Animal Crossing: Wild World is a clever and engaging game that has taken the traditional simulation game and transformed it into a ‘personal MMO.’ On Monday, April 10, 2006, 105,833 players logged in and played the game, according to the statistics on Nintendoâ€™s Wi-Fi gaming hub. As of March 5, 2006, over 2 million copies were sold. So whatâ€™s so captivating about it?
Animal Crossing is at heart, a simulation game, where you set up your house, garden, furnishings, clothing and museum collections. Your first sessions in this game are likely to revolve around a series of tasks directed by Tom Nook, and the initial pay-off of your initial mortgage. This experience is not much of a grind. You are given multiple options for how to make money (bells) in the game and the first mortgage is set at an accessible level.
In keeping with the life-simulation theme, Animal Crossing is a persistent world. Your village clock follows a typical day. The sun rises and sets. Villagers eventually retire for the night, and the stores close. Sunsets in Animal Crossing are lovely. The game follows the seasons, and in the winter the world is covered in snow. In the spring, some of the trees turn pink, and the fall is speckled with fall color. Weeds grow and you have to pick them. Flowers wilt, although watering them will bring them back to life. It has a peaceful, almost bucolic feel.
The DS version has let go of the series of fed-ex tasks that dominated the play of the GameCube version. On the DS, your relationship with others in the village is ultimately up to you, and there are no obvious penalties for not fostering relationships with townsfolk. If you do, they are likely to reward you with presents, or tips about the game.
The port to the DS has a nice integration with the stylus, and you can choose to use it or buttons. It also takes advantage of the dual screens. On occasion, balloons with gifts will float past the top screen, and you can use a slingshot to pop the balloon. Itâ€™s hard to keep an eye on both screens, however, and if you are wandering through the village itâ€™s very easy to miss the balloon as it goes by. The only take-away with the DS port appears to be the inclusion of the old NES games that were present in the GameCube version. Playing those older games was one of the more charming elements, and itâ€™s unfortunate that they do not seem to have been brought over.
One of the nicest aspects to Animal Crossing: Wild World is that it lends itself to 10-15 minute play sessions. In that time, you can accomplish a nice chunk of the day-to-day business of the game, and progress at a reasonable pace.
It is, however, a hard game to rush through (unless you prefer time travel.) The village economy can be encouraged along through orchards bearing non-native fruits. It is well worth exploring the Wi-Fi capabilities early on so that you can gather fruits from other towns, even if you donâ€™t intend to play in other towns very often. Tending to the orchards over the course of a couple of weeks will supply you with a booming economy. You wonâ€™t bat an eye at the incredibly high prices for later mortgages. Well, maybe you will, but theyâ€™ll translate as time and money and itâ€™s all perfectly doable.
The game does reward diligent attention to â€˜taking care of businessâ€™ and tending to your home, furnishings, and gardens. This adds a nice cooperative component to the multi-player aspects of the game. Your home will accommodate up to 3 roommates, and they can all assist in paying off the mortgage, furnishing the house, etc.
There are two schools of thought on how to approach Animal Crossing gameplay. Admirers of the Happy Room Academy diligently work to payoff the mortgages and acquire a mansion, attend to their furniture collections and pay special attention to the use of color in their homes. They are consistent donors to the museum, and make sure that the museum has pristine collections of art, dinosaurs, fish and bugs.
Other players take a more â€œbrew your ownâ€ approach, and ignore the HRA letters while they create their own environment. You can create tiles using a wide variety of color palettes and tools, and then place the tiles throughout the village. Through carefully planned tiling, you can â€˜landscapeâ€™ your world to be anything you can imagine.
Is Animal Crossing: Wild World really a MMO? If you consider your village an instance, and open your gates to encourage visitors, it does have a MMO quality. Developing a robust economy would be very difficult if you didnâ€™t visit other towns, and there are some stages of the game that you can only get if you participate in the multi-player aspect (for example, the final upgrade to Nookâ€™s store is triggered after a guest visits and makes a purchase in your town.) It is fascinating to see what others have done in their town, and it certainly fosters a sense of cooperative competition.
All in all, Animal Crossing: Wild World gets 4 out of 5 stars. Our scoring system reserves 5 out of 5 games for those that have universal appeal, and simulation games such as this do not appeal to all gamers. It is, however, a brilliant example and definitely wins â€˜best of breed.â€™ It will be fascinating to see what Nintendo does with the Animal Crossing franchise in the future.
RATING: 4 out of 5
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