David Yun: (contact-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2009-06-14 12:15:47
Animal Crossing: City Folk - Rank C
I frequently castigate Nintendo for regurgitating recycled material on each new console, but Animal Crossing: City Folk is by far the worst offender. Animal Crossing was an excellently unique game on the GameCube over SIX years ago, but to repackage it as a contemporary release is a travesty. Even Mario Kart Wii was more of a franchise evolution than Animal Crossing: City Folk.
Still, if you've never played any Animal Crossing before, the game is definitely charming, and you may want to raise the review score up to Rank B. It's a simple town sim, chock full of mundane activities that somehow avoid feeling like chores. Upon arriving to town, you'll meet your animal neighbors, and take on odd jobs to pay off the mortgage on your modest home. As you progress financially, you'll expand your house and acquire more luxurious furnishings and clothing. Filling out the museum is particularly satisfying, as you fish, catch insects, and dig up fossils for specimens to donate. Planting trees and flowers to maintain the natural aesthetics of your town is also serenely pleasing. Animal Crossing also takes place in real time, and the passing of the seasons and holiday events add spice to the daily routine of collecting, customizing, and socializing.
If you HAVE played Animal Crossing before, you'll likely be numbed at the prospect of starting this progress over from scratch. There's not much here to warrant another playthrough. City Folk's new feature is the ability to, well, visit the city. But it's nothing more than a small cluster of extra shops. Online play enables you to visit friends' towns and vice versa. The optional Wii Speak microphone provides voice chat functionality. However, these internet functions were already implemented three years ago in Animal Crossing: Wild World for the DS. Perhaps the most significant addition is the ability to play as your Mii avatar. That's how little this game has "improved" over the years.
At it's core, Animal Crossing is a great little game. It entertains through a steady stream of Seinfeldian gameplay "about nothing". The series of minor tasks and casual exploration can easily while away untold hours. Playing it as a family, and nurturing a town together is a collective joy. Animal Crossing is one of the very few games that captured the attention of my non-gamer wife. The problem is that it looks and plays like a decade old game. Even on the "casual" Wii console, it feels archaic. The menus and interface are clumsy, and the Wii's motion pointer can be annoyingly imprecise. If you've experienced any previous Animal Crossing, there's nothing here to demand you play City Folk. If you're new to Animal Crossing, it's possible that the game's sheer charm can cause you to overlook its ample flaws and draw you into its engrossing experience.
[Note: the first link is for the game only, and the second is for the Wii Speak bundle.]