During a recent visit to Nintendo's E3 booth we were able to get our hands on the Nintendo DS version of Animal Crossing for the first time. Currently scheduled for release toward the end of this year, Animal Crossing DS is closely based on the GameCube version of Animal Crossing and will add a number of new features to the mix.
Before actually playing the game, we met with members of the Kyoto-based development team that's working on the game to get some more information on it. One of the first things we were told about Animal Crossing DS is that unlike the GameCube game, in which your house could be positioned in only one of four locations, the DS game will let you place it wherever you want in your randomly generated town. Though it's unlikely to have any impact on the gameplay, we were also told that you'll arrive in your town (and travel to friends' towns) in a car rather than on the train. Other interesting features that we were told about included additional museum exhibits for you to search for, a beauty salon inside the town shop where you can get a haircut, and confirmation that you'll be able to use the DS's wireless functionality to visit the town of any player on your friends list, from anywhere in the world, provided that player's copy of the game uses the same alphabet.
To demonstrate the game's online play, Nintendo had three copies of Animal Crossing DS running at its E3 booth today and gave attendees an opportunity to explore Animal Crossing alongside Charles Martinet (the voice of Mario), who could be seen live on a TV screen playing the game from New York. Besides the game's new 3D look (and the fact that multiple players can explore a town simultaneously), the first thing we noticed about Animal Crossing DS was how incredibly varied the player characters and their outfits were. Our character, for example, was wearing camouflage gear and an army hat, while others could be seen wearing brightly colored '60s-style outfits and a varied selection of hats and sunglasses.
After getting all of the requisite pleasantries out of the way via the game's text-based chat system, it was decided that we should do some fishing together rather than just go our separate ways. So, after navigating menu screens that work in much the same way as those on the GameCube and arming ourselves with a fishing rod, we set out in search of some fish. The river running through the town didn't appear to be teeming with life, so we made our way down to the beach where, after catching a sea bass, we were able to fill up our inventory collecting shells.
We played Animal Crossing DS using the stylus for the most part and found the controls to be perfectly responsive and intuitive. Those of you who aren't big fans of the stylus, however, will be pleased to hear that we were able to do just about everything that we tried during our time with the game using the directional pad and buttons.
The line of people waiting to play Animal Crossing was quite long, so we weren't able to spend more than five minutes or so with the game on this occasion. We had a lot of fun with the game, though, and we reckon this might just be the game that convinces you to buy a Nintendo DS if you haven't already. We'll bring you more information on Animal Crossing DS as soon as it becomes available.