If It Ain't Broke, Don't...zzzzzzzzzzzz...
Right off the bat, I think it should be noted that I might be one of the world's most irrational Animal Crossing nuts. When the original game came out for the GameCube, I was one of the people who actually did play the game every day for a year. When the game out for DS, I thought at first I would waste another year of my life when I should have been doing something my parents considered "more productive than playing a video game". Well I certainly did play some games, but it wasn't Wild World for the DS. I came to the conclusion that it was pretty much the same game as the GameCube game, which was fine for about 2 weeks or so, but really didn't leave enough for me to keep coming back. Animal Crossing: City Folk unfortunately also does very little to make itself anymore special than the GameCube and DS iterations before it, and in some cases, it's even worse than those versions.
Those of you reading this whom are familiar enough with the Animal Crossing formula to not need an explanation of it can go ahead and skip to the next paragraph. For those of you who haven't, I will try my best to explain to you what it was I wasted my 6th grade year on. To get a good comparison, think of The Sims with none of the micro-management for your physiological needs and more personal involvement in the world you live in and your animal neighbors. You start the game off by arriving in your village, picking a house to live in, and then quickly finding out that you owe Tom Nook, the local store owner, a whole bunch of money. Once you pay off you're debt, Nook will expand your house, thus resulting in a much bigger debt. You can put a lot of customization into your house. There are many various wallpapers, carpets, and furniture sets you can fill your house up with, which encourages you to pay off your debt so you can get the next expansion to fill it up with more stuff. You're in no rush to pay off you're debt though; the game is very nice about letting you go at your own pace.
The crux of Animal Crossing is your interactions with your villagers. Your town starts off pretty small but it fills up with 10 animal villagers eventually (the original GameCube game had 15! Disappointing considering this is running on a much stronger system with a much larger storage medium). There are many things you can do with them. You can always just walk up and talk to them and see what they have to say, which is generally something interesting. They'll sometimes ask you to go run a favor for them or invite you over to their house or ask to see your pad. For newcomers, you will be charmed by the characters. Animal Crossing veterans, however, will only be disappointed by the lack of natural progression for character interaction. It would only seem natural to me that a game like Animal Crossing would include a like/hate system where characters act according to how much they like or dislike your character. The villagers’ charm could let this slide on the GameCube, but at this point, it just seems inexcusable. The writing for the characters is strong in City Folk, but in my opinion, there seems to be a lot less of it here (or it just repeats more often than in the past) and it also is just not as good. It just seems less witty and not nearly as funny (I miss the universal references to how the character smells bad).
Speaking of lack of natural progression, the lack of new activities is certainly what really makes City Folk a disappointing game. You can still fish, catch bugs, dig up fossils, and collect paintings to make money or fill up your museum via donation. You can still send letters to your villagers and they’ll still show these off to other human players. This should be satisfactory for newcomers to play in short spurts, but everybody else will get bored rather quickly. There’s now a city you can visit, but all this really does is offer you to go visit some more stores.
Like the DS game, you can still go online and visit a friend’s village or invite up to 3 people to come to yours. Also like the DS game, you can only visit/invite people who are on your friend’s list, which is irritating. When you get a party going in your town though, there still aren’t many online activities to do. You can talk to the villagers there in the town you’re visiting, but they’re dialogue is extremely limited and there is little you can do with them. There’s an auction house where you can buy/sell items online, but you can only this with friends, which is extremely dumb since there is nothing an online predator could do with this feature. Plus the whole process takes roughly two weeks since you aren’t allowed to set your own timetable for the items you put up for auction.
In terms of graphics, this game follows the same art style as Wild World, but has been really cleaned up with smoother textures. It will also run in Progressive Mode and Widescreen. The game does nothing the Dreamcast probably couldn’t handle, but you don’t play Animal Crossing because of the presentation anyway. The game takes all of the same music from the DS game, which is fine, but is also generally perceived as inferior to the GameCube music.
You should totally rent City Folk if you’ve never played an Animal Crossing before. It’s not for everyone, but if you get into it, you will feel what the rest of us enjoyed when we played our first Animal Crossing. Anyone else should just save their money and hope Nintendo puts forth a better effort next time to expand the series.