Animal Crossing is a series that means very much to me. It is impossible for me to talk about these games without letting my emotions get in the way. I will not discuss the reason behind that right now, but you are free to ask me in private. Being such a fan, when City Folk was just on the horizon I was incredibly excited, and when I got it on launch day I just couldn't wait to get home and start my new village. Oh, how disappointed I was- to the point of anger even. For years I have often referred to the game as ďa soulless husk of a gameĒ, but recently I wondered if maybe I was a little too harsh on it. I purchased a used copy in October, and decided that I would try the game again, for at least 30 days before writing a fair review.
In all Animal Crossing games, you set out to a village which you get to name and start a new life. This time around, you can also import your character from Animal Crossing: Wild World for the DS, but I opted not to do so. This time around, you may pick from 4 houses to live in (Unlike Wild World, which only has 1 player house per town). The 4 houses are located in various spots throughout the town, so if you have other members of your household that place you probably wonít literally live next door to each other like you did on the GameCube. The town itself is composed of several structures, including the town hall, which replaces the post office from the original game, NPC houses, and the Museum. Like in Wild World, the train station is gone, replaced instead with a town gate. This gate also replaces the police station, since Copper and Booker are the guards. Honestly, the town gate bugs me. I hate it. It doesnít make sense! What modern town has a frickiní gate with guards dressed in Roman armor wielding spears? Copper and Booker donít even make sense anymore! Even their names are puns on their original occupations as officers! They did this in Wild World as well, where it was also a really dumb idea.
Graphically, the game looks good for an Animal Crossing entry. Everything is cute and chibi, as it should be, and things are quite smooth Ė a welcome change from the fuzzy DS game and the original GameCube game which was a port of a Japanese N64 title with no graphical updates. Iím not quite done bickering about unwelcome changes, however. Nintendo decided it would be cool if the game recognized your most traveled path, and literally made it into a dirt trail. They called the feature ďAnimal TracksĒ, and it is a very intriguing concept. Too bad they executed it in a horrible fashion. The game keeps track of where you have traveled, and adjusts the grass each time you load. Eventually, after several weeks you will begin to notice the grass in certain areas wearing thin. Eventually, it will form a path. But what if you doní walk in exactly the same spot all the time? I for one, roam all over my town. Eventually, especially if you donít really keep up with it, your town will look like a desert and even if it never progresses that far it can still ugly up a village really easily.
Villagers this time around are a little more robotic than they have been. Animals will often repeat themselves, or repeat other villages. This has always happened in Animal Crossing, but in City Folk it is much more frequent. Also, despite your village being the same size as it was in the GameCube game, you can only have 10 NPC villagers. On the Ds, you could only have 8, but since itís a smaller town on a handheld system, it was acceptable. If a GameCube game can handle 15 characters in the same village at once, why canít a Wii game? Come to think of it, even the original is a 64 bit game, so why couldn't the DS? I also donít understand why the villager count is still just above 200, when the original game on a less powerful system could handle 300+ ! There are so many design decisions that just donít make sense.
Despite all my complaining s far, there are many positive aspects. For starters, the Nook upgrade system is really cool, because this time, after you reach the maximum upgrade you can actually decide which store you liked best, and keep it. This is really cool for people who can only play later at night, because they can opt for the store with the longest hours.
One of the coolest additions is the ability to cycle through your equipment with the D-pad. If you have any tools in your inventory, such as the fishing rod or the shovel, you can cycle through them with the left and right D-pad buttons. The game can technically be played with one hand, as the C button can handle anything the A button can such as opening doors or reading/talking, while the Z button can do the same things as the B button, such as run and pick things up. This is really cool since the whole point of Animal Crossing is to be a leisurely game that you play to kick back. Motion controls can be used for your tools, but are entirely optional and are just simple eagle anyway, so I didn't bother. Whatís really cool though, is when you point the wiimote at the screen, a bar menu will appear at the bottom, through which you can access anything from your inventory to the town map.
Another really cool addition is the screen shot tool. At any time, literally, you can take a snapshot and save it to an SD card. The image can then be uploaded to any website that supports such a thing, or edited on your computer if you wish. During the time I spent with City Folk, I took several snapshots for my Facebook fan page, and shared them there. Itís a really neat feature that I hope returns later, and that I wish more games had. The following image is an example of a picture I took with the screen shot tool myself!
Iím really glad they brought back real world holidays. With the second game, Nintendo removed al references to Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween and all other real world Holidays. Their explanation was that it might offend some people, but no one complained about it in the original! Apparently they listened to the fans, because theyíre all back, and thatís the way it should be. If you didn't know, Animal Crossing runs in real time. If it is 4:30 a.m. in real life, it is 4:30 a.m. in Animal Crossing, and most of your townís inhabitants are likely asleep. If it is December 25th in real life, it is December 25th in Animal Crossing, and your villagers are celebrating ďToy DayĒ, Animal Crossingís Christmas.
Possibly the worst part about City Folk is its signature addition Ė the city. You may travel via the Bus to the City, where various shops and a couple other things can be found. At first it is quite charming but eventually it just becomes old. The city feels like it was added right at the end, and itís just kind of there. Why do I have to go through an annoying process every time I want to visit this tacked on acre big section?
The music is not bad per se, but it is recycled. Literally 99% of the gameís soundtrack is just songs from Wild World. The tunes are all peaceful and relaxing, and K.K. Sliderís songs are really interesting, as always. They made some more changes to Animalese that bug me. Animalese is the language which people in Animal Crossing speak. To the untrained ear, it sounds like gibberish, but if you listen closelyÖwell, actually, in City Folk it sounds like gibberish either way, and thatís the problem. In the first game if you donít press B so that your villagers talk at a normal pace, and you really listen they are speaking plain English which you can understand Ė just a higher pitched version of it. In City Folk (and Wild World) itís just so much squeakier and higher pitched that it is even more difficult to make out any words at all.
To really enjoy City Folk, youíre going to have to go online. The core of Animal Crossing has always been decorating and expanding your house, and socializing with the villagers, but in City Folk you can share your customizations with friends via Wi-Fi and socialize with other human players. City Folk was the first game to support Wii Speak, and could originally be purchased bundled with the accessory. It also has full USB keyboard support, or you can type on screen, but that is annoying.
Animal Crossing: City Folk is not my favorite game in the franchise. Even after revisiting it, itís hard for me to put out positive airs about the game. The city feature that was supposed to be so amazing is a tacked on distraction, and overall the gameís few improvements aren't worth speaking of aside from the genius control layout. If youíre planning to play online, then I would certainly recommend this over Wild World, but if youíre going to be flying solo, it is impossible for me to recommend this over the first game.