We just had the most terrible nightmare. We were in debt to this horrid raccoon called Tom, and all our neighbors had animal heads and they kept spouting the same nonsense over and over, day after day, for years. The worst part is we could swear we’d done it all before, like some kind of hallucinatory déjà vu. Aaargh!
Animal Crossing: City Folk (AKA Animal Crossing: Let’s Go To The City in the UK) opens with the option to import your town from the DS version and, depending on your viewpoint, keep in touch with old pals or continue your addiction on the big screen. Starting from scratch, it’s almost exactly the same as it has been on three successive Nintendo formats. You move into the town, pick a house, work off an initial loan from the furry storekeeper Tom Nook by doing a few chores, then spend the next few months earning the big money you need to buy furniture, expand your house and impress your animal neighbors.
It’s a real-time game that you play for maybe 20 minutes a day, 30 minutes maximum, and the inhabitants go about their daily business governed by the Wii’s internal clock. Switch it on on a winter’s morning and it’ll be bright and chilly. A summer afternoon will be all fuzzy and warm. Nights are for stargazing. Miss a day and your neighbors start to worry, so you’re compelled to do the rounds to make sure everyone’s okay, nobody is feeling sick and you’re not missing any social occasions such as birthday parties or anything. When an animal gets fed up with you and moves out, it can be pretty gutting, so you can’t leave it alone even if you go on holiday – one reason the take-everywhere DS version was so great.
If you haven’t played Animal Crossing before, it’s completely brilliant. A classic non-game that the entire family will love and only the most stony-hearted will fail to appreciate. Buy it now, and you’ll still be playing every day by this time next year, guaranteed. If you’ve already done it to death in one of its previous guises, know this: the Wii version brings very little to the party, and anyone hoping for a brand new Animal Crossing experience will be sorely disappointed by what’s on offer.
The city part is just a small plaza area where some of the occasional visitors to the DS game have permanent stalls. Redd, Shrunk, the hairdresser and the fortune teller are all there, along with an auction house, a shop for super expensive furniture, a shoeshine stand and a place where you can get an instant HRA report. That’s about it.
Back in the village, you now get 10 residents instead of just eight, and if you invite some friends via the internet you get to see the villagers walking around instead of just hiding in their houses. Four people can watch a KK Slider show together on Saturday nights, and you can all chat via the Wii Speak microphone, as long as you don’t mind everyone in the room listening in. The text has all been rewritten too, so you won’t have to endure the exact same phrases as you’ve already read hundreds of times, and it’s nice to see the Kapp’n return as a bus driver with some wise and fruity words of his own.
It’s still a great game but fans of the DS version are going to feel short-changed by the lack of imagination in this Wii retread. For everyone who missed out last time, or if you’re keen to start such an epic afresh on the TV, this may well be the family game that sends Wii Sports into permanent retirement.
Nov 17, 2008