The peak of the Everest that is Casual Gaming.
Animal Crossing: Wild World was released in 2005 and was a follow-up to the successful Gamecube version simply named “Animal Crossing”. Since then, a Wii version named Animal Crossing: City Folk has been released, and an upcoming version for the 3DS has been announced. As you can tell by the variety of games on offer, the Animal Crossing series is quite a big deal, even though not many people I know have played it, or even heard of it. In my opinion, “Wild World” is one of the best Nintendo DS games on sale, and is without doubt the benchmark for casual games.
In Animal Crossing, there is no aim, but plenty to do. You start with a short interactive scene in which you’re arriving in your new town in a cab. The cab driver asks you basic things such as your name, sex, the name of your town, etc. but he also asks you very subtle questions that will change the town’s layout and the look of your character- for example if you say you’re moving to the town for shopping, then your house will be located nearest to the shops. When you arrive at the town, you have a small house with no furniture, no decor and very minimal room. You have to pay off your mortgage to the local store owner, Tom Nook. You pay him off by doing errands for him, such as delivering items to your neighbours, posting a letter, and planting trees and plants for him. It is a fine way to introduce you to the controls, the characters, the items, and the layout of your town without it ever seeming boring, or like you’re being talked down to. Once you’re done with that, the house is officially yours and you’re free to do whatever you like. This is where the game gets really fun.
Now you’re free to do what you please, there is plenty on offer. First, let’s meet the neighbours. You start with three neighbours, but the more popular your town becomes, the more neighbours you’ll get moving in. Popularity is measured by things such as how many trees and flowers there are, how well you look after the town by removing weeds and stuff, and improvements made to your house and Nook’s Cranny. There are a ton of neighbours that can turn up at random, and you’ll get a different bunch every time.
Some of your townspeople are constant for every game, though. Tom Nook owns the store- from here you buy items for your home, decor, plants and flowers, and tools such as fishing rods, nets, and slingshots. Mable and Sable own the clothes store, in which you can buy new clothes and accessories, or even design your own patterns for use on floors, clothes, and the town flag. Both the clothes store and the general store get new stock in every day, so make sure to visit often to see what they have in. Blathers runs the museum. Here you can donate bugs, fish, paintings, and fossils you have collected. This is the bulk of the game, so I’ll get into it later on. His sister Celeste runs the observatory on the upper floor. In here you can create constellations which you can see in your sky, and if they’re good enough your Wi-Fi friends’ sky. The last animal occupying the Museum is Brewster the pigeon. He runs the cafe in which you can buy his special blend of coffee once a day, and sometimes special guests such as the guitar-playing dog K.K Slider visit and activate special events.
These are the most important animals, but there are plenty more. Booker and Copper are the security for the Wi-Fi gate. They also own a lost and found box, and help you change your town flag. Tortimer is the town mayor, and with the help of Phyllis and Pelly he runs the town hall and post office. Here you can mail letters to friends and neighbours, pay off your mortgage and change the town tune. There are also a huge host of special animals that turn up on specific days and activate events and give you special items, but I’ve listed enough already.
The main bulk of the game, as I previously mentioned, is collecting things for the museum. You can buy a net and catch a large variety of bugs, such as spiders, moths, butterflies, scorpions, and others, and donate them to the museum. In there you can view your collections in person and walk amongst them. With a shovel you dig up fossils and other goodies, and can create large scale dinosaurs. Or maybe you’d rather go fishing? No problem, just get out your rod and go catch the dozens and dozens of available fish.
It may sound like a grind to some, but Wild World runs in real-time. This means that certain species are only found at certain times, in certain areas, and in specific times of year. In the summer, you can find tons of butterflies and goldfish, but come winter, new fish and new bugs will be appearing. This means that not only is there a massive variety, but it will keep you playing for the long run, and never the short run. Fossils are about any time of the year, but there’s usually only about three a day. Paintings are even more rare and can only be obtained one at a time, once a week from Redd the fox when he visits your town.
The main selling point for Wild World is the Wi-Fi. If you have someone’s friend code, you can play with them from anywhere in the world at any time and up to four people can be in the town at once. Here you can have competitions, snowball fights, parties, and anything your mind can cook up. Imagination is key.
Another thing affected by the real-time engine are things such as Christmas, Bonfire night, your Birthday, and other holidays. There are also bug and fish competitions, firework displays, flea markets, and other events that take part all year round. For example, every Saturday in August, from 7pm-12am there is a fireworks display. Just this past Sunday was a bug-off in which the biggest bug caught wins a rare prize. It’s the little quirks like this that stop Animal Crossing from becoming a grind, or boring. There are always events, things to do, new people to see, and with the option of multiplayer, the longevity is doubled.
Along with all the collections and events, you spend time upgrading your house and the general store. What starts as a small little box of a house can soon become a huge multi-floor mansion. You earn money by doing favours for people, selling fishes, bugs and other items, and if you’re lucky enough you can even grow a money tree. The store which starts as a small shanty hut becomes a huge supermarket with two floors and a hairdresser’s built in. This game has plenty to aim for and all the time in the world to achieve it.
In an age of casual games, this gem deserves all the praise it can get. Why accept casual gaming as endless grinding on an online farm, or a long line of cloned and cliched party games, when Animal Crossing offers hundreds of features, bags of fun, and even celebrates your birthday? There is just tons of things in this game that I haven’t gotten into that range from shooting stars and falling in traps to neighbours arguing and a cat who’s face you can doodle on.
Animal Crossing is exactly what a casual game should be, and more.
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