Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Animal Crossing: Wild World review

So, City Folk was finally announced. Seems like the perfect time for a Wild World review to me!

Developer: Nintendo EAD
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: December 5th, 2005
ESRB Rating: E for Everyone

On the Gamecube, I was absolutely in love with Animal Crossing. Initially purchased on a whim, it quickly became one of my favourite games on the console. There was just something fun and engaging about interacting with a virtual village and doing virtual chores to pay off a virtual mortgage. I know, it sounds incredibly boring in writing, but really, Animal Crossing was one hell of a fun game. You can imagine how excited I was to hear that there was going to be a DS sequel, and it was the number one item on my Christmas list that year. On Christmas morning, I finally got my hands on the sequel to one of my favourite Gamecube games. I pop it in my DS, turn on the system, and the rest is virtual history.

The story in all Animal Crossing games is a strange one, in that it hardly exists at all. As the game begins, you play as a young boy or girl striking on their own. Sitting in the back of a taxi, you just enjoy your ride and chat with the driver for a bit (What you say determines your appearance, and the location of your house). When you finally arrive, you realize you don't have nearly enough case to pay off the mortgage on your new home. The local store owner and real estate agent Tom Nook takes you in to work for him in order to pay off the debt. After a while, all the work he needs you to do is finished, and you're let go from the job. Thing is, you still have a bunch of debt to pay off. This is where the game truly begins, and the story basically ends.

You see, Animal Crossing: Wild World, as well as the preceding Gamecube title, is not a typical game at all. There's no monster battles, no guns, no jumping from platform to platform, and no designated objectives. It's simply a relaxing alternate reality for the player to enjoy. Sure, you've got that mortgage hanging over your head, but there's no real rush to pay it off. Nook's not going to send in two muscle-headed gorillas to break your knees or anything. Animal Crossing: Wild World is an incredibly laid-back, relaxing distraction from the hustle and bustle of the real world, and you get to play it your way.

So, what is there to do in Animal Crossing: Wild World? Furniture collecting, bug catching, fishing, digging for fossils, chatting with the locals, or tending to your flowers. Really, it's quite the vast selection of activities, and taking care of your garden is habit-forming. Miss just two days of watering, and your garden begins to wilt. Keep on it!

Fishing: Just one of the many things to do in Wild World

I suppose that's part of what makes this game so addictive. If you put it down for too long, some of the things you've worked so hard to maintain may go away. Your favourite neighbours may move away, weeds will sprout up everywhere, your flowers will die, and cockroaches will overrun your house! There's always something there to keep you coming back.

One of the "core" aspects of Animal Crossing: Wild World is the player's house. Like a car buff's prized 1968 Dodge Charger, the player's house is like the crown jewel of almost any town. Arranging furniture in creative ways, collecting and placing entire furniture sets and impressing the house-rating Happy Room Academy are all landmarks worthy of bragging about.

Of course, you're not going to impress anyone with that piddly little house you get at the beginning. No no, you've got to pay off your debts first! Once that's through, Nook will upgrade your house, and then through another exorbitant bill in your face. After you pay that off, you get another upgrade, then another bill, and so on until the biggest possible home is yours for the decorating.

The amount of furniture to choose from is so vast, you're likely to change your decor often. From robots to snowmen, Asian to countryside, there's bound to be at least one furniture set for you. According to my Wild World player's guide, there are 562 different pieces of furniture in the game. That's 562 different 3D models all crammed onto a DS game card. Now that's a feat worth mentioning!

In addition to furniture, there are several other items to obtain in Animal Crossing. Wallpaper, flooring, shirts, tools, and a whole lot more! Wild World even lets you customize your character with hats, masks, mustaches and glasses. It's insane how much they managed to fit into this game!

Playing dress up has never been so easy! (Or so non-embarrassing)

Another aspect of the game almost too expansive is how many neighbours there are. Unless I made a mistake just now with my quick headcount (This player's guide sure comes in handy!), there are 143 different neighbours in Wild World! Almost astonishing is how many different types of villagers there are. Tigers, wolves, squirrels, dogs, pigs, rabbits... A total of 31 different types of neighbours! To further differentiate each character from another, there are six different personalities such as jock, grumpy, lazy and snooty. Furthermore, each neighbour tends to have their own little hobby, such as collecting certain types of furniture, having an obsession with fossils, or being a total fashion lover. It's kind of funny with conflicting traits collide, such as cranky old bears that are total suckers for the hottest new fashion. The variety of neighbours is astounding!

I don't know what it is about this game that makes it so damn fun. Somewhere, deep within that little game card is something that keeps me coming back. I've had this same town running since December 2005, and I wouldn't dare let it die! Well, not more than once... Or twice... Okay, so I've ended up abandoning it from time to time. Still, something weird keeps drawing me back to this, even if it's been months. Something buried beneath all the weeds and cockroaches begs for me to return. Plus, there's no way I'm letting Punchy move out! No way in heck!

As you read above, there are tonnes and tonnes of 3D models in this game, with a grand total doubtlessly over one thousand. With so many different objects to be rendered, it's amazing how high quality they all are. For a 2005 DS game, Wild World is quite the beautiful title.

Every piece of furniture is incredibly well detailed

I can't think of a single thing wrong with how Wild World looks. It's truly a magnificent-looking game, and the graphics still stand the test of time over two years after the initial release.

Ah, the music of Animal Crossing... Probably the second most calming thing in the game next to watering flowers. From the soft tunes of late-night strolls to the awesome beats of K.K. Slider (The local musician), the sounds of Wild World are music to my ears. I have an entire playlist on my computer comprised of nothing but K.K. Slider MP3s. You just haven't heard video game music until you've heard K.K. Slider.

The sound effects in Wild World serve their purpose, but I suppose they don't really do anything all that spectacular. However, the way some of them are used is interesting. Hear a strange ticking or buzzing noise? Chances are, there's a bug nearby. Does the sound of croaking fill the air? There's a frog in that pond! The audio cues for some of these things are great. It makes bug catching and fishing so much more engaging, requiring expert use of both sight and hearing in pursuit of the big one.

While it's lots of fun to spend time interacting with your new-found virtual pals, the real fun in Wild World begins when you and your real-world friends play together. Through either local wireless or the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection (Yes, there's friend codes. Get over it already), you can visit your pals and check out what's going on in their neck of the woods.

However, while visiting far-off towns can be fun, it does get somewhat stale after a few trips. There's not much to be done with your pals online other than chatting. You can set up little bug- or fish-catching tournaments, but that gets pretty boring really fast.

On the bright side, though, multiplayer visits can lead to neighbour exchanges. If you or your friend has a villager that feels like moving in town, they just might migrate over.

Sharing the game card with someone else actually makes the experience a little worse in my eyes. See, unlike the original game, players don't each get their own house. Instead, players are forced to share one building among each other. Even with the biggest possible house, it just doesn't feel like there's enough room for more than one person. Thankfully, if one of your wants to move out, that's entirely possible. Players can migrate from one game card to another (Local only, of course). So if your little brother really takes a shine to Wild World, he can pick up his own copy and move his character from your game into his new town. A great feature, but it still doesn't change the fact that there should have been one house per player. I would have gladly accepted a few less new items for separate housing. I'm just glad that multiple homes are making a return in City Folk.

As I said earlier, something keeps dragging me back to Wild World. I don't know what it is, but it's resulted in me playing this game on and off for over two years. Not many games can say they've kept a players attention for that long! Wild World is definitely one heck of a long-lasting game, and I'm sure to spend the next little while playing the crap out of it.


Storyline: 9.0/10
To be fair, Wild World doesn't really have much of a storyline. Really, it's more of a premise. However, without that little shred of story, none of this game would be the same. Humans moving into a town occupied by animals, paying off loans to a raccoons, and buying clothes from hedgehogs... Definitely unique, and insanely charming.

Gameplay: 9.4/10
Animal Crossing is one heck of a unique series. It somehow takes the mundane tasks of weeding and makes it fun. It's like a secondary life, yet the obligations are, in some crazy way, entertaining to fulfill. Run around for days collecting fruit and fish? Sounds boring, but in reality, it's just so darned addictive.

Graphics: 9.6/10
If I've said it once, I've said it a million times: Wild World is an insanely great-looking game. The models are detailed, yet cartoony. The world is vast, yet lag-free. And the sheer volume of 3D models crammed in is mind-boggling! Seriously one of the best-looking DS games ever.

Audio: 9.3/10
Even though the songs have no real words, I can play at least three different K.K. Slider songs in my head. The background music is calming and fun, too, yet not nearly as memorable. As for the sound effects, they do some amazing things while not being all that remarkable on their own. I never thought of hunting bugs by sound before, but now it's one of the main things I pay attention to when tracking down my next quarry.

Multiplayer: 8.3/10
Visiting other people's towns online is interesting, but once you get there and look around, there's not much else to really do. Still, seeing what some people have done to decorate their homes and towns is really an activity itself. The big problem with multiplayer, though, is how the developer handled card-sharing. One house? Come on! Surely it would have been possible to put in separate houses!

Longevity: 9.8/10
When I first got Wild World, I played it constantly for about two months, after which I played it every now and then. After not playing it for a while, I picked it right back up and dove into my little town. Over the last two years this pattern has repeated, probably leading to Wild World being my most-played Nintendo DS game. Definitely a title worth playing again and again and again.

OVERALL: 9.2/10
Take this rating as you will, folks. When it comes to Animal Crossing, it seems people either love it or hate it. I, for one, am of the former group. As for you, figuring out where you stand may not be easy. Think about it for a while: Do you enjoy unique and quirky? Do you not mind a little repetition? Do you tend to collect things in games? Are you looking for a relaxing departure from the hectic reality of life? If you answered yes to these questions, then perhaps Animal Crossing is right for you. The only real way to find out is to play. As for me, I love it to death! City Folk, here I come!

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The Duck Has Spoken.


Wopi said...

Wow! I am awstuck! I wish I was that good in AC. Hey, do you know if any of the songs from K.K. Slider are like ones that are real? Not the words, but the melody or something? Since you are so smart with AC I want to ask you. To contact me if you know email Thanks!

Anonymous said...

question: in this post you have the picture of your person in (presumably) your neighbors house, the wallpaper has candles on it and the floor is stone-like. What is the wallpaper and flooring called? I have not been able to find it anywhere in my guidebook. Please help.