Giant Bomb Review

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Animal Crossing: City Folk Review

3
  • WII

Animal Crossing: City Folk is a quality product, for sure, but it's also largely the same quality product that has already appeared on the DS and GameCube.

Jingle just rolled through for the Christmas celebration. I got a big clock!
Animal Crossing: City Folk is the same heartsy-folksy town wandering simulation that Animal Crossing always has been. You'll catch fish, dig up fossils, owe scads of bells to the company store, buy a mess of new furniture, and plant trees. While it's not identical to the previous game, Wild World for the DS, it's close enough that a lot of the longtime Animal Crossing faithful may find themselves finally reaching their breaking point with the series. But if you've never played an Animal Crossing before... or if you at least skipped the DS installment and haven't played one in a good, long time, you'll probably find the experience to be just as charming and engrossing as I did when I first played it back in 2002.

Animal Crossing is a very roundabout sort of game. It opens with you moving to a new village. You'll be the only human in a town full of walking, talking animals, but that never really seems to come up. Along the way you'll make friends with the other residents and run errands for them. You'll also be able to go fishing, catch bugs, dig up fossils, pick fruit or grab shells for money, and spend your income on larger houses, new clothes, more furniture, and other various bric-a-brac. There's no real requirements here, so you can do as much or as little of these things as you like. And there's no real condition for "winning" the game. You simply play until you've gotten your fill.

There's a simple allure to Animal Crossing because there's always something more for you to be doing. You could be working on tracking down a very specific set of furniture, or maybe you're trying to find every one of the game's rare paintings so you can have a completely full museum. Also, the game isn't necessarily time-consuming, either. You could play it for 20-30 minutes a day a few times a week and get a lot out of it. Of course, if you're more obsessive, you can spend a bit more time than that on it. But at that point, you're so focused on raking in money that you're more worried about watering red turnips and planting fruit trees in easy-to-scavenge patterns that you probably wouldn't even have time to read this review in the first place.

You can fish around for stuff, talk to neighbors, or just sort of aimlessly wander.
Money--bells, in the local parlance--is a big motivating factor in Animal Crossing. At the heart of it is local shopkeeper, Tom Nook. Nook sets you up with a house and a mortgage that you can chip away at on your own time. Once you've paid him off, he'll offer to upgrade your house so it can hold more stuff, sending you spiraling back into debt. Building up a stack of bells is what lets you buy more furniture, clothes, and other stuff to put in that house, so it's sort of a perpetuating cycle of upgrades and item hoarding. Eventually, though, your house tops out and can't be further upgraded. So you'll have to start thinking more about style and quality over quantity. Yes, at the core of Animal Crossing lies an interior decorating simulator that grades you for things like item rarity and placement. The crazy part is that it manages to make interior decorating fun and rewarding in a way that made me ask a lot of very hard questions about myself... back in 2002.

That's sort of the problem. Six years later, very little has changed about Animal Crossing. The things I've written so far could apply to any of the games in the series. The Wii game does, however, gain a new city area that you can visit. Here you'll find a few shops, a fortune teller, a barber shop, a place where you can attempt to auction off your extra items, and a theater where you can learn different emote animations. Those emotes only really mean anything when you're playing with other people, though.

Yes, like Wild World before it, City Folk does have an online component. After exchanging game-specific friend codes, one player can open the town gate to allow up to three other players to connect. This makes the animals in your town aware of your friends' town, and inhabitants may swap towns. Each town also has one of a handful of fruit types that are native to that town, so getting some foreign fruit and planting it in your own town is a good way to bring in extra cash. The game has support for (and optionally comes bundled with) the Wii Speak microphone, which is a piece of hardware that sits on top of your TV or shelf or something and mics your entire room so you can freely voice chat with connected players. In my time with it, I found the microphone to sound tinny, with a lot of echo. It probably depends on the shape and size of the rooms being used.

TOM NOOK WANTS HIS MONEY
So what's wrong with Animal Crossing: City Folk? It's the things that could have been improved that make the Wii version kind of disappointing. Even if Nintendo's increasingly irrational fear of open online gaming with strangers isn't going to change, it'd still be nice if the game wasn't restricted when playing online. For whatever reason, there are some things you simply can't do when another person is in your town, like working with your own personal designs for shirts, umbrellas, and the like. Your inventory space is limited to the point of stifling what you're able to accomplish before running back to Tom Nook's to sell stuff, or back to your house to drop stuff off. Even your basic tools, like your shovel, bug net, and watering can, take up inventory slots. It's ridiculous that this hasn't been streamlined. But yeah, for the most part, it's the same game with a couple of new twists and somewhat better graphics. The same things that were annoying on the GameCube or DS are annoying here, only slightly more so because they keep putting the game out without improving things.

That's why Animal Crossing: City Folk, and your enjoyment of it, comes down to your perspective. If you've never played an Animal Crossing game before, you'll probably love its charm and get lost in all the different tasks you can perform. And if you've stayed away from the series for any serious length of time, you'll probably still be able to enjoy yourself. But the formula hasn't changed, and for a lot of repeat players, it'll probably wear thin quickly.
Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
32 Comments
Posted by whackmypinata

Sweet!

Edited by Jared

Ugh, I really wanted to get this game.... If Nintendo really wants voice chat to take off on it's system it needs to completely redo it's friend system to allow for better interaction and bring with it voice chat features found on XBL (hey Jeff, can I please have your 100 digit Wii friend code? lol).

Posted by MKO619

Dude im not even sure if Animal Crossing should be considered a game. Its Basically Nintendo Saying Fuck You to all of the Hardcore Fans. Any other system does what Nintendont

Posted by Yetiattack

Great review.

I may get this after I'm burned out of new games, but its really not on my list at the moment.  And of course its really nice to add new games to my wii collection from seeing how small it is.

Posted by YellowChu

Yeah, Jeff's review pretty much sums up the big question: "Is it worth playing another Animal Crossing game which has changed very little in six years?" Myself, having played the first one, found the Wii version to get tiring very quickly.  I really loved Animal Crossing (GCN), but I found it pointless to play the same game over again. Nintendo has also pulled this trick with the recent pokemon release, (Battle Revolution). Eventually it will reach the point where even hard-core fans are simply playing for some nostalgia, or better yet, just play the good game(s) in the series again. 

Posted by JJOR64

I seen that coming.  lol

Posted by dsplayer1010

There's too many new, awesome games for me to get something I've already put way too much time into before

Posted by SathingtonWaltz

This is exactly what I expected from Nintendo, release the same game over and over again while somehow convincing people that it's different. 

Posted by McBain

This game deserves one star since Nintendo almost completely recycled the game from the GC and DS version.

Posted by heavymtlhead

Really timely review. Nah I'm just joking I know how busy you guys have been. Keep up the great work in 09!

Posted by mudkip9000

I've been waiting for this review for quite some time now.  It's real shame that Nintendo chose to go the easy route with the one game that's supposed to be for us "core" gamers this season.

Posted by Death_Burnout

Ha, these late reviews always get posted after i buy the game, then again i knew this was straight up just Wild World on a Wii...yet somehow i still got dragged in, and it wore thin in 30 minutes

Posted by Paradigmer

Man jeff can write reviews with his damn eyes closed. I always enjoy reading what he has to say.

Posted by Aaron_G

I expected this. After playing the last two, I might skip this one. 

Posted by RHCPfan24

Cool a new review! Well, Jeff, I pretty much agree with you on everything you said: Animal Crossing for the Wii is just the same as the others. Yet, having bought it myself, it depresses me somehow when I keep having fun with it. Why does it happen? I don't know why, but there is an undeniable charm to this game still. Nonetheless, 3/5 is what I would rate this game with.

Posted by InFamous91

I'm a HUGE Animal Crossing Fan....I brought the gamecube and DS version, but City Folk hasn't improved at all. I'm very disappointed in this version. Hopefully and I really hope that the next installment really blow me away. If not I may switch to MySims lol. 

Posted by ArclightBorealis

If I had played the previous games in the series, than I'd whole heartedly agree with Jeff's review. But, since City Folk is my first AC game I've played, and is "the same game" as everyone is saying, then I've got no problem with it.

Posted by FoxMulder

I was thinking about getting a Wii just for this and No More Heroes, but it looks like I'll just spend some more time with the DS Animal Crossing.  Maybe I'll get a Wii later this new year.

Posted by AspiringAndy

This game is worth 3 stars if you have played the sequels.
But.
If you never played Animal Crossing (which is a large chunk of the Wii owners) this game is worth 5 stars.
In my opinion.
Nice  review anyway Jeff :)

Posted by Stevokenevo

Its bewildering why they wouldnt remake the game and/or streamline its components.  In six years games have come on along way.  Its clearly a game thats trying to cash in on the 'new' wii audience that put up with ancient gameplay and graphics.

Posted by Anviltongue

Pfft...Harvest Moon > Animal Crossing.

What? Screw you for judging me!

Posted by erinfizz

Yup, it's AC on the Wii. I am still completely addicted, it's fun to play...but it is disappointing to think about what this could have been.

Posted by John

Yeah, this game already came out in 05 I believe.

Posted by Kenzo287

Great game, needs a major overhaul for sure but a great game nonetheless.

Posted by TheHBK

Nintendo games are not going to get any better if ty restrict online play so much.  Friend codes are retarde  They should do what MS does and charge for it and just bust out with a bunch of stuff.

Posted by WinterSnowblind

I love these games..  but this is just ridiculous.  It's not even like it's just another typical rehash, it's EXACTLY the same game that's on the DS with a few very minor tweaks.  If you have the DS version, there's no reason what-so-ever to get this, and it's this kind of attitude that's putting gamers off Nintendo.  Is this really how little they care, they're at the point were there just going to port a HANDHELD game to a console and expect us to buy it again?

They could have at least given us improved graphics..

Posted by Cubical

I got all the animal crossing games, I even imported the N64 animal forest and I am not sure why maybe it was seeing KK slider in smash bros that made me want it before it came out on gamecube in the usa ( Better name animal forest why did you change it nintendo?)



But ya it is the same game and not enough new content they did not even take advantage of the wii remote to offer any new gameplay.  the did not even advance fishing and the pointer could have been done better it should have worked like daiblo on the PC point and you guy walks there and talks to the dude it dont.


I could live with it looking the same if they put in tons of new content and gameplay they did not do that and the next game needs a makeover


So I am going to complain to nintendo on there little club nintendo surveys about how they screwed up..

Posted by Linkyshinks

The score is fine, but the game is not. I'm very angry with how Nintendo have dished out practically the same fricking game yet a again, when AC fans including myself had hoped for so much more...

Even the Gamecube game was a N64 one, really.

Posted by Media_Master

I'll pass on this one

Posted by TheMagicalLeprechaun

I'm more and more ashamed to turn on my Wii nowadays...

I'm tired of feeling like I've played most of the '08 games before.
Posted by Little_Socrates

It is crazy that there are only thirty comments on this review.

Posted by Nerolus

Fucking years later, I played this game. Got a Wii for free and this game was inside. My first time with Animal Crossing. Jeff pretty much nailed it. I'm having some odd fun with it.