Animal Crossing: City Folk Review: Crossing Over AgainS

One of Nintendo's most beloved franchises, Animal Crossing has seen millions of players around the world creating and maintaining their own tiny, cartoon animal inhabited towns since the original game's release seven years ago.

Promising the same relaxed social simulation gameplay as the first two titles along with a city to explore and the introduction of Wii voice chat using a special microphone peripheral, Animal Crossing: City Folk looked to be the shining star of Nintendo's holiday lineup.

Now the game is out and the bus is pulling up to your stop. Should you hop out, or keep on riding? Read our review to find out.

Loved
Take Daily As Needed: By far, my favorite aspect of the Animal Crossing series is the way the game is meant to be played, in small chunks, day by day. It's still the perfect game to just switch on at the end of the day, just to check up on what's happening in your town, see who might be passing through, and check out special events that occur on specific days. Remember, Saturday night is KK Slider night.

Time Passages: As in the previous AC titles, City Folk works in real time according to your specific region, so the autumn leaves currently on my trees will soon give way to winter snow before coming back to life in the spring. This also allows for the celebration of holidays, which makes revisiting the game on special occasions a must.

Mii Crossing: It's just a silly little feature, but there is something neat about wandering around the town of Kotaku and interacting with my animal friends with my own Mii head attached to my body. I suppose it just feels better when it's me starting a letter propaganda campaign against Tom Nook than the regulation cute little guy.

Viral Visitors: While I didn't get to try out the microphone (the game arrived without one), sharing your city with friends is a pleasant change of pace from the everyday fruit-picking grind, especially now that your neighbors no longer hide from visitors as if they had the plague. The fact that your letters and notices get passed around your friends' towns makes for... well, makes for some really dirty letters I should probably apologize for beforehand.

Control Tweaks: One tiny change can make a whole world of difference. Being able to press the d-pad on the controller to switch between butterfly net, fishing rod, and shovel takes a lot of frustration out of the three major activities your town has to offer.

Hated
More of the Same: When it comes right down to it, Animal Crossing: City Folk is the same game we've already played on two other systems. It may be wide screen, and there may be integrated support for voice chat, a slightly new area, new dialog, and some extra collectibles, but other than that, the core game is completely unchanged.

This City Life: The city portion of the game is only interesting and new until you realize that a good chunk of what you find in the city is simply old content moved to a new location. The fortune teller, the hairdresser, and even Redd are simply transients from the DS game who have set up permanent shop. It was almost more exciting when they were limited to certain times of visit, giving the player something to look forward to.

Pausing at the Threshold: While not much was added in the way of gameplay, the folks at Nintendo did manage to add several seconds of load time between entering and leaving buildings and new areas. It might not seem like a lot, but bop around your town as much as I do and the frustration begins to build.

I'm not quite sure what Nintendo was thinking when they decided to release a new game in a franchise that has millions of devoted fans around the world without actually adding anything new for those fans. Despite a few tweaks, Animal Crossing: City Folk could almost pass for a port of the DS version rather than a completely new title. It's extremely disappointing, especially considering what could have been done had developers actually worked on innovating the title, such as integrating with the Wii Weather channel to mimic local conditions, or even just adding in some mini-games that made use of the Wii's unique control scheme. It's still an excellent game, but an excellent game fans have already played.

Animal Crossing: City Folk is a wonderful game for players who have never experienced the relaxing yet strangely addictive gameplay of the series, but the more AC savvy will find themselves treading all too familiar ground.

Animal Crossing: City Folk was developed by Nintendo EAD and published by Nintendo, released in North America on Nov. 16 for the Wii. Retails for $49.99. Played more that 24 non-consecutive hours, invited a couple of friends to visit, upgraded house twice, and at least one character says the word "flatus" at the end of every sentence.

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