There’s nothing quite like Animal Crossing’s chilled-out, surprisingly addictive and potentially endless non-game gameplay. Having felt compelled to play the DS version, Wild World, almost every single day for the better part of three years, we can confirm that the only surefire way to break a chronic Animal Crossing habit is to take the cartridge on holiday and lose it. There are also very few games that sell quite like Animal Crossing, with Wild World’s steady sales clock ticking ever closer to the 10 million mark, on top of slightly more modest, but still multi-million-unit sales for the earlier GameCube and N64 editions.
Given that very little has actually changed in terms of core game content from the N64 original to the DS hit, it’s no shock to discover that the eagerly anticipated Wii edition is more of the same. City Folk looks exactly like a sharper, smoother version of Wild World, which is the least we would have expected. The curvy horizon effect, which makes the playing area seem like it’s wrapped around a cylinder, has been retained from the DS game, and looks rather nice in high-res widescreen-o-vision. Textures have been tidied up to remove the chunkiness that characterised the N64 and DS versions, and it runs at a noticeably higher resolution than the GameCube game.
Apart from that, the character models, the plain, bold art style, the buildings, trees and floors are all barely distinguishable from the original Japanese version that puzzled and intrigued us more than eight years ago. The most obvious addition to Animal Crossing: City Folk is a separate town square area away from the main village (the titular city, we presume), where you’ll find a small selection of attractions. Some, such as the hair salon, are relocated versions of existing places from Wild World. Others, including Gracie’s high-end fashion store, an auction house for sourcing rare goods, and a theatre where KK Slider will perform on a bigger stage, are new to the series.
Some of the calendar-based events, most notably Halloween, which were removed from the DS version, have been reinstated, and a reindeer called Jingle will visit at Christmas – or ‘starry night winter holiday’ or whatever non-denominational name they’re giving it. At Easter/Eggfest, a rabbit will hide eggs for you to find. There’s also a small carnival that visits at certain times of the year. Designing your own patterns remains a big part of the game. Previous versions limited you to a square design that could be plastered somewhat clumsily on T-shirts, umbrellas and wallpaper. In City Folk you’ll be able to design specific shapes, allowing shirts to be created with different designs on the front, back and sleeves.
Naturally, you can trade these items with other players via friend codes. You won’t have to invite players to visit in order to do this, as gifts can be sent via the Wii’s message board. Interestingly, you’ll also be able to attach pictures to your messages, giving a snapshot of village life to friends who don’t own the game. Messages can also be sent to mobile phones and email addresses. When other players do come to visit online, the game works in the same way as Wild World. Once you’ve traded friend codes, you can host up to three visitors. As in Wild World, there’s the potential for a lot of progress to be lost if one of your visitors disconnects or your internet connection goes flaky, prompting a lengthy ticking off from the abominable Mr. Resetti. Not entirely satisfactory but not unexpected, either.