The Animal Crossing games have always been a source of cute, wholesome fun. Sure, the villagers in the older games (especially Animal Crossing on the GameCube) are totally unafraid to tell you if they don’t like you, and you can be verbally attacked by an angry mole, but the series is still considered to be home to some of the best cozy games ever made. For that reason, I never expected that buying a copy of Animal Crossing: Wild World would be so emotionally devastating.
Let’s backtrack. Up until November 2023, I’d never played the 2005 Nintendo DS iteration of Animal Crossing, but as a committed fan of both New Leaf and New Horizons, I figured I was long overdue a trip into the series’ history to explore one of the games that I’d missed. However, now being almost 20 years old, trying to buy a brand-new copy of Wild World without breaking the bank is nigh-on impossible, so I settled on picking up a preowned copy. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, there was nothing wrong with the game itself, but as I popped the cartridge into my DSi XL and loaded it up, I was greeted with something that I hadn’t prepared myself for: an abandoned save file. This copy of the game hadn’t been wiped ahead of its sale. It’d been left untouched - with someone’s old town, player character, villagers, and house all perfectly intact.
Suddenly, I wasn’t just handling a fun retro game, I was looking at the remnants of someone’s past, and it felt as if I’d stepped straight into a stranger’s diary. Whoever the previous owner was had named themselves Pipskin, and their town, Neopia, was seemingly named after the world from the virtual pet site Neopets. Their friends list was full of names of other players that they’d connected with before, and their house had been upgraded to its maximum possible size, decorated beautifully with a bathroom, kitchen, and cozy living room. This wasn’t a game that someone had become quickly bored of - they’d poured some serious time and love into it - until one day they stopped.
It was heartbreaking exploring the town - which had become inundated with weeds in the previous player’s absence - and speaking to their abandoned villager friends. Walking around as Pipskin, old residents like Egbert the chicken, Mathilda the kangaroo, and Elmer the horse remarked on how exciting it was to see ‘me’ again after so long. Speaking to them more, they recalled Pipskin’s favorite foods and even started talking about the player’s friends that they’d interacted with in the past. One went as far as to show me a letter they’d been sent from a town they lived in before moving to Neopia. The more I played, the more I uncovered a generation of Wild World fans’ long-forgotten progress.
To make matters worse, while my heart ached looking at the preservation of someone’s old gaming memories, I knew it couldn’t last forever. Ultimately, I’d bought the game to start my own Wild World adventure and experience something I never did as a kid, but to do that, I had to say goodbye to Neopia for good, since you can’t have more than one town on a single cartridge.
If you’ve never had the experience of wiping a save file in Animal Crossing: Wild World before, let me tell you, it’s not a fun one. You’re asked multiple times if you’re sure you want to delete your town, with one particularly snarky message saying: “Then I’ll just get rid of [town name] and everyone and everything in it!”. Assuming that you manage to maintain the strength to say ‘yes’ after that, the save will be deleted, and you’ll then be hit with a black screen and the message, “Well, enjoy your new life…”
Needless to say, seeing that text after experiencing and exploring someone else’s precious former town didn’t exactly set the tone for the wholesome experience I was hoping for when I bought the game. I sat there slightly shell-shocked for a few minutes before I was able to bring myself to press the ‘new game’ button.
Since that fateful and emotional evening, I’ve been happily playing Wild World every day in my own town of Solaceon, alongside my new neighbors, Rosie, Stitches, Hugh, and Amelia. However, I still can’t stop thinking about Neopia, and whoever Pipskin is. Wherever they are now, I hope they know that even up to their town’s final moments, their old villagers still loved them.
If you’re a Nintendo fan looking for some new game recommendations, be sure to check out our list of the best Nintendo Switch games. You can keep up with future releases too with our roundup of upcoming Nintendo Switch games.
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Catherine is a News Writer for TechRadar Gaming. Armed with a journalism degree from The University of Sheffield, she was sucked into the games media industry after spending far too much time on her university newspaper writing about Pokémon and cool indie games, and realising that was a very cool job, actually. She previously spent 19 months working at GAMINGbible as a full-time journalist. She loves all things Nintendo, and will never stop talking about Xenoblade Chronicles.