KtCallista’s review of Animal Crossing: City Folk.
Okay, I promised a review. I have been playing this game for 2 weeks, hardly enough time to discover all the quirks and hidden events. This is a good thing, because if I had seen it all by now and if the town animals had gotten annoying already, it would not be worth the money. I must say upfront, I relish the option to edit this review with online play and wii speak info (I should probably install that) once I find an online buddy to play with and see how that changes the game play.
Animal Crossing as a genre is similar to a kid friendly version of the Sims. In the game you control a person who moves into a small town (village?) of animals. Your appearance is initially determined by your answer to questions in the start up part of the game. You get a small house with a mortgage (with no time-table for repayment) and you go through a brief tutorial in the disguise of your “first job.” The job doesn’t last long and soon you are free to play Animal Crossing anyway you want. There are no set goals or objectives, no strict way to play, from here on out you control what you want out of the game.
Since I played Animal Crossing for the Gamecube it is very hard to play City Folk without making comparisons, and I know that some of these ideas were knew for the DS version of the game, but I only played that for about 15 minutes using a friend’s character. Graphically the game does not look drastically different from the original. The lines are cleaner, there are a greater variety of objects, in house, in the world, and for your person. There are more tools that you can use to enjoy the environment, and to create with. The big items of fishing, collecting bugs, and home decorating are still very prevalent. They have expanded these activities and incorporate the wii mote and nunchuk in an intuitive and entertaining way.
I don’t know if the variety of trees has been improved (you still start with only one kind of fruit tree), but the variety of flowers is much better and they look much nicer. Additionally, the flowers can be crossbred through carful planting and judicious use of the water can. The flowers don’t simply make the town and your house beautiful on the outside, but they can be picked to adorn your hair, potted inside your house, or sold to Nook (the resident store clerk). With the ax, shovel, and water can you have the ability to design your town in any way you see fit. Advice is available at the town hall to make your town meet a goal set by the game (and receive awards for that accomplishment), but there is very little penalty for doing your own thing. Neglect and each day brings weeds (2 per day) and occasionally dandelions, which can be blown for fun or sold.
There are more furniture sets and a greatly improved item storage system. You can now keep furniture sets in your in house storage without cluttering your basement, however; your storage is now fixed to a limited amount regardless how many storage devices you have. Clothes have become much nicer and designing your own has many options that previously weren’t available. You can now control the front back, and each sleeve’s design independently (while in the Able Sister’s shop). Your personal appearance is also no longer fixed. Instead of hiding your head in a hat, you can head into the city for a makeover, giving you stylish and colorful hair, which you can further adorn with a variety of hats and accessories.
The town holidays, museum, and special visitors are all still intact although some of them have changed what they bring and how you interact with them. The villagers are less annoying although they still have the same personality types. You commonly will have the grouchy man, the jock, the guy who is always hungry, the girl who is sweet and innocent, the trendy girl, and the girl in between those two extremes. These characters are far more interactive and have less repetitive dialog. The characters notice you and approach you to talk. You don’t have to prompt them to find out if you can do a favor for them, and their dialog stays on topic with repeated conversations. They also converse with one another and give you the chance to listen in. Additionally, items that you give them, or they acquire from each other do appear in their houses. Their houses are as dynamic as yours and they also redecorate regularly, allowing you to make some shrewd trades and influence the content of the houses in your town.
Reading and writing is still a big component of the game, which will add difficulty for the youngest players. My 4 year old loves to watch the game and wants to play for herself, but the villagers talk in animalese and are translated in text. Additionally, they expect you to write them letters from time to time. A well-written letter can benefit you greatly as they frequently reply by mail and send you gifts. If your letter is well liked the villagers will share them with other human players they encounter. There is a warning that this will carry over to villagers lost to WFC exchanges, so watch what you write!
I have been fortunate enough to stumble across a few random events. They do enhance the game and make it a lot more fun. I had the opportunity to play hide and seek with 3 villagers (and my 4 year old daughter). I’ve had a villager invite me to hang out at their house at a specific time. Additionally, I’ve been asked to relay messages to the other person in our town.
The controls are fairly intuitive for this game. Typing is still difficult as it involves pointing the wii mote at the screen and there is no longer a hot key for space and capitalization (well not that I have found yet), you do get the option to switch to a phone text keyboard if you prefer. For walking you use the nunchuk, the wii mote is used for manipulating tools and can be used for pointing. In the world you can do almost everything with the nunchuk as the buttons are mostly mirrored with the C button as the A and the Z button as the B.
**Cons: ** Orc really thinks the daily watering of flowers bites. I don’t mind it as it gives you something to do while walking around town and makes you go to all of the map. It is still in essence a single player game. Only one person can play at a time unless you are connecting over WFC. Each wii can only have one town at a time so if you don’t want to share with your family (or you have more than 4 people who want to play regularly) you are going to have problems. Even opening up the game to WFC interaction has little effect until you get some friends to share the town with. The optional book is largely useless. It does have item lists and a calendar for villager birthdays and regular events, but things you really want to know, like directing the barber to give you a haircut you like before you shell out 3000 bells are not included. It also has a few errors.
**Pros: ** It is a big improvement over the original game. The new features are fun and offer a much needed variety that the original lacked. The city adds another shopping element although it could be better. You aren’t as punished for not playing everyday. The open format of game play is more promoted this time with the evaluations being almost non-existent and the HRA (house decorating evaluation) being very flexible. It is now much easier to play for shorter, less consistent time periods.
So I guess that is what I have so far. I like the game. I am glad I have it. I know it isn’t for everyone. The lack of structure and clear goals can make the game less fun for some. Many find the letter aspect annoying and I confess it is hard to think of what to write to the computer. I look forward to exploring the online aspect of the game. I know that having a friend visit will cause villagers to move out of my town, but it’ll still be something new to try.