On a more positive note, there are more multiplayer activities than the limited selection available in Wild World. As well as the usual fishing contests, scavenger hunts and whatever else you can think of using the game’s built-in stopwatch, it’s possible to go to town as a group and enjoy a bit of shopping, designing or even a KK Slider concert with your friends. The Connect24 service, which always seemed like it was made for an Animal Crossing game, will be used to deliver new content – genuinely new, rather than simply unlocked from the disc. It’s most likely to be for small gifts such as furniture and patterns, but if City Folk does allow for add-on modular content then there’s the intriguing (if remote) possibility of new characters being introduced.
If you don’t have Wi-Fi at home, you might not necessarily miss out on all this. The Japanese version will link up with the DS, so players can download the exclusive Connect24 content from the free Nintendo hotspots found in shops and cafes. They’re ‘hoping’ to introduce a similar feature in America at some point, and with any luck Europe won’t be too far behind. Finally there’s the voice chat option, which takes a typically Nintendo-ish approach to the problem of parental control during online gaming by mic-ing up the entire room rather than offering a private headset. Although they haven’t revealed the price of the accessory, Nintendo did suggest that a bundle containing Animal Crossing: City Folk and a Wii Speak microphone could be released alongside the standalone game.
There are two control options available – a Nunchuk plus Wii Remote combo that replicates the traditional buttons and joystick control of vintage Animal Crossing, plus a remote-only version that’s more like the stylus control of the DS version. Having spent so long playing Wild World without ever touching the DS buttons, we’ll go for the one-handed option every time, but it’s nice to have an alternative. GameCube pads and the classic controller won’t be supported. As an added bonus, you can hook up your DS copy of Wild World and migrate some of your data into City Folk. Your character will arrive intact, but the items you’ve bought and the bells you’ve earned will be left behind. And what’s the point in that? As far as we can tell, it’s simply to populate Tom Nook’s catalogue of goods with all the things you’ve splurged on in the past. So once you’ve generated some cash in your new home, you’ll be able to re-order your favourite stuff without having to discover it all over again. Could be useful if you had some rare bits and pieces that you’d spent ages trading up for, such as special gifts from wandering characters, or complete sets of furniture that you had to haggle for with your mates.
Otherwise, you start from scratch in City Folk, with a humble apartment, no possessions, a massive debt to Tom Nook and a bunch of animal neighbours who don’t know you from Adam. The way it should be. The game’s success seems assured – we’ll be amazed if it doesn’t shift a million or two in its first six months, then continue to rake in sales for a couple of years afterwards. In those terms, it’s a job well done for Nintendo. However, we can’t help but feel disappointed for the countless Animal Crossing fans – us included – who’ve spent so long dreaming of a proper sequel with high production values and exciting new features on Wii. While we knew that a ‘World of Animalcraft’ massively multiplayer effort was about as likely as Mario woo-hooing his way into the E3 Sony conference, reusing the stilted Wild World online mode – complete with its irritating disconnection/reset quirk – smacks of lazy overconfidence.
We also knew that the free NES games included in the N64 and GameCube versions wouldn’t be thrown into the Wii edition, because they’re selling them separately on Virtual Console. That’s completely understandable, but why not have City Folk as some kind of cool hub for launching our VC collections? There were plenty of opportunities to do something new with this game. Or if not something new, then just something to say thanks to everyone who has bought, played and adored multiple versions of Animal Crossing over the years. Regardless of the potentially limited appeal it’s going to have among hardcore fans, there’s no denying Animal Crossing remains a quality game. Millions of Wii owners have never seen it before, and they’re going to love this version, particularly if they’re hooked up to Connect24. See you online…
Aug 18, 2008