Catching fish, bugs, and everything we could collect or sell became a way of life back in 2002 with the original Animal Crossing
. We ate when Tom Nook slept, set our alarms for those rainy nights when Coelacanths
came to replace dreams with riches, and crafted memories from matching home stuffs. Nintendo's "game for non-gamers" was like a second life, thankfully limited to the temporal confines of our Nintendo Gamecubes.
But no more.
Animal Crossing: Wild World is of the same obsessive substance as its console kin, but now portable, making it possibly the most dangerous idea for a game, ever. At the sound of its approach, even hardened Animal Crossing veteran elites, like yours truly, tremble in their pink, fluffy boots and hide their faces in their butterfly nets. Would this be the end? Would our real lives survive this portable second one?
The answer, disappointingly, is yes. Although diabolical on paper, Wild World is the same game we played the stuffing out of three years ago. You still run loose in a neighborhood meeting cheeky neighbors and delivering packages while capturing fish and bugs. Planting trees, digging up fossils, and collecting furniture are still incredibly addictive pursuits, but the fruits of your labor are definitely less sweet in this repeat tasting.
If you've never experienced Animal Crossing, you can safely cancel all appointments, dates (just kidding) and classes “ the above activities will be the drumbeat of your adorable new life. You should also check out our review of the original, because everything still applies. You're once again a weird little human who moves to a new town populated by cute animals, and set out to pay off your home by engaging in all manner of mundane activity. Chances are you've played this before, so if you want to know what new gems are in store for DS owners, read on so we can tell you about the amazing new…
…watering can? That's right, although this new feature is more of a chore than a toy. The flowers you plant now wither, so you'll have to water them in addition to weeding. It's like living with your parents all over again. Watering keeps up your town's shiny green sheen, which keeps new neighbors coming with their little errands, so there's some small incentive for using the can. You can water all the plants you want and still be broke and naked, however, making the exercise less rewarding than digging, fishing, catching, or chopping. Even when new furries come to town, running deliveries is probably the most boring thing you can do in Animal Crossing, aside from watering plants, that is.
A slingshot is the only new tool, and with it you can shoot daily presents out of the sky. Nice, but this is merely a slightly different way of accessing an old feature that only takes place once a day, and you still can't shoot out windows or the fluffy denizens of your town. The top screen is wasted, broadcasting the sky if not part of a menu.
The stylus and touch screen are put to better use. Writing letters is much easier, as is drawing out shirt, umbrella, and hat designs with that handy drawing utility inherited from its Gamecube twin. Navigating menus is obviously more straightforward, and now Tom Nook has an inventory of his own, so you can simply drag and drop all the stuff you want to sell in one easy shot. The controls shift quickly between stylus or button schemes right when you start using one or the other, which is as sweet as it is necessary.
Touching the stylus to any area on the screen makes your little fella run to or interact with anything in the area. This scheme handles well in open areas, but it's not precise enough in object-heavy spots like your home. Rearranging furniture with the stylus can be a boss fight of accidentally picking stuff up only to throw it down and rotate it into place again. Even more annoying is accidentally running yourself through patches of flowers that you paid for and watered with care. Button control is a lot easier most of the time.
The juiciest new stuff can be found online in other people's towns, a feat made possible by Nintendo's recently launched Wifi service. The thing is, you can't just jump online and check out another person's 'hood for exotic fish, bugs, or fruit, as this isn't truly a massively multiplayer game. Rather, you'll have to enter a friend code before you can go, so you'll either have to swap codes with someone you know who also happens to own a copy of Wild World or go hunt around forums.
That might sound imposing, but if a troll trashes your neighborhood, you can block their friend code to keep them from coming back for more. You also have a simple chat typing tool so you can browse other people's houses and negotiate for furniture or kick back for a while and fish with buds. Thankfully, this works well with Animal Crossing's unique collection-based gameplay, even if it's kind of limited.
If new humans and places frighten you, you can play DS to DS with a bud that's standing right there or activate Tag Mode and close up your DS while traveling around. If you happen to pass by anyone with their Wild World in Tag Mode, you might inherit some of their neighbors or be sent one of their messages in a bottle, which are just letters you write and send out to sea. Who knows, you might get a letter from the FBI! It's just like 'Bark' Mode of Nintendogs, which means it's a cool idea that very, very few gamers will enjoy.
The only other big change is the way the map is wrapped around a cylinder instead of slapped onto a grid. This means the landscape and objects rotate around as you wander. It's a groovy effect and a step above the original's need to load every time you hit the screen's edge. The clothing shop and Tom Nook's look and feel the same, but the Town Hall has merged with the post office and has a recycling bin which spawns new random objects like the old police station did. The Museum now has a meaningless coffee shop to waste bells on, and an equally meaningless observatory. Here, you can play a riveting game of connect-the-dots to path out stars to see in the night sky. Meh.
The hardware can't quite handle all this new gear, as evidenced by somewhat rickety framerate and generally grainy graphics. Still, that's a small price to pay for a seamless world. Every town is as charming and colorful as ever and each neighbor as cute as they are feisty. The audio is hardly apparent, a mix of unobtrusive MIDI tunes and whatnot.
After three years, a major hardware shift and a hungry audience, Animal Crossing: Wild World doesn't add anything new to the great original formula. Inasmuch as Animal Crossing is designed to be a "non-game," Wild World is definitely a "non-update." It works well as a handheld, but considering its funky new digs, this animal strays far from the wild side.