Animal Crossing: Wild World (Nintendo DS) Review

By Mike Mason 30.03.2006

Review for Animal Crossing: Wild World on Nintendo DS

Animal Crossing began its humble little life on the Nintendo 64 in Japan, but never ended up coming over to the West until the Gamecube struck. Even then, Europeans didn't get it for two whole years after Americans got their paws on it. It's quite comforting, then, that Europe has managed to get the sequel in fairly short order this time - alright, it’s still four months behind our American friends across the pond, but it’s better than the pitiful 24 months we were offered last time. Can it live up to expectations, though?

The concept of Animal Crossing is a simple one. You move away from your comfortable surroundings and the loving arms of your parents, flying the nest at last, only to discover yourself in a world of talking animals where humans are in small supply. In this new town, which you name yourself, you live your life, speaking to, trading with, and engaging in friendly (and sometimes not-so-friendly) competition with the animals inhabiting the town. Yes, we sometimes wonder how on earth somebody comes up with the ideas that appear in many Nintendo games, or how they get them past the shareholders, but there's no shortage of that familiar charm that many associate with the Big N. It's quite an adorable game, both in concept and implementation, in fact.

Upon arriving to your new town in a taxi driven by Kapp'n, the sea-loving turtle from the first game who would ferry you to a hidden island, (avoiding flirtation along the way if you're playing as a girl...dirty old amphibian), you are met by a Mr. Tom Nook. Tom Nook may become a name synonymous with dread to you very soon after this first meeting. See, he seems like a kindly, slightly old, slightly mad, raccoon who is helping you out by setting you up with your own house on your own, but the ludicrous amounts of money he requires for his poxy box homes aren't particularly kindly. To be fair, he's a nice fellow really, who doesn't mind when you pay back your money and upgrades your house when you ask, but we like making him out to be some kind of capitalist pig/loan shark liable to snap and throttle you at any moment. It's just more fun that way.

Screenshot for Animal Crossing: Wild World on Nintendo DS

As well as yourself, there are up to eight co-inhabitants of your town, as well as a number of set NPCs that act as shop workers, like good old Nook, or town guard dog double act Copper and Booker. Which animals you get living in your town are totally random, aside the set NPCs, but there are a few hundred for the game to choose from, so it's fairly unlikely you'll ever get an identical combination of animals to a previous time if you choose to restart for any reason. Each creature has a personality of its own, from the serious to the dizzy, the fun-loving to the hate-filled, the quirky to the downright bizarre. Bob is always a particular favourite who drops into the 'dizzy' and 'quirky' categories, a male cat who happens to be purple and happens to enjoy wearing dresses. Also, picking flowers, filling his room with 'lovely' pink things, skipping and eating fish. Nice guy. You can chatter on to these animals until the cows come home (or until said cow sends you home packing after you irritate her just a tad too much) and build up bonds with them by engaging in activities like fishing contests, town holidays or by going around doing their dirty work. Why some of them can't walk five metres to deliver a shirt to their neighbour is a mystery to us, but it might explain some of the characters' rather rotund figures...

As you mess about in your town, moments pass in real-time. Certain parts of the town are not accessible at specific points in the day, such as the shops having opening and closing hours, and some fish and bugs only turn up at specified times. Seasons also change, giving you access to new tasks as all changes and snow begins to fall, or the sun begins to shine radiantly (to those who will only just be getting the game soon: you missed winter, it was quite nice - you’ll see Mr. Snowman in a while). There’s usually something to do at all hours, which is always good in a game, and if all else fails you can search for fossils, or just plant or pick some fruit for selling. You get a native fruit in your town when you start, but by trading fruit with other players or receiving it in-game, you can be growing all the varieties with perseverance. Foreign varieties net in more cash from Mr. Nook…Other money-making endeavours include fishing or swinging a net about for bugs and selling them on, but these can also be donated to the museum. The museum is open all hours and is ran by Blathers, an owl with a few screws loose. Lovely chap, just has a mortal fear of the tiniest bugs and has urges to eat every fish you bring to him. Perhaps not the best choice of curator for a museum dealing in live animals? At least he doesn’t try to do anything unsightly to the fossils you bring to him...

Animal Crossing: Wild World looks exactly like its predecessor in terms of graphical prowess, meaning it looks like a reasonably basic Nintendo 64 title. Far from meaning it has bad graphics, the representation of the characters and the towns actually add to the charm, giving it a sweet rough look, sharp polygons and all. It could perhaps be described as having childish, slightly sketch book-y, visuals, and it's all the better for it. It marries with the following idea perfectly: why have huge, blockbuster visuals when you can have just as much fun with graphics that might not be considered entirely up to scratch? It's certainly got a style all of its own...the humour is also wickedly brilliant, even more so than the original, as it has enough stuff to appeal to children and enough darkness to have adult players cackling - dark humour that’s not obvious to children, either. Perfectly executed, it shouldn’t be overlooked as a game you should play when you’re in need of a good laugh.

The sound is also pretty familiar, too, with garbled voices used for the characters (‘Animalese’, as they call it) and the music stays on a similar twee path, a new song for every hour of the day. Elsewhere, though, there are big changes from the original. Rather than having the town divided into a grid, the world instead scrolls about, sliding smoothly over the horizon. It makes it all feel a bit friendlier, a bit more accessible, a bit more of a free game experience. The towns are also smaller, making it easier and quicker to get to where you want to, while the post office, town hall and the mystical fountain...thing that gave you town advice are all merged into one. The police station has been liquidated and the hounds are instead situated at the town’s gate/guard station. There are a number of new tools for you to get to grips with as well, such as the stopwatch. Of course, everything is much different because of the DS, too...

The dual screens aren’t put to good use at all, to be frank. The top screen displays the sky, while all gameplay is carried out on the bottom screen. Occasionally a present or UFO will float about on the top screen, which can be shot down using a new item, the slingshot, but other than this the top screen’s only function is to display the various constellations that you can design. The touch screen is put to much better use, though: the entire game can be controlled with it, from moving about (though button and d-pad movement is still supported), to digging holes (and using other items), to picking up and arranging items in your house. Pattern design is also made a lot easier, with the ability to draw exactly what you want with reasonable ease, and letter writing is much simpler with a touch screen-based keypad. As mentioned, constellation patterns can also be drawn - a new addition to this iteration of Animal Crossing - but sometimes it’s not clear whether this was a good idea or not. We’ll put it this way; we put up a Pacman constellation. Others are not so pure of mind. Think about it.

The console version was always held back a bit by awkward 'multiplayer' (take the memory card round to somebody else's house, plug it in their Gamecube and leg it about their town without other human players? No cheers.), but this is solved as the series hits the DS. All of a sudden the multiplayer fireworks into an explosion of joy and becomes a central, nay, integral part of the Animal Crossing experience. This is helped, in part, by the ease of the connection. Due to the DS' wireless capabilities, all players have to do is decide who's visiting who, go to their respective town gates and either open them for visitors or leave through them, depending upon whether they are the visitors or visitees. A quick download of the town to the visitor later and you're off, skipping about the environment, and your friend doesn't have to bugger off for you to have the honour, either. The player who lives in the town can run around with you, chatting with you (using the handy touchscreen keypad that can be brought up at will) and stopping you causing all kinds of mischief. Online multiplayer is also just as simple, with the difference being that you can only visit people over the Internet if you have each other's friend codes, but other than that it's near identical. When you've got four players running about in one town, it can only mean trouble.

When you sit and explain the game, there really isn't that much to it. You go about, speak to animals, take things from point A to point B, collect things, sell things, pay your mortgage. Not a typical game at all, you might think. It's a great example of a piece of software that teeters between being a game and a non-game; with just enough game there to entertain existing gamers, and just enough non-game to make people who've never really been into games to pick it up and mess about with it. Animal Crossing: Wild World could prove to be a jewel in the crown of Nintendo's new strategy of expanding the market.

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

Animal Crossing has really found its home on the Nintendo DS with Wild World. Easily one of the system's best titles to date, it deserves to catch on in a big way soon, especially since it improves over the original so much and so well. Who would have thought that bounding about grassy fields with a bunch of animals would be so much fun even after you'd grown up?









C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10 (90 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


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