Review: Imagine if you can, instead of fetching the paper and pipe for Fido. Wild World INDEED!
Not all animals can be killed with a hunting rifle. Not every dog can be fed with a hearty bowl of Kibbles 'n Bits. Not every lion, tiger, and bear makes one excitably screech, "Oh my!" There are wild beasts that live together in this world. Rhinos and ducks, dogs and cats, squirrels and horses all inhabiting the same domain side by side. All this and more happen in an imaginary world based on a reality that continues to thrive: an existence known as Animal Crossing.
As it's known by millions around the globe already, Animal Crossing is Nintendo's widely popular life simulator that was originally introduced in Japan on the Nintendo 64. American GameCube owners were then acquainted with that same title back in 2002. Tack on three years and, in the midst of 2005's holiday season, the Nintendo DS struck a very big chord by embracing the chaotic depths of the online community. Animal Crossing: Wild World, in case you haven't heard, is essentially the same game as Animal Crossing was on the GameCube, only now adding a major host of improvements the first iteration didn't embrace. Like say, a little feature you might've heard of before: online playability.
For the first time, Animal Crossing isn't just for single players and their mothers. Wi-Fi is the free Internet path many travel nowadays, what with laptops and their power to reel into a nearby remote broadband signal. If you or someone you know has a broadband network installed, picking up stakes and ditching your town for a while over Wi-Fi is now within reach. Unfortunately, this connectivity feature isn't as easy as 1-2-3. Animal Crossing doesn't follow in the footsteps of similar DS titles (i.e., Mario Kart DS), lacking a random competitor search option. For Animal Crossing, all you can do is locate other players (via the web or otherwise) pushing their dossier through the game's database stages, then schedule a game time, and see to it that one of your gates is open for an all-access pass.
Luckily you'll only have to process data once, as each player that piles on your friend list is able to revisit your town, and you theirs, at later times just so long as the two of you keep each other's codes in check. The problem with this kind of setup isn't just the act of tracking down these friends, it's also that you'll need to make a play date every time you want to meet up. This method in itself is troublesome when you'll have to arrange appointments in advance. Is this a game or a board meeting? Although the system works, it would be less stressful if a lobby or even an in-game automatic search engine aided Animal Crossing in its guarded mindset.
Despite the connectivity issues designed to restrain Animal Crossing from foul play, evil is an entity that still courses through the game's veins. Online, you can do just about anything that you can while offline, and do so in someone else's town. Take out that axe and hack your way through another's peaceful forest. Brandish a shovel and make someone else's town look like Pothole Central. Steal fruit. Steal flowers. Steal items. Almost anything that can be done offline is possible online, as long as you don't feel bad about upsetting their game. The reason Nintendo designed Animal Crossing's lockout method the way they did is for all precautionary purposes. You don't just want anyone mucking up your place. Animals have to do their duty there you know, and your precious game is in jeopardy whenever someone else is on board your boat. Oh, and one more thing -- lag is another issue to watch out for, so watch out!
Your character. Your town. Your rules...sort of. Animal Crossing: Wild World, like its GameCube predecessor, is the simulation game that lets you orchestrate work through every single inch of the village. One of the first rules you need to know about is not just the game's managerial focus, but its basis on real time. When it's 5 PM at home, it's 5 PM in the game. Time plays a very serious role in Animal Crossing. For instance, neighbors head to bed at night cutting off communication until day. Keeping the time guideline in mind is crucial to the deadlines and operable points of entry you'll often have to face. From the start you're given money (called bells) and a place to live in by the town's single biggest proprietor, Tom Nook. He's the guy in charge of the one-stop-shop for all your knickknacks and doodads. Here you can find several niceties and extremities of different shapes, sizes, and sets for decorating the place to hang your hat. Wallpapers, carpets, tables, chairs, sofas, beds, and gallons of whatever are at your fingertips for touching up your abode from top to bottom. New to Nook's: as the debt to your house is paid off (sell items, sell fish, sell fruit -- whatever), his store will graduate through enlarging phases and eventually turn into a mall of sorts where two Nook children and a hair trimming poodle named Harriet await your needs.
Right next door to Nook's you'll find the Able sister's clothing emporium that once more lets you buy and design whole varieties of shirts. New to the foray are hats and facial accessories to experiment with (glasses, mustaches, masks, and all). Drawing your own grid-based designs is easier than ever now with the use of the touchpad and stylus. Emblazon your apparel with a depiction of your favorite Nintendo icon, your favorite fast food logo, or whatever else strikes your fancy. The museum's still standing for use of donating and displaying collections that you'll no doubt work hard to obtain -- in piles of paintings, fish, fossils, and insects. Last but not least, the town hall functions again for all sorts of postal deliveries, recyclable surprises, and now checking the status of your town just the same. This kind of makes you wonder what happened to the old town tree, huh? Extra paper, anyone?
Naturally, there's more -- a lot more, much more -- to these various posts around your town and the events you'll be able to partake in. If you're not using your fishing rod to prey on dark floating blobs in the town's streams and ocean bodies, you'll be swinging a net around to nab dozens of creepy crawlies in the insect genus during the spring season. You'll be rolling up circular mounds of snow during a frozen off-season, or utilizing the dual-screen's only purpose: to shoot down balloons and characters flying overhead with the brand-new slingshot. You'll be brandishing a shovel and tracking down cracks in the ground to round up bones, watering dying beds of flowers, and basically sprucing up the town in a daily routine to keep it fit and/or improve upon it until the other villagers around you are content.
Up to eight AI-operated neighbors have to live with you. There for your benefit and theirs, all they ask is that you do things for them, such as delivering silly notes and T-shirts to other members of the town. They want you to water the plants and arrange trees in an orderly fashion. They need you to make them happy when you'll speak with them on a basis as often as you can. In return they'll offer you rewards, most times that aren't that rare, but then in the off chance you may get lucky. Fill their wishes, buy their crap, answer their quizzes, invite them over your place, and try to keep them elated with your status, and they won't dwell heavily on skipping town as they sometimes tend to do.
While Animal Crossing has never made anyone go gaga over its childish art style, it's not a game series that is ultimately and decidedly repulsive. These, those, and everything else may be basic on the surface, but they're also nice on the eyes. Seen from an isometric view as always, the game takes on a bit of a new shape that ditches the screen-by-screen zones in trade for a freer roaming 3D map that reflects once again change in weather (snow and rain), seasonal and time-based patterns (winter to fall, dawn to dusk), and cartoony miniaturized models. Crudely drawn but nevertheless fine, you'll usually be able to tell or at least surmise the differences between what animals are supposed to be amongst several of the species known throughout the animal kingdom.
Character animations are limited in that you can run while spurting dust or snow splashes from your feet, you can rustle trees when they're shaken; not stirred, and you can view an assortment of swinging tool actions -- like tossing a bobbing ball into the river to see a radius of circles brush off the center to slamming a net on top of a deadened flower and observe its petals flit into thin air. Colorful through and through, white clouds roll along a contrast of blue sky during the day, adjusting the bright greens of the ground and trees to a fading pale orange that sinks into a star-filled rayless night. Established in such cuteness, Animal Crossing's unrefined world will not make you cringe, but instead make you accept that the game is entirely not too shabby.
If your eardrums can take it, prepare yourself for a whirl of major repetition in squeakiness. As before, Animal Crossing lets players from the beginning choose how they want to hear the computer translates its dialogue. Bebebese sounds like a type writer pounding out letters whereas with Animalese, the characters sound out muffled high-pitched and grouchy tones, depending on their mood or personality. Whether a denizen is happy or sad, you're getting back consonants and vowels that drop from shrill to pensive. Since Animalese is much less grating on the nerves, it'll likely become your primo choice. Every hour on the hour, the game's music shifts between cheery and mellow tracks amidst a cluster of other ordinary noises (as in good, but not extraordinary). Of crunchy footsteps, the calming tempo of the river and the swaying of the ocean's waves, the gleeful whistling of neighbors, and the creaks in closing and opening doorways, just about everything has a noise as well as you could expect.