The characters are also a huge part of the game's appeal. Since this is basically just a "place to go and hang out" simulator, it wouldn't work if the characters you were hanging out with weren't fun to converse with. Your neighbors come in a wide variety of different animal and personality types. You might see repeats of certain personalities, but you won't often see much repetition in dialogue, because there's such a huge array of things that these characters will converse with you about, and almost all of it is sharp and funny. As time goes on, citizens will move on to other towns, and new ones will come in, which actually helps give the town an air of unpredictability. But there are also some staples that will always be there, like Tom Nook and Blathers, as well as a couple of newcomers, such as Celeste, who runs the observatory in the museum (and even lets you plot your own constellations in the sky), and Brewster, who runs the local coffee shop and provides you with piping-hot cups of joe that put big, silly grins on your character's face. Interacting with and working for all these different characters is quite a joy, and makes it worth coming back to time and time again.
The ability to go online in Wild World is a great thing--it's just a shame that there isn't more to it.
Wild World also prevents itself from getting overly tiresome by regulating exactly how much you can play. You can always just go chat it up with the neighbors and do whatever tasks you feel like, but because there's only so much you can actually buy and so many things you can experience on a day-to-day basis, the game is really best played in short, controlled bursts. That was the case with the original Animal Crossing too, but there's something more to be said for this style of play on a handheld system like the DS. Being able to take your town with you wherever you go and play whenever you feel like it is just more appealing than trying to hunker down and check in via your GameCube every day.
But what if you've already played Animal Crossing to death on the GameCube? Apart from more items and new characters, what does Wild World really have to offer? For one, it does include a new touch-screen-based control system--albeit one that isn't as fleshed out as you might hope. You can use the touch screen to guide your character anywhere around the world or make them perform actions like casting a fishing line or digging a hole, and to make menu navigations and chatting a much easier task. Truthfully, the basic character controls are generally easier with the D pad and buttons. It's more of a pain than it needs to be to try to position your character in the right spot to cast a fishing line or dig a hole in the right spot, and you really do get a better handle with the D pad. When navigating menus, though, it's great to have this feature; it streamlines the process of picking items to sell to Tom Nook and writing letters immensely. It's just too bad that the screen wasn't utilized more effectively to make things like fishing an easier endeavor.
Wild World also includes a full range of multiplayer features. The single-cart, four-player methodology from the first game is here again, though the difference is that all four players now share the same house, and the same collective debt. If you just want to visit a friend's town, you can do so in close proximity via the standard DS-to-DS connection, or you can visit a friend far away via the online Wi-Fi connectivity. The basics for both connection types remain the same. A friend can visit your town, or vice versa. While there, you and said friend can chat with one another, and do all the different things one would do in their own town. The one odd thing is that while you're in a new town or have a visitor in yours, every town resident retreats indoors. It makes them easier to find and visit with, but it's still a little peculiar.
The whole online thing might sound like the most wicked-awesome thing you've ever heard of, but there are a lot of weird restrictions to the mode. For one, you can't just visit any town with an open gate. You have to know the specific friend code of the player's town that you want to travel to, and have it on your friend list before you can go anywhere. Obviously this circumvents the unpleasant issue of jerks coming in to your town, cutting down all your trees, and writing nasty messages on your bulletin boards, but still, it's kind of lame that you can't just see all the available online towns. In fact, the only degree of randomness to be found in the multiplayer is the tag mode. Here, you'll buy a message in a bottle from Tom Nook's shop, write a letter, and release it. If you happen to be in tag mode, and someone else comes within proximity to you while they're in tag mode, your message will wash up on the shores of their town and vice versa. Through this, you might trade some constellations and citizens, but that's about it. All told, it's pretty cool that you can now take Animal Crossing online--it's just a shame that the game doesn't give you more to do with it, like fulfilling some specific multiplayer objectives or tasks. And the fact that you can only play with people you communicate with outside the game seems overly restrictive.
The game's inherent preciousness will probably drive some people insane, but those without a black, vacuous heart of soulless darkness will be won over by its charms.
Wild World presents itself in much the same fashion as the original Animal Crossing, and while those production values weren't exactly impressive on a system as powerful as the GameCube, on the DS's more modest hardware, the game looks great. The characters all retain the same colorful, cartoony look that they did in the first game, as does the town and its various architecture and scenery. The one big difference is how the town moves. The acre system from Animal Crossing is gone, and instead the world scales in sort of a rounded fashion, with sections disappearing over the horizon line as you move up and down the map. It looks a little weird at first, but you get used to it quickly. The only real sacrifices the game seems to have made to run on the DS hardware is that, first, it runs at a lower (but always consistent) frame rate, and second, things just don't look quite as crisp and sharp as they did on the GameCube. But again, there are different hardware specs, so that's to be expected. The audio still consists of some catchy, mellow MIDI tunes that play in the background and the cute, gibberish dialogue that the townspeople speak. You can't call any of it remarkable, exactly, but it's all pleasant and enjoyable stuff.
But really, with all of that said and done, the biggest reason you should play Animal Crossing: Wild World is because it's Animal Crossing done portable, and done well. You can certainly find fault with the lazy touch screen controls, the restrictiveness of the multiplayer, and the inherent sameness of the whole thing, but the fact remains that all the key underlying components that make this an Animal Crossing game are just as great as they've ever been, and being able to take your living, breathing town with you wherever you go is an absolute delight. If you weren't keen on the precious nature of the first game, Wild World won't do much to change your mind. But if you're one of the many who fell in love with the first game's unmistakable charms, Wild World is a world worth entering.