Nintendo's ongoing success with the DS has been heralded and documented by various sources, mostly reliable and trustworthy. SPOnG has always been a staunch champion of the format and it's great to see it really now starting to come into its own, with titles such as Animal Crossing Wild World. The touch-screen, once mocked as gimmicky, has proved the doubters wrong. It's immediate, intimate and, therefore, inclusive.
This inclusiveness is, perhaps, the key success of the DS. But a machine is only as good as it's killer-apps. So what are they? At first everyone presumed it would be Metroid, but the DS is over a year old, and it's still being tweaked. Then surely Mario or Zelda? The remake of Mario 64 was a good port, but was hardly going to sell the DS alone, and Zelda's gone AWOL.
Instead Ninty does what it does so well and provides its own excellent software ideally suited to the host hardware. It's come up with software to appeal to everyone (rather than the stereotypical 8-30 male demographic), which has carved a new niche for gaming.
This new genre is not about playing until completion, getting the fastest lap-time, or saving the day. It's about you - not a gangsta, a pilot, or an elite sniper. Your Nintendog needs constant attention, your Brain can always do with some more training, and your town in Animal Crossing: Wild World (ACWW) can always be improved.
Is the enemy AI good?
Since ACWW is unlike most other games, coupled with the fact there's no clear final goal, it's difficult to classify. There's no princess to rescue, no family to avenge, and no mobsters to brutally murder. You certainly can't "complete" it. It's sort of an RPG, but doesn't tick all the clichéd boxes, like weapon upgrades, monster killing, or building EXP. It could be considered a simulator, if it's possible to simulate a reality where your friends are evolved animals which can walk upright. ACWW has no "levels" and no bosses. You don't open up new towns (at least not offline, see 'Wifi
'), and the town you do have is relatively small.
"What the Hell DO you do then?", I hear thousands of rabid FPS fans shriek. "And how long before you get the Rocket Launcher?". Well, the first point we can address. As for the second, this game is here to heal those vulgar thoughts, brothers. Chill some.
So to the concise question: What the Hell do you do? Plenty. You can go fishing (but you'll have to buy a rod first), you catch bugs (after you've bought a net), dig for fossils (presuming you've already bought a...) In a nutshell: it's a virtual life simulator, but, no, this isn't a Sims rip-off. For one, this game works in real-time, rather than the Sims' speedy hyper-living. It's not just a 24 hour cycle - ACWW works to a 365 day cycle.
So visit your town at midnight, and most NPCs are asleep - but you're free to admire the constellations, or go fishing for nocturnal species. Play it at midnight on New Year's Day, however, and you'll be celebrating the occasion around your virtual buddies, with a spectacular virtual fireworks display. And one doesn't have to celebrate one's birthday with an all-day pub crawl, followed by being kicked out of a club for inappropriately touching that exotic dancer again... for the quiet life, why not accept the generous pressies from your neighbours, followed by some fruit picking? Rock on!
ACWW is set in a randomly generated town, which you must name yourself. In all towns you get the same elements: Your house, your fellow villagers' houses, the town gates, Nook's shop, tailors (Mable sisters), a Town Hall, and a Museum. The terrain has trees, weeds, rocks and flowers, and is separated by rivers (with bridges), and to the South you'll find the sea. In the rivers and sea you'll find fish. Fruit grows in the trees, and bugs can be wherever (though they're quite shy).
The first scene involves you travelling by taxi to your town, and the driver (Kapp'n) will ask you a series of questions. How you answer them determines your sex and appearance. Once you arrive, you find out the local tradesman/property tycoon (Nook) has gone to the trouble of building you a home - but Nook's a canny business man, and no way is it free. So you need to go about paying off the mortgage. And to do this you need bells (the currency). The main way you'll come by cash is selling stuff.
In the course of the game, you'll need to become an accomplished fisherman. You'll become sick of Sea Bass, overjoyed at landing a Tuna and (if you're sensible) a shrewd orchard grower. You'll be given one native species of fruit, but you can also get hold of exotic foreign fruits. You need
to base your orchard around these - they sell for 5 times your native kind. It's just like Sainsburys!
But at the beginning all of this is still a world away, as you literally have nothing except a (very small) roof over your head. But despair not, for Nook takes you on as a helper. Once you've run a few errands for him you're free to begin your (virtual) life in ernest. What you haven't needed as yet, but which is vital to the game, are tools. We've already mentioned the rod and net. But there are others: a spade, a slingshot, an axe, a watering can and a stop-watch.