The very idea of a portable version of Animal Crossing filled this reviewer with glee when he first read about it back in the days of magazines and routers without wi-fi as standard. Animal Crossing: Wild World has always been a very special game to fans as it expanded upon the original GameCube title (for this region at least) but somehow managed to condense everything down onto a system you could fit in your pocket. Long car journeys went by in an instant as you scoured the land for fruit and shells to sell, and all-around a good time was had; yet the reasoning why Nintendo decided to release it on the Wii U is a mystery.
The basic premise is just like every Animal Crossing game to date: you live in a town and watch it grow. For those who have had no contact with the series it's best described as a life simulator with no real end; you can just keep playing and enjoying the world you've helped mould indefinitely. You can fish and catch bugs to display in the museum, create clothing patterns to maintain your funky-fresh persona, chat to the locals about everything and anything, and most importantly design and expand your home with furniture and decorations. It's a very relaxed experience and one that has stood the test of time over many generations of hardware.
As for this Wii U version, it's not exactly what we fell in love with all those years ago. Far from being the first DS game on Nintendo's latest home console, Animal Crossing: Wild World sticks out for numerous reasons. Considering all of the action takes place on the touch screen there's little reason to even have the TV on, with the better option being to simply use the GamePad. Frankly, having the top screen displayed at all feels completely superfluous nine times out of ten. The controls are unnecessarily complex compared to today's offerings, with touch screen controls and physical controls behaving as two different methods entirely rather than working together. It's a bit clunky but this was made during the earlier years of touch-screen functionality, so it's easily forgiven.
The visuals have aged rather poorly, as is to be expected from a DS game that uses full 3D graphics. It's certainly not a deal breaker but other elements where the game has aged could well be. Given how far the series has evolved over the years Wild World feels distinctly empty and shallow, with only a handful of the creative things offered in later games. The core gameplay is still solid but areas such as Main Street and Tortimer Island being omitted are incredibly noticeable.
Another glaring omission is what brought this title into the modern age above its predecessor: online multiplayer. The entire online multiplayer functionality has been left in the game but simply doesn't work, which is unsurprising but hugely disappointing. Given how the game rewarded you and encourages you to visit other towns and have friends come and see your creations, not being able to do so is a huge blow. It's not something that should be expected in a Virtual Console release but nevertheless leaves a significant hole in the game. Whilst most Virtual Console offerings are unique and worthwhile games in their own right, this simply feels little more than Animal Crossing: New Leaf but with half the content.
Animal Crossing: Wild World is unfortunately little more than a watered-down version of the more recent entries in the series. As innovative and technically incredible as it was for its time it has no stand-out features over its younger siblings, and the appeal of its portability is completely lost on the Wii U. New Leaf and Let's Go to the City/City Folk are vastly improved versions of what is in essence the same game, and it's difficult to recommend this version when more recent efforts offer so much more. It's still an enjoyable game but if you've played the Wii or 3DS titles, you've already all but played this one.