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"WiFi Part 1: Animal Crossing"
-By Chris "M3THR33" Glass-
-Optioned and Opinionated-
|This is the first in a series of three articles detailing the initial batch of Wi-Fi games for the Nintendo DS.
It's been over 3 months since the launch of Animal Crossing: Wild World in the US and I've played it nearly every day since. What impressed me the most was how I didn't miss most of the missing content. Due to the popularity of the DS, many new people were introduced to the series, so they do not know what they're missing or what they are taking for granted.
One of the biggest changes that Wild World went under was the addition of the Town Hall. Previously it was a Post Office with a bank deposit. In Wild World, it now also serves to edit the Town Tune, hold a recycling bin, and evaluate your town's health, all of which were on their own screen in the original. Doing this allowed the town to be more open, reducing the preset tiles needed in each town and requiring the player to run around less. While one may miss the great tree for aesthetic reasons, it served a very insignificant purpose for most players who could care less about their tree distribution.
Another large change was reduction of the town's max population from 15 to 8. On the outside this may appear to be a great limitation, but it opens up the player to personally develop with each animal. Animals now often make requests for furniture and have flea markets to update their living conditions, customizing it to your village. On top of the closing statement, each animal now has a greeting. But the biggest change of all is a new item, a picture. Develop a strong enough relationship with a villager and they may give you a memento for your mantle. Every character in the game has one, including the special characters, making them the ultimate collectible.
But not all changes are well received. Gold items still exist, but the most popular, the shovel, is no longer as useful. Previously it served to make money trees in a golden spot (no longer in WW) and dig up random 100-bell bags. It has been reduced to only money-tree creation, but the chance of one developing has been cut down to the point where it's not profitable or even fun.
The other disturbing removal is the holidays. In the original, the holidays were tailored specifically to each region. America, Europe, Australia and Japan each had a localized game developed to match their customs. Making the game online worldwide called for some drastic changes. Outside of New Year's, all the holidays in the game are fictional. No more Jingle the Reindeer on Xmas, no more Jack on Halloween and no more turkey hunt on Thanksgiving. Instead they are replaced with Bright Nights (A week of decorated trees and houses) or just plain ignored. The silver lining is in the wifi connection. Connecting to Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection on holidays will have mail sent to your house. On New Year's, Satoru Iwata sent a message and enclosed a Super Mario Coin. On Valentine's Day Nintendo sent out a piece of lovely furniture. On President's Day, Tortimer sent out a Top Hat. While it's a nice surprise to receive such gifts, it often just serves as a bittersweet reminder of what used to be.
The biggest draw of the game was the Wi-Fi Connection. Now you could visit other towns and talk with people. Previously one was limited to borrowing a memory card and never actually interacting with other players. But Nintendo did not stop there. Amongst the other multiplayer-effects the original had, new ones were introduced. Notes in a bottle were added, to be cast randomly to visited towns. A Timer was added to aid in fishing or bug-hunting competitions. Emoticons were added with the help of a new character, Dr. Shrunk. Nintendo clearly indulged their creative side when it came to adding new features.
However the online aspect wasn't the only multiplayer addition. Instead of a little two-by-two field of houses, all players on a cart now share a single house that grows in size far beyond the original. On top of that, the Town Hall now gives players the option to move off the cart to a new town. The genius of this feature lies in the people who are unsure of the game being a worthy purchase. They can invest time into the game and not have to worry about starting over if they decide to purchase it for themselves. Siblings can share the game until they have enough of an allowance to purchase a second copy. On a less positive a note, but still as important, a couple that has split up can end the digital partnership, as well, but the age-old question of who keeps the house still needs to be decided.
Even though Wild World lacks a few features, I still invested countless hundreds of hours into the game. Nintendo was able to flawlessly integrate Wi-Fi into an old game, breathing new life into it. While some may have questioned their previous efforts, Nintendo clearly recognized what potential their franchises had. Animal Crossing: Wild World on the GameCube was an incredibly compact game that could have easily fit onto the DS cart with little issue. They could have simply adapted the code, added an online train station and have been done with it. But instead of acting like Sony, with their lackluster 1st party multiplayer options, Nintendo tried hard to reinvigorate the series and make it worthy of more than just a simple suffix of "Online.".
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