I’ve been playing Animal Crossing: Wild World over the last week, venturing out to distant towns through Nintendo WiFI and inviting foreign interlopers into mine.
The original Animal Crossing, on the GameCube, was a great little zen game. By its nature it was a decent portable game despite being tied down to a home console, so the translation to the DS seems natural. Very natural when you realize just how complete Wild World is. There are a few minor sacrifices in the transition, like the loss of the journal, the loss of a few landmarks (though all their functions still exist), and the one house limitation — you can still have four people in the same town but they are all restricted to the same house — but otherwise, this little DS card has just as much content (and more!) as its predecessor. This is quite a feat.
What I like the most, though, is how much more streamlined the DS iteration is. Some of it is because of the touch screen interface, which helps with pattern drawing and softkey text input, but most of it is from better design. It’s mostly consolidation that does this. For example, in the original game if you found a fossil you had to get yourself some letter paper, write a letter to the fossil checking people, send the fossil and wait until the next day to get your validated fossil mailed back. The letter writing step was tedious and unrewarding since the contents of the letter were completely irrelevent. Worst of all, typing in the bare minimum letter (quick keyboard nonsense, ie. “asd”) on a controller was slow. Getting fossils was a chore.
In Wild World, all those unnecessary requirements are done away with. You can just go to the museum and have the fossil checked on site. Simple. This kind of design decision can be seen in a few areas. You don’t need to go to three seperate locations to dump garbage, send mail and check your town’s environment status; they’re consolidated into the town hall. You don’t need to sell your items one by one to Nook; you can sell them as a group.
These changes fix some of Animal Crossing’s previous annoyances and make for a better “portable design.” Wild World can be played in much shorter bursts than the GameCube version. This is good for a portable as you can pick it up, turn it on, visit your town, run some errands and shut down in less than ten minutes. This is good for when you want to go fishing while the hockey game on tv goes into intermission. This is good for when you want to go visit someone else’s town while you are sitting in front of the computer waiting for a download to finish. This is good for when you want to check what’s in stock at Nook’s while you wait for the water to boil. This is, simply, good filler.
In essence, it is the most casual game around.