Review: Animal Crossing: City Folk (Nintendo Wii)

Animal Crossing: City Folk
Genre: Simulation
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: 11/16/08


The original Animal Crossing really took flight in the U.S. back in 2002. With the look and feel of a Nintendo 64 game (as it was originally intended) it hit American Nintendo Gamecubes and was a truly unique experience. The idea of your own “Second Life” world that ran on a real-time clock, where you literally HAD to play every day to keep your momentum going was an extremely addicting experience, and really opened the doors to many next-gen games that are out there today.

Animal Crossing for me, personally, was easily was the most-played game I ever tried on the Nintendo Gamecube. So when I heard that a brand-new Wii version was coming out I couldn’t resist the chance to “call it” to the rest of the DHGF staff months in advance. I was hoping that with all the new capabilities of the Wii, plus a true online experience that lacked on the Gamecube version, Animal Crossing: City Folk was destined to become a huge hit on the Nintendo Wii. Did the game live up to my expectations? Simply put…not really.

1. Story/Modes

Animal Crossing has no “modes” to speak of, you just live your life in the town that upon starting the game, you get to name yourself. There’s never a true finish either, which adds to the uniqueness of the game. You simply must play, and continue to play, over time to let the game evolve and develop. If you’re playing in the winter, you’re limited to things only available to your town during the winter. On certain holidays, you’re subjected to special gifts and rewards that are only available on that given day.

For those familiar to Animal Crossing, none of this is new to you, and unfortunately for those of us who were addicted to the original version (or the later Nintendo DS release) there really is nothing new to see here. If you fought, scratched, and sold your way to the top of the Gamecube or DS world, you’re stuck to start from scratch and build your way to the top.

In other words, rookies and veterans to the series alike will be subjected to earning a living working as a servant to town businessman Tom Nook. Tom gives you your first house, which is tiny, basic, and weakly equipped, and you must pay off your mortgage to him as you go along. You can do this in a variety of ways, and in reality it is pretty much the basic premise to the game. Just when you think you’ve got it all paid off, suddenly he’s building you a bigger house, and the bills just keep on rising.

Granted, as you play along the bigger house will be necessary as evolving your house is one of the game’s main objectives. You’ll trade with your neighbors, or earn some of their things by performing simple tasks for them. You’ll even get placed on certain deadliines, which is where the Wii’s internal clock kicks in. The “real life” date and time plays a big factor, and nothing short of cheating by messing with your internal Wii settings is going to change things. If you’re looking to conquer the game in a week, its not going to happen. To have success and make progress in this game you MUST come back to it on essentially a daily basis, over months, to achieve true success.

Needless to say, as of this writing the game has only been on shelves for a couple of weeks, so this reviewer’s experience in the town still has a ways to go to see how everything is going to play out. So far, the experience has been extremely similar to the original versions, with a few exceptions…

The “City Folk” tagline introduces a new concept of being able to board a bus and head into the city for a big of a different experience. You’ll meet tons of new “neighbors”, which are a variety of creatures that have their own unique dialogue and expressions. You can spend your time mingling with these people, as well as give your character a makeover, and acquire new items.

You can even hook up with friends for a new “Auction” feature, where items get shipped off to the highest bidder. You’ll need your own friends, entered with their 12-digit code to get to try this out, which for some of us can prove to be difficult if you don’t have friends with the game. It’s a shame that the “City” aspect isn’t a fully interactive online world, where you can mingle with complete strangers, and auction against complete strangers, I think that could’ve had a lot of potential and a way to really make the game truly interactive.

Modes Rating: Good

2. Graphics

City Folk doesn’t look a whole lot different from the original on the Gamecube, which, in turn was actually originally designed for the Nintendo 64. That’s quite a few generations back for a console in 2008-2009. The designs of the village are easy to navigate around, and everything is crisp for what it is, but by no means will you ever be impressed by anything you see as far as visuals are concerned. I wouldn’t call them bad, because they’re passable for the feel of the game, but I’m just not convinced they could’ve added a little more detail this time around.

Graphics Rating: Mediocre

3. Sound

The fine folks in Animal Crossing have their own unique voices AND languages, but in general, they amount to nothing more than squeaks, burps, growls, or whatever their character prefers. The dialogue is limited to text boxes, and the music is light and pushed to the backburner to the point you don’t even really notice it, even during long stretches of game play. Like the graphics, nothing really stands out, yet nothing is really bad either. Its amazing that I can review a game and have so little to say about graphics and sound, two traditionally huge factors in the quality of a game, but I guess we can chalk it up to just how unique a game Animal Crossing: City Folk really is as an overall experience.

Sound Rating: Decent

4. Control and Gameplay

Simple to learn, and for those who love to test of the unique functions of a Wii controller, City Folk does let you try and “do it yourself” as opposed to simply pressing buttons, at least as an option. You can swing the controller as a fishing pole or net, and dig with a shovel. You also can point and click to navigate your way through in-game menus, something clearly you couldn’t do on previous versions. This is an area that I actually can say is different from the others, and for some, this is a really good thing. For those who like to keep it simple, the nunchuk and buttons can also serve as basic, easy controls without the “grunt work” of digging or casting. Having the option is always good, and all aspects of the controls are very easy to learn within minutes of turning on the game. The challenges of Animal Crossing are about developing your character, not complex controls, and in turn it makes it a very easy, light pick up and play game that anybody can figure out in a hurry – which is the way it should be!

Control Rating: Great

5. Replayability

There’s technically no “replayability” because the game never officially ends! But, in the spirit of the rating, you have to keep coming back to it to fully achieve everything in your Animal Crossing life. If you get into the game, you’re going to come back on Christmas or your birthday to check for a gift, you’ll want to see the differences in the weather in the Fall versus the Summer. Unfortunately, in the ADD world of gaming, I can see some getting impatient with waiting for everything to come to them, but the options are limitless, and you’re never going to see an official “End” making the replayability of City Folk very good.

Replayability: Very Good

6. Balance

There’s only one way to play in Animal Crossing, so balance is another category that provides somewhat of a shade of gray in terms of how we can fairly evaluate it. The heart and soul of the game is a single player mode, and while there are new opportunities available via multiplayer mode, they’re still kind of limited and it doesn’t reach its full potential.

Balance: Mediocre

7. Originality

The Animal Crossing franchise as a whole was a revolutionary, but unfortunately City Folk is way, way too similar to the Gamecube or DS to be considered very original. To those of you who have never played those versions, the game is unlike anything you’ve ever played before, but it still has to stay in competition within itself, and the similarities end up coming back to haunt it in the end.

Originality: Mediocre

8. Addictiveness

If you’re new to the genre, or are a longtime Animal Crossing fan looking to prove themselves all over again, prepare to devote time every day to come back and progress in your City Folk life. Some fans of previous versions may have a hard time feeling motivated to literally start from scratch and build a whole new life when you’ve already proven yourself in the past. However, there’s plenty to come back to if this game hooks you fromt the beginning.

Addictiveness: Great

9. Appeal Factor

A game like this really sets no borders, as young and old, male and female, everyone can find a reason to like a game like this. It doesn’t really appeal to any one target audience, and with such a broad variety of people owning Nintendo Wii’s these days I can see a lot of people, new to the series, really finding a reason to play and be motivated to come back for more. Those of us longtime gamers have seen this before, but that’s the great thing about the Nintendo Wii, the base of customers is so large now that a game like Animal Crossing: City Folk could definitely appeal to a new base of customers.

Appeal Factor: Great

10. Miscellaneous

Finding rare items, and really just finding items in general to fill your house and the town museum is a cool perk that really doesn’t have a set category. There’s plenty of cool little things to try, and people to meet, and so many little things in general that can keep this game really fresh and new every time you power on the system. There’s a lot to see here, but like I’ve said time and time again, its not THAT much different from the older versions to fully satisfy long time fans of the series.

Miscellaneous: Good

The Scores
Story/Modes: Good
Graphics: Mediocre
Sound: Decent
Control and Gameplay: Great
Replayability: Very Good
Balance: Mediocre
Originiality: Mediocre
Addictiveness: Great
Appeal Factor: Great
Miscellaneous: Good
FINAL SCORE: GOOD GAME

Short Attention Spam Summary
If you’ve never played an Animal Crossing game before, City Folk is absolutely worth checking out because of its unique experience of building a life in a fully interactive, fun little town. Long time fans of the series, be warned, there’s definitely a “Been there, done that!” feel and the online additions are good, but not what some of us may have hoped them to be when this game was first announced. Overall, a fun experience and likely one of Nintendo’s bigger – and possibly better – releases this holiday season.

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