Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Animal Crossing: City Folk Review

When Animal Crossing: City Folk was announced a year or so ago, perhaps at that E3, I was very excited and couldn’t wait to get my hands on another Animal Crossing game where I would get completely sucked into the world and have to come back day after day so I wouldn’t miss anything. However, after playing with my copy of the game, I was very disappointed to see that Nintendo hadn’t changed anything.

When you start the game for the first time, you are on that friendly bus, and talk with some cat about who you are and where you are going, so he can set up your character and town. You also have the option to connect with your DS and Wild World to transfer over your character and catalog of items, which is a pretty nice feature if you had a lot of play time with the DS game. Once you reach your town, you’re greeted with all the familiar things you’ve grown to love.

Your town looks similar to the DS version’s mapping, with a spherical world and familiar stores and features. There is a beach on the south end, with a river cutting through the map and some hills and so forth. The overall map does seem a little bigger, but not tremendously so. A new touch here though, is that you have a choice of what house you can live in, from a few scattered throughout the map, as opposed to a group of houses in the center of the map. Once you select your house, that bastard Tom Nook will appear and charge you a crapton of bells for the house, where you will have to meet everyone in the town and then work for him for a little while, which acts as a tutorial. Once you’ve finished up your work for him, you are free to explore your new environment to your heart’s content.

I’m going to assume that you readers are familiar with the series, so I’m not going to go into details about the things you can do in your town because they are the same from previous games; you can collect fossils, fish, and insects, donate them to the museum or sell them, talk to your neighbors, buy clothes and items, create patterns, celebrate holidays, buy turnips, listen to KK Slider and do other such activities. There really isn’t anything new in your town. Most, if not all, of the neighbors and inhabitants are the same characters from previous installments and everything plays and looks the same. The graphics don’t seem to have been improved very much at all, and it is really a shame. They definitely could have made things look more polished.

Simple menu system via on-screen buttons. The top right is the save button, while the bottom opens up different menus. There is also a clock that appears if you are idle for about 1 second.

Most of the “new” things can be found in the city, where you can travel to at anytime you like from the bus stop near the top of your town. The city itself is like a small strip mall or plaza, where you can go from store to store and talk to random characters walking around the center. The city features Katrina the fortuneteller, Redd’s shop, GracieGrace’s super expensive store, the hairdresser, happy room club, the marquee or theater, and the auction house. Most of these places were places in Wild World or characters who showed up every so often, but now they are permanent fixtures. The only really new thing in the city is the marquee, where you can learn these expressions that you can use to make your avatar perform an expression, such as laughing, to express yourself to another player.

Ahhh, the City. What a waste of space. Nothing too good here, except some expensive stores that have some decent stuff in them, but nothing new.

The controls are fairly nice, and make for some ease. You can control your character with the wii remote by itself or with the nunchuk; I prefer the nunchuk. You can also switch out your tools or put them away via the D-pad, which is very smooth and easy, as opposed to continuously going into your inventory and selecting a tool. To go to a menu, simply move your cursor to the bottom of the screen and select a tab, such as the inventory, keyboard, or map. You can also perform a few actions via a swing of the remote, like fishing or using your bug net, which add a bit of simplicity and interactivity to the game, which is a nice touch. Another new feature is that you can take screenshots of the game by pressing the 1 button. Then you must save the photo to your SD card or you lose it, so it is a little limited, but definitely a plus.

Once you’ve gotten your town established, you’ll want to travel to your friends’ towns and check out what they have and steal some of their fruit and if you’re a jerk, chop down all of their trees and pluck out all of their flowers. Obviously, you’ll need their friend codes, which is still very annoying, but you can have some fun playing around with them. If you don’t have the new Wii Speak device, you can still communicate via the on-screen keyboard or USB keyboard. Typing with the remote is frustrating and slow, but very doable. But again, nothing too new here; same stuff as what was on the DS.

Overall, City Folk is a huge disappointment for me, especially after Reggie said this game was for the hardcore, and one that they would be happy with. City Folk is not for the hardcore at all, as the hardcore already have Animal Crossing for the DS and City Folk is exactly the same. If you have already played Animal Crossing for the GCN or DS, then you will want to save your money for something else, however, if you haven’t, then I would strongly suggest City Folk.

Here’s the thing. Animal Crossing is a fantastic game; it always has been, but City Folk does nothing new, and because of this, it is a huge let down. If you are new to gaming or to Animal Crossing, then I would highly recommend City Folk to you, but if you’ve played AC before, then skip it. Nintendo could have done so much with this game, such as adding in some more interactivity with neighbors and items, and creating some new activities for you to do or create a larger online community or something, but they did not. Again it seems, they are trying to cater to the casual and take the easy, lazy way out and put forth little effort.

Overall Score - 7/10

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