Animal Crossing: Wild World
For a lot of people there’s quite a bit of appeal to games like The Sims. One can play make believe in a reasonably realistic world, without having to deal with the crap that comes with real life. Buy into consumerism, and forge relations all you want, and if you make a mistake, just start a new game. Simple. However, these games couldn’t really be enjoyed by younger people, or be played together by families since the games have content more suited toward an older audience. A few years ago, Animal Crossing took the core elements of these sorts of games, and slapped them into a fantastical world full of talking animals, cute goodies to collect, and let people play at a leisurely pace, just enjoying the environment, and doing things as quick or slow as they liked. It worked on the Gamecube, and it works again now on the DS with Animal Crossing: Wild World…assuming you don’t have a firm anti-consumerism stance.
the game begins, players will find themselves riding in a cab on the way
to their new town. The
driver will ask a few pointed questions amidst his friendly banter to
establish the name of players’ town as well as their own name.
Upon arriving, one slowly begins to meet some of the locals, as
well as learn that they have to pay off the mortgage on their new home.
Of course in order to do this, players need to find ways to earn
cash, plunging them into a sort of tutorial explaining the economics of
the game. Once this is
done, it’s time to get down to business.
this whole business of making money, and living in your town in general,
is actually quite relaxed. Often
times in objective-based games players really have the screws put to
them, as they’re told that they have to do something post haste, lest
they wish to fail. In
Animal Crossing: WW, things are quite the opposite.
One can go out, pick some fruit, do some fish, chat with the
other town folk, and generally enjoy life.
They can pay back that mortgage slowly over time, and if they see
an interesting item to decorate their house, or a neat gadget that they
would like, so much the better. What
is key, though, is that there’s no rush to do things.
This also holds true for events. Every so often, something comes up in town that players can take part in. If they can make it out, great. If not, that’s fine too. It’s this very attitude that many will find so appealing. The lack of pressure to get things done is a very refreshing about-face from what is often the norm in games. The game is about simply living and enjoying life. Write letters to NPCs, or that can be picked up by others via the game’s online capabilities. Sit around and fish all day. Just hang out in your home, and have some friends over. The complete lack of being forced to do XYZ in a set amount of time will be a welcome change for a lot of people. It really takes Animal Crossing: WW from being a full-on game, into becoming more of an experience.
It’s also an experience that doesn’t need to be…well… experienced alone. As another of the DS’s early online games, players can invite friends to come and visit their town, or they can choose to go to a friend’s town instead. The process requires one to get the Friend Code of the person that they wish to invite, and submit it to the NPCs at the gates of your town. They will then allow your real-life friend into your city so
that you can hang out, and play together. If you wish to visit your friend’s town, he or she needs only to do the same process with their gate guards. This helps to ensure a more controlled online experience, thus preventing unwanted bozos from marching into town and causing problems. It’s a simple enough system, and makes for a good time when you want to experience the game with friends or family.
All the while, players are treated to a cute, offbeat aesthetic. There are bright colors, giant heads, and cuteness dripping out of every pour in this game. The music and sound only continues this trend. What was really neat was that over time I was able to slowly collect things like musical instruments, and cassettes to listen to, thus adding yet more music to the game.
However, it’s this collection of things that will make or break Animal Crossing: WW. On the one hand, there are tons of things to slowly buy up at the general store that can clutter up one’s home. The completionists will love it. On the other hand, though, isn’t this just an exercise in consumerism? Society has enough trouble keeping their kids from obsessing over the latest, greatest toys, clothing, or whatever other fad pops up that encourages them to pester their parents to buy something for them, or face the wrath of a vicious temper tantrum. That being said, since kids have to go out and earn the money to buy gadgets in this game, there’s the off chance they could slowly learn to appreciate the value of the dollar, since they had to “work” to get their toys in Animal Crossing. Some brought up this same argument when the game was initially released on the Gamecube, and it still holds weight today. The thing is that looking at the game in such a way casts it as a social experiment of sorts, and we still need more time to examine the results. We may not know the answers for another generation or so.
top of this, the economics of the game may also wear on those who are
all grown up and in the workforce as well.
We already have to save money to buy things in real life, we have
to work, we are forging relationships, and some even have mortgages to
pay. No matter how much one tries to sugar coat how these things
are represented in the game, do we really want to deal with a cute,
virtual representation of all the things we are already dealing with in
real life? If we look at
the sales figures for a series like The Sims, it would certainly seem
that there’s a market for this kind of stuff, but if you disliked that
game, for just those aforementioned reasons, don’t expect to fall in
love with Animal Crossing: WW either.
aside, this game can still provide a lot of fun for the right audience.
For those that want a more relaxed game experience devoid of that
“Go! Go! Go!” mentality, you’ll feel quite at home in Animal
Crossing: Wild World. There’s
no rush to do anything, making things more into an experience than a
game. Between collecting
stuff, and just living life there’s plenty to enjoy here.
However, if you’re the sort that hates consumerism, and would
like nothing better than to see the ultimate collapse of the bourgeois,
and all that they hold dear, the working and shopping aspects of this
game will be a
huge turn off.
(December 27, 2005)
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