July 13, 2006

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Animal Crossing: Wild World (DS)
Nintendo, 2005

Am I really an unabashed cheerleader of all things Nintendo? Such a scathing accusation was levied at me lately claiming that my drooling, fawning lust for the Nintendo DS had rendered my critical facilities moot. Whatev. Animal Crossing: Wild World cures cancer, folds your laundry and tastes like strawberry shortcake!

O.K. it doesn’t fold laundry. But it does put the best Game Cube title in your pocket and enable you to rudely ignore your family and friends wherever you go! The cartoon village of Animal Crossing opens the door to hours of innocuous G-rated yet astoundingly addictive meandering. You can dig up fossils, net insects and fish on long car rides. You can write letters to cute cartoony neighbors, tend gardens, or pay off your mortgage!

Yay! Mortgage payments that don’t make me curl up and cry over an empty checking account.

While the majority of the game hasn’t changed since it appeared on the Cube there are a number of notable additions (mainly in an expanded collection of collectibles). Players will also find a few new tools, like the stopwatch and new personal effects like hairstyles and whatnot. One of the most exciting advances is the various ways that your DS WiFi connection is utilized. You can use a “friend code” (unique to each Animal Crossing and DS combo) to journey to other player towns or have them visit you in your town. Alternately you can enter Tag Mode, which looks for nearby Animal Crossing players to link up to. The online components help fill out your game by giving you easier access to rare items and can spawn some inventive game play as you and your visiting buddies cook up improvised games.

On the down side, sorry Goths, there is no Halloween in Animal Crossing. All Holidays have been secularized and globalized into Civic Events or some such pablum. Way to cave to the PC mafia. What’s next, games of tag where nobody is “It” so as not to hurt their precious feelings? It’s not a huge mistake but damn if the Halloween-themed living room set wasn’t my favorite furniture from the Cube.

Original Animal Crossing haters won’t convert, but honestly those people can take a long walk off a short pier for all I care. They will no doubt say that everything has shrunk down to portable size (duh!) and that the resulting play field is a tad cramped. Maybe they will point out that the stylus and touch pad aren’t so inventively used. Stop talking to them. They hate the simple relaxing joy of Animal Crossing. They hate freely wandering about a bright cartoon utopia. They hate puppies. A

— Glenn Given