I have an emotional attachment to the original Animal Crossing on the GameCube. I was going through a very rough period in my life-almost a full year of unemployment-at the time the game was released in mid-September 2002, and being able to live an alternate, virtual life was just what I needed to continue to stave off insanity and/or depression (having pretty much exhausted Super Smash Brothers Melee by this point). I played that game everyday for over a full year (minus some days spent without power due to winter storms), long after I finally regained a position in the workforce.
As soon as the gaming community caught wind of what Nintendo’s portable DS system-with its dual screens, touch input, and rumored wireless multiplayer-was capable of last year, we all immediately were filled with visions of possibilities (much in the same way we reacted to the unveiling of the Revolution’s controller). As soon as I saw ‘touch pad,’ I immediately thought ‘hot damn, that’s just what Animal Crossing needed-a useable keyboard!’
Turns out, I was only half right, but I’ll get to that.
If one word could accurately sum up the changes between the GCN version and Animal Crossing: Wild World on the DS, that word could only be ‘more.’ More furniture, more clothing (now including hats and accessories), more tools, more fish, more bugs, more fossils, more conversation, more characters, more interactivity, more room (to paraphrase the great George Carlin, ‘more space for your stuff!’), more secrets, and just generally, more fun. This game is such an improvement over the original-which was an N64 title in Japan that was essentially ported to the GCN for the rest of the world-that the former is now practically unplayable to anyone who has been experiencing the Wild World for even a couple of weeks. That alone should be considered the highest praise necessary for anyone ‘in the know.’
But if you weren’t an Animal Crossing convert a few years ago (or when it was re-released as a Player’s Choice title) and need a real reason to purchase this title, I can do that in one word as well: ‘online.’ Mario Kart DS was nice, but Wild World is the real flagship title for Nintendo’s Wi-Fi Connection as far as I’m concerned. One of the greatest limitations to Animal Crossing on the GCN was the incredibly awkward ‘memory card-swapping’ method for visiting towns. No more; now all you need is wi-fi access and someone’s 12-digit Friend Code (and they need to have yours) and you can visit as many people as you’d like … as long as that number falls under the 32-code limit built into the game. Unlike Mario Kart, you can even text-chat with the other people in the town (up to three guests can be wandering around at once); this title is a ‘communication game,’ after all. Using the stylus to type and manage your inventory was every bit the savior that I knew it would be (using it for movement is clunky but at least not required), but it’s the online play that was the true godsend for Animal Crossing.
To be fair, there is a certain ‘less’ undercurrent counterbalancing the overwhelming ‘more’ of Wild World. For instance, there are no NES games like there were last time; Nintendo wanted to focus on the online play, and being cooped up in your house playing primitive versions of Baseball or Soccer aren’t exactly conducive to that (we’ll forego speculation about them wanting to protect the Revolution’s downloads for now). Many of the holidays have also been excised, in efforts to make the game more generalized to a worldwide audience (although Nook still sells his ‘Festive Trees’; I haven’t run across a Kwanzaa flag or Menorah yet, but I haven’t ruled out their presence); in their place are completely fabricated ‘events’ like ‘Lah-di-Day’ or the ‘Acorn Festival.’ Those two are the biggest blows against the game for fans of the previous title, but in the grand scheme of things, they are very minor details. My only other real complaint is that while each card allows up to four human characters to live in the same town (and the same house), the game is really best experienced by each player having his or her own card and town-having to share living space with three roommates is just as confining as it is in real life. A ‘one Wild World per DS in the house’ policy really is the best, even though it could be expensive.
Sure, the graphics may be the same ‘Candy Land dollhouse’ motif, and the sound is limited by the DS’s tiny speakers (although a surround option might help you pinpoint that pesky mole cricket), and the game still has no real goal, but none of that matters. What matters is that the child-like sense of exploration, discovery, wonder, and fun is the same as well, and now it’s easier than ever to share it with others who feel the same way.