January 15, 2009

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Animal Crossing: City Folk (Wii)
Nintendo, Nov. 16, E

By Glenn "Sproing" Given production@hippopress.com

If you slogged hours of hunter gathering in the Gamecube standout Animal Crossing, or especially in its handheld descendent Animal Crossing Wild World, AC:City Folk will be no suprise. Your cartoon avatar moves to the quaint hamlet of (whatever you name your town) and engages in the directionless fun of cutesy cartoon life simulation. Paying off a mortgage debt is but one of the many (though most pressing, as increased home size enables voracious collecting) tasks residents can pursue. The core of the fun is in the metered opportunity to complete various collections via fishing, bug-catching, gardening, archeology and fine art patronage. Without fudging the timestamp on your Wii it will take you a year or so to even see all the available tchotchkes.

City Folk does a middling job of updating the formula. While the re-insertion of popular American holidays frustratingly absent from Wild World is a plus, the base formula hasn’t changed. You still write letters (granted the Wii ability to use a USB keyboard makes this less painful) and pal around with friends both AI and via WiFi with other Wii users. You still buy black-market rugs and furniture, design clothing patterns (a tad expanded as your front, back and sleeves can carry different styles) and feng shui-ifiy your house to impress. The inclusion of Wii Speak voice chat with microphone peripheral on special bundles is not so impressive. Gamers who’ve “enjoyed” voice chat in online bouts will scoff at the rudimentary functionality of the omni-directional mic. The City part of City Folk boasts a few new tricks, though; the Marquee theater teaches new actions like glowing with sunshine in joy or trembling in fear, and the hair salon allows further customization of your avatar. While you can’t directly import your Mii, there is a Mii mask that players can utilize to appear as their creepy digital homunculus. The most interesting offering of the downtown zone lies in its auction parlor that allows players to sell and buy items over the WiFi network.

It’s nice to have my daily dose of Animal Crossing back on a proper screen but I do feel a bit silly having tossed so many shekels down for so little new content. Gamers new to Nintendo can do no wrong picking up City Folk, but longtime AC hands should hold off until you see a copy pop up on craigslist. BGlenn Given