After many months of waiting and a slightly lackluster experience with Animal Crossing: City Folk at the last E3, I still couldn’t help but be very excited about the game. It’s time to start a new life in a new town, with new friends, and exciting new activities! The idea of playing it on the big screen was especially appealing, and being able to communicate with my friends around the globe via WiiSpeak (voice chat) and not just typing made it an even sweeter deal. After spending a nice amount of time with the game and toddling through its new features, I have to say Nintendo did it right!
Animal Crossing has been around since the GameCube (2002), and three years later, it transitioned to portable gaming. The game was so well done and offered such new features that it became a complete success and people still play it to this day. In fact, I doubt they’ll quit playing Wild World just because the Wii version is out. Instead, Animal Crossing fans will get a double dose of this charming little world, taking advantage of the great things each version has to offer.
For those of you who are still uninitiated in the world of Animal Crossing, let me explain what this game is all about. It’s a simple and laidback life simulator where players go fishing, bug-catching, and chat with cute and funny animal friends. The game runs in real time, so when it’s five o’clock for you, so will it be in the game. Following this premise, stores will close at 10pm, the sky will be dark, there’ll be winter snowstorms, birds will sign in the spring, etc. Festivities are also celebrated in the game, so if you want to check out the New Year in the game, you may have to put down that glass of Champaign real quick and turn on the Wii! And, if you don’t have any Halloween plans, you might as well go trick-or-treating in the game, or just go to those Saturday night concerts at the coffee shop.
Even though there aren’t any game-defining goals per se, players will be challenged to complete a varied collection of bugs, fish species, fossils, and paintings, as well as making their house bigger by paying off the entire mortgage. Yes, my friends, life is not that easy. You have to work hard to reach your goals! You are welcome to gather fruit, fish, bugs, etc. and sell them to Mr. Tom Nook (business owner / raccoon) in order to make a profit. With time and dedication, you’ll be able to amass a fortune. It won’t take you long to get into Animal Crossing, as it’s a very casual and user-friendly game that focuses on charming moments and doesn’t require much skill. Best (or worst) of all, it can become an extremely addictive pastime, so be careful!
When you first start the game, Rover the cat will show up and chatter with you about who you are. You’ll have the choice to transfer your DS character or create a new one. Transferring your DS character is a great feature and works like a charm! However, you won’t get to transfer any other game data like your belongings and collections from the portable version. It would have been nice if animals you’ve encountered in Wild World still recognized you when you meet them in City Folk, but that’s about the only complaint I have as far as transferring the character goes. Otherwise, it’s awesome, and it won’t affect your DS adventure at all!
With or without a new character, you’ll have to start fresh on the Wii. Players will move into their newly designed (and randomly generated) town and start meeting other townsfolk. You never know who you’re going to meet, as there are hundreds of characters in the game and you’ll only start with five neighbors plus the usual business owners, etc. Soon enough, you’ll be choosing one of four vacant homes. You can’t play at the same time as other people in your household, but at least each of you get your very own home in the game! Before you know it, Nook will be waiting outside offering you a job so you can start rolling some dough – or bells, the game’s currency. The job doesn’t last for too long, but it will teach you the basics on talking to other characters, delivering items, writing letters, posting messages on the town’s bulletin, etc. After that, you can take your sweet time collecting things and making money, and it’s a no-interest home loan, so there will be no repercussions. Lucky you! In the meantime, you can collect furniture to decorate your home, go fishing, or whatever you please.
As always, the town has a museum, an observatory, a coffee shop, the Able Sisters’ clothing store, Nook’s ever-evolving bazaar, and the town hall / post office. You won’t see notable changes in these areas, other than the nice ABD machine at the town hall where you’ll do your bank transactions from now on. Hopefully that will take off some of the workload from pelicans Pelly and Phillys! This will give the latter one less reasons to complain when you decide to wander around town and stop by the Town Hall late at night (For the love of fish! She says).
Also, you can go to the city as much as you want. It’s just one bus ride away, and it’s full of promises. GracieGrace’s sophisticated store will blow you away with their cool clothing and furniture choices, as well as their price tags – Yikes! Katrina will tell you your fortune if you stop by her shop, and Harriet will give you a haircut or a complete makeover at Shampoodle. Players will be able to choose a Mii facemask to attach to their character. The first one is free! This means you can put it on and take it off as much as you want, since it stays in your design inventory. However, if you ever want a new Mii face, you’ll have to visit Harriet again and give up the previous mask – fair enough.
There’s also the Marquee Theater. Here you’ll attend Mr. Shrunk’s show and learn to express emotions! However, you can only store up to four animated expressions, so once you have four of them, don’t be fooled and pay the extra ticket until you’re ready for a change! The game’s most sketchy character, Redd, also has his own city headquarters, but you can’t get into his shop until you’re invited by a neighbor.
Other nice additions within the city are the Happy Room Academy, run by good ol’ Lyle, where the best room that fits the monthly theme will be shown, and the Auction House, a great interactive experience for those who are into buying and selling things. You can put one object up for auction in each auction period (lasts two days), as well as bid for items that are being showcased. You can’t bid more than once though, so hopefully you’ll offer a fair price. I can see how the Auction House could become full of unaffordable items, as players are allowed to set a reserve price. Hopefully Nintendo will have it all figured out so this doesn’t happen too often, but we’ll have to wait and see.
Another interesting feature is the ability to create as many designs as you want for free, although you can only store eight of them within your inventory. Luckily, you can go visit the Able Sisters and have them keep your designs in the storage room. It’s a great advantage, since you won’t have to give up your carefully designed patterns! You can also create “Pro” designs at their shop (for a fee), being able to design front, back, and sleeves, instead of just a repeating pattern.
City Folk’s presentation is almost the same as that found in Wild World, just blown up into big proportions. As soon as you pop in the disc, you’ll realize the music is the same, the characters are all familiar, and the landscaping hasn’t changed a whole lot. It’s just bigger – bigger and better! As much as people like change, they don’t really like sudden change. Designing City Folk in any other way could have been a mistake, and that’s why I have to give a thumbs-up to the overall presentation. Players will feel right at home with City Folk, yet there’s a nice amount of new features to pique their interest and expand the Animal Crossing experience even further. City Folk’s new world is more detailed, and you’ll find new stuff throughout, from tasty-looking mushrooms to cute birds perched on the town’s bulletin board. The game also contains numerous new objects, characters, insects, etc. Also, the graphics are a joy, with a very smooth and polished finish, free of those nasty jaggies that take over Wii games nowadays.
The game is very easy to control and doesn’t take much adjustment. Everything has mostly the same mechanics as on the DS. You pick up objects, drop them, plant trees or flowers, etc. When you point at the screen, a menu shows up at the bottom, which you can interact with by pointing and clicking. The A and C buttons work as action controls, and the B and Z button allow you to pick up objects, exit menus, speed up the dialogue, run, etc. The character is moved with the Nunchuk’s analog stick or by pointing at the desired location and holding the A button, and motion is only used for fishing and catching bugs, though this can be achieved with the buttons as well. By pressing the left and right buttons on the D-Pad you can swap between the different tools in your inventory without having to enter the menu, and you can also use these buttons to obtain different camera views. Nothing seemed too difficult to do. It just works right.
Just like on the DS, players will be able to visit their friends’ towns (not the city) through Nintendo WFC. Up to four players can hang out in the same town, have fishing tourneys, trade objects, etc. You’ll still have to exchange friend codes in order to visit each other, which is done mostly to avoid undesired encounters with strangers. The WiiSpeak device, sold with the game and also separately, sits on top of the Wii sensor bar and captures voices within the room. This works very well even from a distance and lets players have conversations through voice chat, rather than just typing on the onscreen keyboard, which was a bit of a hassle, but it’s still available. You can also attach a USB keyboard to the Wii and type away, although not all keyboard devices are guaranteed to work. Mine did though!
There’s also one more DS – Wii connectivity feature: you can take your character from the Wii onto the DS, put the DS in sleep mode, and take it to your friend’s house. Then you can load your character onto their Wii and play there. When you’re done, you can put it back on the DS, close the lid, and go back home to your Wii. I can’t think of many reasons why you’d do this, since you can’t play with your friend’s character at the same time, but I’m sure it could come in handy if you just want to show your Animal Crossing life and your friend’s Wii is not online yet. You can also take pictures of the game just by pushing the 1 button, but you have to then click on the camera within the game’s menu in order to save them into your SD memory card. The game can only keep one picture at a time and only when the Wii is turned on, so make sure to do this if you want to transfer those pictures to the computer later on, or send them through the Wii’s message board.
Animal Crossing: City Folk is one of the most charming and entertaining life sims out there, with lots to explore and experience. All in all, players probably won’t complain much. It’s true that this game is an expanded rehash of the DS version, but in this case, that’s not a bad thing. Innovation could have been taken even further, but overall, players will be left with a great taste in their mouth thanks to everything this game has to offer. Devoted Animal Crossing fans should not hesitate to pick up the game, unless they prefer to always have it on-the-go. Casual gamers who have yet to enter the world of Animal Crossing should definitely give this one a go, and those who are looking for a more in-depth gaming experience will just have to look elsewhere. AC is not for everyone, but it sure is the best of the best for those who are able to get into it!
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.0 Graphics
Even though the presentation remains largely the same as on the DS, the visuals are extremely smooth and polished, which is very much appreciated in a final product. No jaggies even when playing on a big screen! 4.5 Control
Classic Animal Crossing controls are very well implemented into the Wii Remote and Nunchuk. Motion is used for fishing and catching bugs. 4.3 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
As great as always, but the same as always. The game will sound more than familiar to those who’ve been playing the DS version. 4.5
There’s a lot to do in town if this is your kind of game. Visiting the city adds extra fun! However, don’t expect any thrills if you’re not into casual games!
4.4 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.