Give me a home where the buffalo roam,
and the deer and the antelope live next door.
and the deer and the antelope live next door.
Have you ever dreamed to live somewhere else? Perhaps Spain, France, Japan, the Caribbean, or out of your parents' basement? (No, YOU'RE late on the rent!!) We all have, but how about inside a town full of anthropomorphic animal citizens? If you jumped up with tears in your eyes and a passionate song in your heart, then Animal Crossing: City Folk for the Nintendo WIi is right for you! Of course, if you just want a fun game, then yeah, I guess Animal Crossing: City Folk is good for you, too, but is City Folk merely an expansion of past games or is it something more palatable?
As a character out on his or her own for the first time, you ride the bus towards your new home. On the bus you meet a fellow traveler named Rover. Your answers to the questions he asks determine how your in-game character looks. When you get set loose in the world, you can outfit your character however you like by acquiring new shirts, headgear, and accessories like glasses, flowers, and the like. You can even create your own shirt, hat, and umbrella designs to make all of the neighbors jealous. New to the game is a feature allowing you to design your shirt by part: front, back, and left and right sleeves, so let your inner fashionista run wild!
After the introductory ride concludes, the bus makes its scheduled stop to your brand new town. Each town is randomly generated so no two towns are ever the same. Of course, things like the town hall, tailor, shop, museum, and such are in every town, but they're located randomly as well. Your first stop is the town hall where you'll receive the go-ahead to pick one of four vacant houses to occupy. Unlike past versions of Animal Crossing, each of the four eligible homes are spread out across town. Once a house is selected, the proprietor of Nook's Cranny, the coy raccoon Tom Nook has your soul indebted to him. As long you still have Bells (the currency of the Animal Crossing universe) to pay him for your house, he essentially owns you. Of course, the game is lighthearted and whimsical, so this truth won't be revealed. Regardless, any older player can easily read between the lines. The debt must be paid, too, or else you'll still get letters in the mail from your in-game mom, but they'll actually be forged by Tom Nook because he'll have already killed her. Thus, you best pay up.
To start off paying off the debt, Nook hires you as a part-time worker at his store. Note: His last part-time employee can be fished up in a nearby lake. You'll do odd jobs for the sole purpose of learning the basics of the game. You'll be asked to plant flowers and trees around town to make your bustling burg more presentable, deliver furniture and other goods to your fellow neighbors, as well as learn to mail letters using the in-game letter writing tool. These are all tasks that you'll be doing regularly if you want to get ahead in Animal Crossing. The main goal of the Animal Crossing series is to pay off your debts to Tom Nook. After each round of debt on your house is paid off, he'll opt to expand your humble home. At first your place is a cramped room not fit for more than two people-- much less just one! As each increasingly higher debt is paid off, your house gets larger and larger. Your first floor will be more roomy, you'll gain a second floor to place furnishings in, and you'll even get a basement to store excess goodies inside. Of course, that's just one of the many goals you can strive for. Animal Crossing: City Folk is very much a sandbox for you to explore and play how you want to play. Don't want to pay off your debt? You don't have to. Nook will kill real life family members, but you don't have to if you don't want to.
One of more addicting qualities of Animal Crossing is collecting and accumulating wide varieties of furnishings for your house. Your house is yours to decorate how you want. You can customize the wallpaper and carpet in your house, and place and maneuver furniture as you see fit. A house following one set series of furniture plus matching wallpaper and carpet will earn you big points by the Happy Room Academy who judges home decorations. If you want to see all of the hundreds and hundreds of unique furniture, carpet, wallpaper, and other knickknacks there are to see out in the world of Animal Crossing, you'll need to log in some serious time and/or get some friends online to trade with. Certain items only appear on certain days at certain times, and others can only be obtained through hidden ways. For instance, there's a whole batch of Nintendo-related apparel and furniture that can only be collected by shopping enough at Nook's.There's plenty of ways to stockpile items from purchasing them from Nook's shop to helping out your fellow neighbors with their problems.
These fellow neighbors you'll be seeing a lot of as your entire town is made up of animal denizens. Yes, you, and perhaps up to three other humans who can live in your town, are the only human beings in town, and you live in a community full of bipedal animals. I know some people out there are getting smiles on their faces right at this moment. Regardless, up to ten animal neighbors can move into your town. Compare this to the original Gamecube Animal Crossing where 15 was the max, and the Nintendo DS' Wild World where 8 was the limit. Ten is a fair amount, and you never feel that you're overwhelmed trying to speak to all of them. There's over one-hundred animals total in the game, and it's completely random which ones inhabit a given town. While there's a lot of variety in the characters design-wise, there's only a handful of different personalities which is a shame. There are goofy jock, cantankerous grouch, bubbly girl, pleasant lady, and two other animal personality archetypes, and each personality uses the same batch of dialogue. More variety in personality would have made things more interesting. As it is, there really is an exhausting amount of dialogue in the game, and seeing the same speech isn't as common as one would think. Not to mention that the dialogue is quite humorous and sometimes even laugh-out-loud hilarious.
Animal Crossing is a world that goes on whether you're there or not. The game runs on the Wii's internal clock, so when it's 9 p.m. in your time zone, it's also 9 p.m. in your Animal Crossing town. Just like in real life, the animals and shops in City Folk have sleeping/closing schedules, too. Animal Crossing even runs on the same calendar as the real world and celebrates many of our own holidays as well as other special events. For instance, the fourth Sunday of every month is a Flea Market where you can enter other animals' homes and purchase their wares and vice versa. Some furniture and special event items, given by the mayor Tortimer, can only be acquired on such special holidays and events, so those wanting to collect rare items for their homes better keep track of the constant happenings of their town.
Every Saturday night K.K. Slider takes requests for songs that
you can bring home and listen to whenever you like.
you can bring home and listen to whenever you like.
The seasons are also an important part of Animal Crossing. In winter, the ground is coated in a perpetual snow where gift-giving snowmen can be created while spring blossoms with vibrant green all over. Bugs and fish have different months and time when they're in-season, too. In order to collect all of the species of insects and water-life available, a player will have to play City Folk all year long. Not only can they be sold to Tom Nook for Bells (along with fruit, flowers, fossils, and seashells), but they also go a long way to obtaining rare tools like the Golden Rod and Net which make their respective catches all the more easier to capture.
The titular feature of the Wii version of Animal Crossing is the city, and to be honest, it's not that entertaining. Sure, there are various stores and buildings to visit, but most of them are only interesting to view the first time. There's a hairdresser who can style your character's hair differently or enable you to use the heads of one of your Miis, a fortuneteller who can grant you good or bad luck, a extravagant clothing store with even more extravagant prices, a practically useless auction house, a comedic theater, and probably the most notable place, a seedy shop where some rare items appear for sale weekly. For such a lackluster new feature, I wish some attention was added to making the various neighbors in town have more depth to them.
A feature that was given more attention is the online component of the game. To visit another player's town from across the series of tubes the kids called the internet, both players need to exchange and enter one another's friend codes. Then, a player opens their gate, and the other player can freely visit their town while it's open. Up to four friends can be inside a town at the same time. Everything runs smoothly with no hiccups (save for your drunk nights of play with your buddies), and the addition of Wii Speak adds up to some fun times without interrupting play just so you can bring up the keyboard tool to write "ya". Unlike Wild World, City Folk neighbors aren't relegated to staying inside their homes as the DS version was because of obvious limitations.
Animal Crossing: City Folk can be played with Wii remote and nunchuk together or the Wii remote by its lonesome, pointing to where you want your character to run and talk to. I prefer the combination-- being able to use analog control to move around town freely and pointer control for pointing to exactly what I want to interact with, to make writing letters much more manageable and time-saving, and to select items to sell much more easily. A great shortcut given to players is the ability to switch tools on the fly with the d-pad. No longer does a player have to open up the item screen to change tools (e.g. removing a shovel to equip the watering can). This makes traversing your town faster without the added tedium of the past. Additionally, some motion control is available from flicking your wrist to cast your lure to swiping at an insect with your net. These methods of control are completely optional for those of you out there with the irrational hatred of slightly moving any part of your body except for your thumbs.
As stated, City Folk runs smoothly online, and that hopefully means it runs just as smoothly offline. Yep, this is indeed the case. The presentation has definitely improved from the previous console entry from 2002. Colors are vibrant, music suitably changes every hour on the hour, characters are cleverly designed and show great humor and charm, and the writing is superb and appropriate (and funny) for all ages. Instead of separating each town by different screens as in the original Animal Crossing, City Folk utilizes a spherical design to exploration as in Wild World. This works much better in order to traverse your town without all of the stopping and going that different screens resulted in. Not all is good though on the visual front, however. One odd design choice on the presentation side is how grass will turn into dirt the more you walk on it, so a month into the game, a lot of your town can look like a barren desert devoid of any grass. This was intended to give players the ability to make paths, but it's just infuriating to have your town look less stellar than it could because of such a silly implementation.
Animal Crossing: City Folk is really the best of both worlds. It takes a lot of elements from the original Animal Crossing, combines them with a lot of elements from Wild World, and adds in some totally new content for an updated an enhanced experience. While not a completely fresh game, the millions of new Wii owners will definitely have a new and exciting experience for their collections. Animal Crossing fans still interested in the series despite the lack of anything revolutionary to move the series forward will definitely enjoy this version as it is the best overall. Those either burnt out or bored of the series should steer clear until something big comes to the world of Animal Crossing.
[SuperPhillip Says: 8.5/10]