Review by lufia22
"A game that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside."
If you don't know, Animal Crossing is a game popularized on the GameCube that involves you, a human, living in a ho-hum town filled with animals. In this town you share odd dialogue with your neighbors, fish, catch insects, collect items, among other things. There rarely is ever a set goal and rarely did the goal pay you off in huge amounts. So what is it about Animal Crossing that makes so many people play it for very long periods of time, meaning years for some people, which is a very long time for an offline console game? Better yet, why would you want to buy Wild World, Animal Crossing's sequel, for the DS when it offers nothing drastically different?
I honestly can't answer that question for everyone. I can tell you why I am enjoying AC:WW as I speak, but first, a little insight on my Animal Crossing background. My brother bought the original AC for the GameCube back when it was first released at around the time of his birthday. We were hooked from the start. AC is like that in the fact that it's a very charming game when you first start out and it makes you keep wanting more; however, AC can lose its charm very rapidly. So many people ask "What is the point of this game?" The point is that there is no point. When you begin playing AC with the idea that there is some goal, I can already go ahead and tell you that AC might offer some fun for you, but it won't be very long. Unfortunately, that's what happened with me and the original AC. I would pop the game in my GameCube in the morning and do everything new you could do in a day within my first hour of playing it. Then all there was left to do was mess around the town all day making money. If you've ever played an MMORPG, an equivalent term would be "farming." Most people would agree that "farming," meaning doing repeated actions over and over just to make a profit, becomes boring. In MMORPGs, farming is ok because you quickly get a reward. In AC, like mentioned before, the rewards are rarely ever worth the amount of effort you put into it.
Again, the point of AC is that there is no point. To enjoy AC, you must realize that it's a game about living and you should play it as if you are just living out a daily life. AC is an example of an open-ended game that is truly open ended. The game never ends, literally. For those of you who have never played AC I will explain a little bit about the nature of AC's gameplay. AC is a game in which you are limited to a small town where other animals live. There are also shops, a museum, and a few other places for you to visit in this town. One of the shops is owned by a raccoon named Nook. He's the guy who gives you your house and he also will sell you new furniture, tools, and other items. Nook also will expand your house and make it bigger and give it more rooms so that you can put even more furniture in your rooms and make your own little custom house. Customization is key for the other shop, a tailoring shop owned by two sister hedgehogs named the Able sisters. Here you can buy clothing as well as create your own designs for clothes, hats, wallpaper and what not. Another area of importance in the museum, in which you can donate new fish, insects, fossils, or paintings you have found. While this game obviously has some goals, most of them are very small and unrewarding. You do them for the joy of playing the game.
So why would someone like me decide to even purchase AC:WW when I played and quickly got burned out on the original AC? Better yet, why would someone like me purchase a Nintendo DS just so I could play AC:WW? It doesn't make sense and I can't tell you why. All I knew was that I wanted AC:WW and that was final. I'm glad I made that decision.
"Well, there obviously has to be some major add-ons to the game to make you like it this time around." Actually, there isn't. AC:WW is the same AC you grew to love (or hate) on the GC. There are differences, I'm not trying to say there isn't, but the same basic gameplay is exactly the game. You're in a town with a bunch of animal. You have no specific and real goal. You can fish. You can catch insects. You can collect items as well as several other things! This time around, however, they made AC much more polished.
Some people relate AC to Harvest Moon, in the fact that it's a relaxed and paced game. While I might agree that the feeling of HM is captured in AC, I do not agree with gameplay. Yes, HM has similar, repetitive actions that it requires you to do, but HM also is very goal oriented, where the goal is to make a successful farm as well as make a family. HM also allows you to sit down at the game and accomplish as much or as little as you want because the game is based upon extremely shortened days, while days in AC are real time. A full day in AC lasts 24 hours, just like it does here on earth. AC is basically another dimension of earth, if you will. You are encouraged to enter the same date and time as it is in real time. This means when it's winter outside your house, it's winter in AC as well. Some people will use a method nicknamed "time travel" where they will change the date and time whenever they get bored of the day they are currently in so that they can jump to a new day. This is a valid mode of playing AC, but, similar to my original goal oriented play style of the original AC, this can lead to you becoming burned out on AC very fast.
AC:WW is mostly an extension to the original AC. It takes everything from the original and adds more to it as well a fixing a few things. What you're left with is a bigger game, which is funny considering it's on the DS. So what are some new things? Well, there's new equipment you can get, such as a slingshot. There's new customization in the form of masks, hats, and accessories. There's new things to do around the town such as the new observatory where you can create and view constellations. These are just a few of the additions. One big issue with me and the original is that there just wasn't enough new stuff to do in a day. The addition of these new things increase, though not by much, the amount of new things to do as well as increase the variety. I've had to teach myself not to do everything new there is to do in the town (i.e. new items to buy at Nook's shop) in the first hour of play but space it out over the day. So maybe I'll cut the game on and check out the lost and found and then go find the money rock (one rock that gives you money when you hit it with a shovel each day) and then I'll go fish or something similar that gets repetitive and old fast. Then, later on in the day, I might go see what new items there are to buy in the shop or talk to my villagers and do chores for them. I'll space each of these activities out and do my daily, repetitive routine in between, making the game feel much more varied, which is further varied by the new additions to the game.
AC:WW is also more polished than the original AC. Menus are organized a bit better. Containers that you put in your house to store items now share one large container area, meaning you don't have to stock your house up with cabinets just so you can have enough room to put all your extra items. Now all you need is just one cabinet if that's all you want. Also, one of the bigger improvements is the addition of the stylus control and touch screen. AC:WW allows you to control as much or as little of the game with your stylus. You can do basically anything with the stylus, including movement and rearranging items in your house. I personally think movement and rearrangement with the stylus is a bit clunky. For one, in order to run with the stylus, you must move the stylus towards the edge of the screen. This means if you wish to change directions, you'll be moving your stylus all over the screen, which I found often times had my hand covering up part of the screen. It just annoyed me. The stylus isn't useless for me, however. I do use it to navigate menus, especially when moving items around the screen. Similar to a computer mouse, all you have to do to move items around the screen is simply click on the item and drag it. This makes selling items to Nook much easier because now Nook has a menu in which you simply drag and drop all the items you want to sell. Navigation is also much easier considering you don't have to use the d-pad to go to the right option but simply point and click on what you want.
Another interesting feature of AC:WW is the exclusion of the tiled map. In the original AC the map was divided up into squares. When you reached the edge of one of the squares and entered into the next square, the camera would take a second to scroll in that direction, similar to some of the 2D Zelda games. AC:WW's world is round. This means the world is seamless. There are no wait times for the next area, except when entering a building. This might sound great on paper, but visually there's one difference that might change your opinion. When you look to the horizon on your screen, you'll see the curve of the world. As you move towards or away from objects, they'll curve into or out of the horizon. It's an odd effect that's hard to describe. My guess is that the implementation of this was to help with frame rate and pop-ups. Once something goes over the horizon, it is no longer visible. Some people dislike this affect. I personally like it. In addition to this, the top screen of the DS is used to display the sky. This might sound useless but it has three main uses. First is the feel of it. It's very pleasing to look up at a sky that is in the transitioning phase to sunset, with the sky fading from blue down to a peach orange. It's also very peaceful to sometimes watch the clouds float by. The second use is that sometimes there will be items you see in the sky that you can shoot down with the new slingshot item. Thirdly, at night, stars come out and you can see the constellations you made at the observatory make their way across the sky along with the moon. It's a very aesthetically pleasing addition.
Interaction with your neighbors has also greatly improved. In the original AC the neighbors never really felt lifelike to me. They just felt like hollow caricatures. Also, the "chores" that the animal gave you were repetitive and mostly worthless in the reward they gave you. In AC:WW, this is been much improved. Rather than making chores an easy thing to obtain from the neighbors, the designers decided to make it harder to get chores. This forces you to talk to your neighbors a lot, hoping you will get a chore. At the same time you are indirectly forming a bond with the neighbor. In addition, the chores seem to be more varied than the typical "give this item to this person" that you found in the original. While those still exist, there is a larger variety such as random pop quizzes and having to find certain items to give to the neighbor. Neighbors will even offer to visit your house now! They'll come in and look around for a few minutes and you can chit-chat with them and they'll comment on you and your house and perhaps gossip with you. There also seems to be a hint at perhaps relationships you can improve with your neighbors as you play. I haven't had enough time to see if this is true considering this is a real-time based game that has only been released for a few days, but I have noticed that some neighbors have become friendlier towards me than others and offer me more chores, wanting to come over to my house, etc. This could be just an illusion. It's too early to tell.
The music in AC:WW is much more appealing to my ears. Maybe I was just deaf while playing the original, something I doubt since I like to play the little AC tune on the piano, but I find AC:WW's music much more appealing. The quality is great but the musical style is perhaps slightly different, if not more complex. All the SFX you grew to love in the original are still here, including the "voice synthesizer" that played when the animals talked. There's some debate over whether or not the animals in AC:WW are actually talking when they speak or whether it's just a bunch of weird "beep boop boop's, but it certainly sounds like they are.
I bet some of you are sitting on the edge of your seat asking "WHEN THE HECK IS HE GOING TO MENTION ONLINE?!" The answer is: now. Yes, OMG, AC:WW HAS ONLINE!!! This was perhaps the number one requested addition to the game from the original. Online was something that the GC severely lacked, so what better than Nintendo's newest handheld with wireless internet? I'll be honest and tell you that I have not gone online yet due to my current living situations, but it's not something hard to imagine. One of the larger flaws that people seem to point out about AC's online is that there is no lobby to find people to play with. You must have someone's friend code in order to join their town, which means you can only visit people you know outside the game. AC:WW's online simply consists of up to three people visiting someone else's town, meaning four people can be in one town at a time. What can you do? Well, you can look around their town and check out what items are up for sale in their shops. The more obvious reason to go online is for trading, considering Nook no longer allows you to get codes for your items so you can give that code to other people; however, this is funny considering the game offers no trade system, further pointing out the fact that you must trust people who you invite to join your town. Making that clearer is the fact that people can come into your town and ruin your flowers, chop down your trees, and make your neighbors angry. Perhaps it's a good thing you can't meet up with a stranger. Either way, online seems to be mostly a novelty. AC:WW obviously was not designed to make an awesome multiplayer experience, but rather added multiplayer as a mere addition that helps keep the game fresh by making trading among players a bit more interactive.
The biggest flaw I find in AC:WW is that it's just more of the same. They stuck to the formula that they thought worked, and it does. While WW does add more to the AC world, it also subtracts things. The most obvious is the step down in graphics. The graphics are obviously a bit more jagged due to the step down in console power, but luckily the original was one of the GC's least appealing games, in terms of graphical power, to be released on the system. This makes the transition much better to the DS and the only blatant sign of a graphical change are the jagged edges. Other than that, the graphics are very true to the original and will not disappoint. Two of the biggest gripes that players have are the exclusion of the popular NES games you could collect in the original as well as real holidays. There are no longer NES games to play but holidays still exist, they just aren't real world holidays anymore but are made up holidays. Personally, these two things have no affect on me. Despite the fact that AC:WW doesn't really attempt to redesign the gameplay in any drastic way or really even change it at all, it's still a fun, and often times weird, game to play and enjoy. I won't say it's the best gaming experience I've ever had, but I do plan on playing it for a long time.
AC:WW is a game full of feeling. We need to slow down and enjoy life sometimes. AC:WW is a heartwarming game that teaches you that life isn't always about what comes next but perhaps about how you're going to complete the mushroom theme of your living room or what quirky things your feathered neighbor is going to say next. Yes, some of you might think it's "kiddy," and perhaps the game isn't for you, but all I say to you is, "lighten up," because you're missing out on a lot of enjoyment.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 12/09/05, Updated 12/10/05
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