The second core element in the game is the use of Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. We didn’t use it simply because we'd done it before in the DS version. We figured it was fun for players to be able to use the internet to visit their friend's towns, so we put it in this version as well.
Were there things which you weren’t able to do with the DS Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection that you were able to implement in the Wii version?
Yes, there were. Players are now able to enjoy various events together with their friends. In the DS version, because it was for a handheld console, there were hardware limitations, so the event would come to a halt while the DS units were communicating through the Internet. But in this version, for events like New Year’s Eve and carnivals, you can all gather in your friend’s town and enjoy it together.
So one player can say something like: “There’s ------ taking place in my town today, so come and join me!”
Exactly. There’s a dog that puts on a guitar concert once a week…
Ah, that would be K.K.
Yes. He wasn’t able to appear while players were using Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection in the DS version. If you had friends visiting your town, you wouldn’t be able to listen to the performance, even if it was 8 o’clock on a Saturday evening. But in this version, up to 4 players can enjoy one of K.K.’s concerts together. When everyone uses an event like that as a reason to get together, I’m really happy. There are also events that take place simultaneously worldwide.
So let’s say on the 31st December, wherever you take a trip in to the Animal Crossing world, you can enjoy New Year’s Eve. But you can't simply talk of events without acknowledging that each country has its own culture. It must have been very tough to adapt the events to suit each culture.
Well, I got the chance to become quite an expert on events around the world! (laughs) In Japan, we have the event called tsukimi (moon-viewing). In Japan, when we talk of moon-viewing, we are talking about the mid-autumn moon. There are also events related to the moon which take place at the same time in America, but they are completely different in nature.
In what way?
In autumn in America, at harvest time, you are able to work at night when the moon is bright, so they have the Autumn Moon festival to celebrate this.
Is that right? I had no idea!
In Japan, when you mention tsukimi, people think of tsukimi dango (sweet dumplings), and pampas grass decorations. But people in other countries don't understand this at all, so we had to change the animal's dialogue.
When an event takes place, the head of the town will come out and give presents to players. So during tsukimi, he would give out tsukimi dango.
But if an American player receives a tsukimi dango, he's going to think: "What on earth's this?"
Right. So we changed the gift the player receives for the US version to a wheat sheaf. Which leaves Japanese people wondering: “Why a wheat sheaf?" (laughs)
Apparently, there’s a custom in America where people use wheat sheaves as decorations during the moon-viewing season.
So if you visit a friend's town overseas during the moon-viewing season, you’ll be able to get hold of a wheat sheaf.
So if you’ve got a Wii Friend in another country, you’ll be able to get hold of items that you can’t get in Japan.
That's right. So perhaps it's a good idea to pack your tsukimi dango to give as presents when you visit a town in another country. (laughs) Compared to the DS version, the elements using Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection are more fully-developed and enjoyable.
Another addition this time around is the ability to use Wii Speak to speak to your friends when you visit them. What does it feel like when you do this in Animal Crossing?
Rather than chatting constantly while playing, it’s great fun when you’re listening to the different sounds in each room to sometimes hear a voice saying “Oh!" or something like that.
Does it feel like your friends are right there with you?
It really feels like you're sharing the same space.
So it feels like your living rooms are somehow connected?
Yes. Wii Speak isn't something that you use while wearing a pair of headphones, so you’re not really conscious of the fact that you're having a conversation. You can just sit in front of the TV and enjoy talking as you please. You don’t feel like you have to be speaking the whole time. Even when you don't say anything, you’ll really feel like the other person is right there alongside you, enjoying the game together with you.
When I saw the development team working during the debugging phase, the thing that really struck me was that even though you could use Wii Speak to talk to other players directly, there were still plenty of people who were writing messages at the same time. So in other words, when it was better to say things directly, people spoke, but when they just wanted to chat, they would write messages. It was split in various ways. So while you might think that because it's possible to use Wii Speak, writing messages would become redundant, that's not the case at all. It feels that we’ve added another means of communication.
Well, I think when it comes down to it, people can be a little shy about having a conversation via a game.
You wouldn't worry about speaking on the phone, but for some reason you do tend to feel a little self-conscious about speaking in a game. I suppose one difference is that the purpose of telephones is to speak to other people, while the purpose of games is to enjoy them.
It’s like when you’re playing against someone using DS Wireless Communication. You might be sitting together, and even when there's no need for you to say anything, you still say things out loud. I’d like people to use Wii Speak while playing Animal Crossing with that same kind of feeling. So rather than people getting together just to have a conversation, even just saying short phrases like "Wow!" or "Hey!" makes players feel more connected and enables them to enjoy playing even more.
Depending on the person, I imagine there are those who are wondering why there isn’t also a built-in camera in Wii Speak. How would you respond to that, Nogami-san?
I didn’t feel that there was any necessity to attach a camera. In fact, there were players who didn’t even feel comfortable being connected on the DS version, so I think if we'd added a camera, it would have made those people feel even more uncomfortable.
Say, for instance, that you are connected and playing with three other people. Let's say that the other three people have their faces shown on the TV screen. It would really put constraints on the game’s graphics.
Also, if you can see the other player’s face, it becomes a lot harder to let yourself get absorbed in the game.
There’s another reason why I wouldn’t like having a camera. I did a test at home using Wii Speak, and because I’d been so busy, my room was a total mess!(laughs)
So your room in the game was so nice that it was displayed as a model room in Moro-san’s town, while actually your real room...! (laughs)
Well, my room’s one thing, but I’d also be worried about how I was looking...
I’d be telling people to wait a minute while I put on my make-up!
It would be more like an hour! (Laughs)
That’s why it’s lucky it’s just a microphone! (laughs)
We don't really want people to get worked up and think: "Right! Now it's time to use Wii Speak!" Basically, we want it to feel just as relaxed and informal as if they were playing round at their friend’s house. Even when people go and visit their friends, there are plenty of times when they're just lying about reading comics.
That’s what it means to really bring living rooms together. From the start, Animal Crossing was a game that was created with the intention of allowing people to enjoy it without having to energetically throw themselves into it. Now, let’s turn to the game’s third core element.
The third element is the way in which the Nintendo DS can be used in conjunction with the game. It's the issue I spoke about at the start. There are always people who are not able to enjoy the features that utilise an Internet connection.
Well, however much we talk about how many fun things you can do using WiiConnect24 and Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, there are homes which are not online and so can't connect their Wii console to the Internet.
But I wanted those players to be able to experience going out and about and visiting other people. Visiting other people's towns is at the very heart of this series.
For the Nintendo 644, you could use the Controller Pak, and for the GameCube version, you were able to use the Memory Card5.
And now, in the Wii version, it’s the DS that allows you to visit your friends.
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