Animal Crossing: Wild World Nintendo DS Review

If someone tried to get you to buy a game by telling you that the aim of the game is to work your arse off to try and settle a mortgage, you’d probably tell them to bugger off, as that’s stressful enough in real life. Trust Nintendo to not only make it a fun experience, but also make it into a million-selling game. After Animal Crossing wowed players worldwide, the game makes its way to the Nintendo DS with a number of changes, some for better, some for worse.

The basic premise of the game remains the same as the GameCube version – after a short taxi ride in, you move into a town with nothing to your name and no place to stay. Luckily, a kind soul in the shape of a racoon named Tom Nook gives you a tiny one room house to live in. Hey, it’s a start! In accepting his offer, Tom then reveals you owe him a sizable amount of money. Congratulations – you’ve been suckered into a mortgage. To pay this off, you can earn money through all manner of pursuits. The easiest way is to pick fruit from trees and do odd jobs for the other residents of your town, as well as dabbling in a stock market-alike game involving turnip trading.

As you pay off your loan, your house can be expanded for more cash, eventually reaching the size of a mansion. This is more or less the only real goal of the game, and there’s no pressure on you to ever pay off your loan. You can take your time doing whatever you like in town – socialising with the other residents, planting trees and flowers, collecting bugs, fish and fossils to donate to the museum, whatever you want to do.

You also find yourself developing relationships with the residents of your town. Even though there’s only a handful of “personality types” for each character, the sheer amount of brilliantly written dialogue makes each character truly feel like an individual. They’ll make conversation on almost any topic, from what they think of the other villagers to what events are happening soon. They’ll even ask your advice on the strangest subjects – one villager in my town keeps asking me how long spaghetti should be cooked for it to be “al dente”. Not only do they have their own catchphrases, you can also teach them words you think they ought to be saying. Parents everywhere will curse the name of Nintendo when their child explains that they picked up rude words from a villager who’s been taught the contents of Viz magazine’s Profanisaurus.

The main improvement from the GameCube version is the addition of online play. While you could visit other towns, you would need to have the other player’s memory card to be able to travel, and you were still restricted to one player at a time. On the DS, you can open your town to invite up to three other players, or visit someone else’s town. While in other towns, you can chat via an onscreen keyboard, and find things you wouldn’t get in your town – the shops sell different items, there’s different fruit on the trees which can be sold for a high price back home, and different residents to chat to. You may even find that residents from another town will move into yours later. Unfortunately, you’ll need to swap Friend Codes with other players before you can visit them, so you’ll have to get onto an internet forum to meet up with other players to have online fun. The game also includes local wireless play, but each player needs to have a copy of the game – Download Play advocates will have to fork out for this one.

Some stuff is missing from the GameCube version though. The biggest omission is the included NES games – while you could play Super Mario Bros or Excitebike on the big screen, they’ve been left out for the DS version, probably to avoid encroaching on Nintendo’s NES Classics line for the Game Boy Advance or the Virtual Console for the upcoming Revolution. While it’s not something which completely ruins the game, it’s still a disappointment. Certain residents and events have been removed as well – Halloween and Christmas aren’t celebrated in the game anymore. The GBA link-up minigame Animal Island is also missing. Again, these are just little things which are disappointing but not crucial.

Overall though, Animal Crossing feels like a game that the DS was made for. While the GameCube version could only be played at home, the DS version can go with you wherever you go, so you won’t miss out on anything happening in town during the day. The online features that the GameCube version was sorely lacking add a whole new dimension to an already groundbreaking game, and makes you think that this what the creators of the game had in mind when they first brought out Animal Forest for the Nintendo 64 five years ago.

9.0/10

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Version tested: Nintendo DS