The life simulator genre is a tough one to crack. Sure, they're successful, but many games is this genre struggle to hold their audience for a long period of time, maybe that's why we've seen so many expansions for The Sims. However, Animal Crossing for the GameCube proved one thing to us, which was, with the right attraction a game can last forever. In the original, the game allowed players to take on the role as a new townsperson. Interacting with fellow neighbours, participating in local events, paying off debts and sitting back and taking it all in. With such a blaring appeal, Animal Crossing managed to lock in its audience in providing one of the most captivating games available for the GameCube.
The sequel, Animal Crossing: Wild World, of course, holds a lot of that unique flair that the original presented. The inviting community remains, the charm is still there, but partly due to a few costly omissions, the game doesn't quite live up to its console brother.
Much like the original, the premise of Animal Crossing: Wild World is that you, a young adventurous human, is moving to a new town. Once arriving to your new town you're greeted by who seems to be a nice fellow, Tom Nook. The little raccoon is nice enough to set-up a new house for you to stay in, despite having no funds. But it isn't that easy, you soon become Tom Nook's little slave and are indebted to him until you pay off your debts. This is where Animal Crossing: Wild World begins, and pretty much introduces you into what you'll be doing for most of the game. You'll begin by doing a few errands for Tom, such as planting trees and flowers, as well as getting to know your local community by delivering items to them, which are often exchanged for money or other useful goodies. And these are the basics of Animal Crossing.
You'll enter your virtual world everyday running around doing all sorts of little tasks to earn money, items or even respect from your townspeople. While this may seem like a very narrow concept, and one to grow tiresome quickly, you couldn't be more wrong. Like the GameCube version, Animal Crossing: Wild World allows gamers to do a lot more activities through the day outside of collecting money. You can catch bugs, fish, listen to K.K. Slider play some tunes, and participate in local events such as Fishing Tournaments, or other festive events such as Christmas and New Years. And that's where the fun begins.
Half the fun is in finding items.
Animal Crossing has that urgency for gamers to come back every now and then to check-up on their town for new events, which other life simulators tend to lack. Every week or so special people will travel to your town who may sell you rare items, tell your fortune or perhaps even draw them a new face. These are all novel features that don't necessarily require gamers to come back to this game each and every day, but rather to participate in these weekly events. Unlike the original, Animal Crossing: Wild World no longer focuses on regional events, such as Thanksgiving or Groundhog Day, but rather builds the illusion that this world in your DS is a completely new world with living and breathing creatures with their own special events such as Sports day or even their occasional Fishing events. These are always great fun to participate in, and all the townspeople get involved in what is usually a real fun outing.
Outside of the Animal Crossing events are the game's seasons. Although these are, unfortunately, done to correspond with the American seasons, it is great to have an ever-changing climate in the world you live in. Your town will be sweep over in snow, while in other seasons the leaves of your trees will begin to fall. There are certain events and items that can only be unlocked during these seasons also. For example, there are often snowballs on the ground during winter that you can roll-up to form a snowman. In doing so will result in the snowman sending you a rare snowman item of furniture that you can put in your home. These are great items to acquire and allow you to set-up your home in the festive spirit.
This world of yours is pretty much how much time and dedication you're willing to spend in there also. Depending on how much you care for your town, it'll measure the likelihood of new townspeople arriving or having positive feedback for your town. As time rolls on, your town may become polluted with weeds, unwanted trees or even dirty rubbish lying around that'll make your town look like an eyesore. Showing such disrespect to your town will play a role on the success of your town also. Fellow townspeople will begin to complain about the neatness of the town and may even leave because the place looks so incredibly disgusting, and without these additional townspeople the likelihood of coming across rarer items is surely to be reduced, and let's face it, it's no fun without an enjoyable community either.
Expanding on the old formula, Animal Crossing: Wild World has a lot more to acquire than previously. There are now a lot more fish, bugs and fossils to be found and can still be taken to Blathers at the town's museum. There are a number of new items to be found and used, and now gamers can also accessories their outfits a bit more, such as being able to buy new headgear.
I think I want to be a pirate today, or maybe even a witch.
There's a lot of fun to be had in trading your items, though. You can grow fruit trees and use those fruits to trade with other townspeople or sell these items with Tom Nook for money, which ultimately allows you to purchase some great items (an Arwing for example, or maybe even a Luigi hat). These are all great little features to have, meaning there's always some sort of goal gamers are aiming for - be it to pay off debts or to completing their collecting at the museum.
The DS's features come into play in some of the game's new features also. Gamers can now buy a slingshot that allows gamers to shoot down items from the sky, or other things floating up there, as well as participating in some new events with the stylus. For example, you can construct your very own constellations to gaze upon in the sky. Unfortunately, though, the game fails to capitalise on many of the systems features. Outside of the little neat ideas that could've been achieved without the stylus, there's very little in the game that uses the system's features, and sadly the game feels a tad bit lacking without any additional features that make the most of the DS's unique abilities.
One of the original's most charming features was that its humour was irresistible, and much of the same can be said about Animal Crossing: Wild World. The townspeople have their own personalities, which differed each of the characters in the town greatly. There may be some characters who absolutely adore catching bugs and will always ask you if you would like to race to catch a certain bug, or perhaps another will be obsessed with fashion and will try anything on at least once. The community within your world is one of the strong points of the games appeal. There are a number of fascinating creatures that you'll come across throughout the game and this is what makes coming back to form bonds with these townspeople that much more rewarding.
One of the more disappointing areas of the DS version is that there are no NES games to be found, which was a major selling point for the original. While it wouldn't be very cleaver of Nintendo to make these games available, since their next console will allow gamers to purchase these for real money. However, there's absolutely nothing to substitute for this missing feature. It would've been a cleaver idea if Nintendo allowed you to play a small mini-game with certain furniture items (or some old monochrome GB games - Ed). While some of the furniture in the game is interactive (turning on your TV to watch a certain show for example), there are other items such as a pinball machine or table tennis table that do nothing apart from looking cool in your house. It would've been a major bonus if you could've placed these items in your house, press a certain button and then play a bit of pinball. It's a feature that the game certainly needed, and sadly, it's a feature the game lacks.
However, a lot of the game's appeal is within its multiplayer. Gamers can have more than one human player in their town to live in, or they can invite people to come over to their town. This is a major feature that the GameCube version lacked. In the original gamers couldn't be in the same game at the one time with another person, and trading items could only be achieved by punching in some codes at Tom Nook's store. However, thanks to the DS's WiFi features, gamers can now jump into each other's towns and trade items with relative ease.
I'm going to catch myself a girlfriend.
The online feature is fairly easy to jump into. Gamers only need to exchange their friend codes with one another and can invite them into their town by opening their town gate. There's a neat real-time chat feature where gamers can run around yelling out stuff, as well as making announcements such as "I just planted some rubbish in your town. Hahaha!". It's a great feature and really makes the experience that much more funnier. After visiting another person's town, their townspeople may come to live in your town or other player-created constellations can end up in visited towns. But I'm sure you're left wondering what exactly you do online in such a gameplay experience? Well, the game now includes a watch item that you can buy that acts as a stopwatch or even a counter for the number of fish and bugs you catch, which allows gamers to participate in fishing competitions, hide and seek and much more. The online experience is very accessible and is probably the major selling point for the game.
However, the system isn't without its limitations. You can't jump into anyone's town, but there's a feature called tag mode where you can try to communicate with other players without going to their town by sending messages in a bottle in the ocean. These can work towards receiving new townspeople and constellations, but that's about it. The most restrictive part of playing multiplayer is that animals cave themselves inside their houses, which ruins having any fun during seasonal events. Only two players can be in certain buildings at once, and features such as making patterns are disabled. These don't exactly ruin the fun of multiplayer, but they certainly restrict the fun that could've been achieved in having your friends over and participating in the game's calendar events.
Animal Crossing: Wild World presents itself quite nicely for a DS title, and retains its style seen in the original. Despite having a slightly lower frame rate, the game still looks a lot similar to the GameCube version. The game is colourful, the scenery is lovely and the different buildings are nicely detailed. The entire package looks great on the DS. The audio is still fantastic, never switching from its fantastic smoothing tunes and atmosphere. And it wouldn't any fun without the slick K.K. Slider, who always plays a tune on Saturday nights at the town's cafĂ©.
What's there not to love about Animal Crossing: Wild World? The game still maintains its excellent presentation and gameplay, the game is still insanely addictive, and let's face it, who doesn't want Animal Crossing portable? The main issues with the game, though, is that the game fails to optimise on the features it had available to it. No real strong use of the DS hardware (only a few neat ideas here and there), no more NES games to unlock, and it's disappointing that the interaction with some of the items you acquire is somewhat lacking.
The multiplayer is done exceptionally well, and makes the game that much more fun. The game has a lot of appeal for life simulator fans, and will no doubt make the fans of the GameCube version very happy.