collecting and composing.

One of the best things about the experience is the wealth of activities you can choose to engage in. As always, there are holidays, contests, letters to be written, furniture to be traded, and bells (money) to be made. The main draws (besides the collectibles) continue to be fishing and bug-hunting, both of which are utterly addicting in a "gotta catch 'em all" sort of way and they go for quite a bit of cash too. Unfortunately, one of the greatest features of the last game, the scattered NES games, didn't make it into Wild World. This is a major disappointment, but it's compensated by the very cool Wi-Fi features.

Animal Crossing has always been the sort of game that begs for internet play and Wild World delivers. While it's a bit of a hassle to set up (the friend code system is a little convoluted, requiring offline collaboration from both parties that wish to connect), it's very much worth it for the simple ability to run amok in someone else's village. This also makes for a terrific opportunity for entrepreneurial gamers to set up shop and trade their wares for coveted items rare in their own home towns.

Because this game is so similar to the original, it's hard to avoid comparisons. While the DS version adds WI-Fi access, more fish to catch, a very cool constellation drawing system, and other fun additions (like a hair salon), it has also lost a few things in translation. The aforementioned lack of NES games is a major letdown, as is the loss of the GBA Island that provided some good times in the original.

The sense of scale has also been altered, and the DS village feels more cramped, as if there simply isn't as much space in your town. All of these factors lead me to the conclusion that the original is the superior game, and die-hard fans of the GameCube version may be slightly disappointed.

With that said, I'd still highly recommend Animal Crossing: Wild World to anyone with a Nintendo DS. It's a colorful, fun, an endlessly quirky experience, and the addiction grows steadily from day one. If you have any inclination towards being a packrat or game completist, you'll never recover from it. See you at the gates!