Animal Crossing: Let's Go to the City (or: City Folk) (Wii) - Review by Chris
Animal Crossing: Lets Go To The City represents the only major title which Nintendo released for the Nintendo Wii in the Christmas period of 2008. The title builds upon the foundations set out by the previous 3 iterations on the N64, Gamecube, and DS respectively and was released with the option of buying the WiiSpeak peripheral with it, to allow for voice chat while online in the game. With this being the highlight of the xmas period for Wii owners, all eyes were on Nintendo to provide an enjoyable title which would allow gamers to pass through said period and through the post xmas drought of games before the big hitters appeared. But, did Nintendo play their cards too close to their chest with this one or did they create and evolve the life-sim franchise?
The gameplay is one thing that remains unchanged in this new iteration in the Animal Crossing series. Players start by taking part in a conversation during a bus ride to your new town and in this conversation you answer questions which will determine your character's look, name and the name of the town you will spend your time in, just like the previous titles. Upon arrival in your new town, you will meet and greet Tom Nook who will help you in selecting your new home. You'll have 4 choices of homes to choose from, all looking exactly the same with the only difference being in where they situated in the town whether it be near the beach or near the shops for example. Once you've picked your house and are happy with it, you'll go through the usual routine of working off part of your debt to Nook for the home by writing letters to townsfolk or delivering items. Again, this remains unchanged from the previous titles and all of the jobs asked of you are exactly the same. It would have been nice of Nintendo to perhaps add some variety to the work you have to carry out as if you've played any of the previous titles, you'll easily grow bored of doing the same jobs again, even if you are in a new town.
After you've finished your work for Nook, you're free to go about life in your town however you want to. If you want to continue to pay off your debts then there is the usual fishing, bug catching and fossil digging. However, again it remains unchanged from the previous titles adding nothing to the series and creating a stagnation of your gameplay choices, especially for those who have had experience with the previous titles. The game does have some nice new features though. Instead of the usual 8 villagers, you can now have 10 living in your town along with up to 4 playable characters. While it's not a huge improvement on the number of people in the town, it does mean that there'll be more to do with the neighbours than normal. There'll be the usual fishing and bug competitions with them as well as the occasional delivery but a new addition is the hunt for a house key for one of your towns inhabitants who has dropped it in the water and you have to fish it out and return it. It's a small touch but adds a sense of realism and character to the game and its townsfolk.
The most major addition to the game is the city area. While this may initially seem interesting, and on the first few visits it is, it quickly becomes a bit of a chore to get the bus ride to the city and when there, there isn't a whole lot to do. There are two shops, Crazy Redd's and Gracies, the Happy Room Academy, a theatre where you learn emotions, an auction house, a hair dressers and Katrina the fortune tellers. While it offers a change of scenery to your town, you'll soon forget about several of the places in the town which you can visit. The auction house is a nice addition but it is limited to those on your friends list and is slightly complicated in its working, with there being two dates to work with: one for displaying objects and one for bidding. The whole process of bidding is drawn out and it can take awhile for items to be delivered to you once you have won them.
Fortunately, and unfortunately, the title boasts no major motion controlled movements. This seems like a missed opportunity, especially for the fishing where they could have done the controls ala the fishing in Twilight Princess. The only motion controls that can be found are for throwing the lure into the water and taking it out but these feel unnatural and you'll simply stick to using the A button to retract your lure. Movement is handled by the analogue stick on the nunchuk and while it works well, there seems to be a limit to the freedom of directional movement available to the player as trying to stand in a diagonal position can take an age to do. Pointer controls are using in the menus and they work well although you need to hold and drag with the A button to move items around and can't merely select an item and a place to move it to. It's not a big deal but would have been a nice inclusion.
The title gets a boost of polish from the DS title released 4 years prior to this. However, apart from a bit of texture smoothing and higher resolution work, the game looks identical to the previous titles in every way. The game has been berated by gamers for the lack of effort on Nintendo's behalf to increase the graphical output and while it is ridiculous that they haven't done more with the title, the charm of Animal Crossing is in its simplistic graphical style, and for that reason it's refreshing to see that they've kept it instead of trying to do something new. There are some nice graphical touches, however, such as the wearing away of grass and snow after they've been run on top off too much. Again, it adds a bit of realism to the title but doesn't detract from what the series is known for in terms of graphics.
Animal Crossing has never been renowned for its sound and the same applies here. What accompanies the game is the same chirpy tunes found in the other titles and while it's good that they haven't changed, it would have been nice to have heard some new bits of music. There is some new music in the form of KK songs but they are few and far between. All the music that appears when in the city is new of course but it never leaves a lasting impression and it's not something you really notice and doesn't really reflect the overall mood of the city compared to the music which appears in your town.
At E3 2008, Nintendo was bigging up the online features for the title saying it'd have the online features everyone would want. However, with the friend code system still in place and the ability to only have 3 others in your town at any given time, it wasn't exactly the online gamers had hoped for. The online works well, when it manages to establish a stable connection, and you can great fun with 3 others in your town. It's a noticeable step up from the DS title but still a long way away from the online capabilities of the Wii's competing consoles. As has already been mentioned, the auction house is a nice addition but it is slightly complex in its working and can take some time for you to acquire the item you have won from your friend. This is also the case with letters sent over the Wi-Fi connection which have been found to go AWOL for weeks on end before finally getting to their destination. It seems that Nintendo doesn't quite have the online expertise yet but hopefully these missteps will help in the long run.
The phrase 'missed opportunities' has never been truer when talking about a game than when talking about this title. But for all of the negative aspects that the title boasts, Animal Crossing: Lets Go To The City is still fun to play, even for those who have played any of the previous titles. Yes, the series is beginning stagnate due to few fresh ideas being brought in but what has been added here creates the foundations for better additions and better online in future titles. For those who have never played an Animal Crossing title, this is a great place to start as it is the probably the most filling of the titles available. And if you can, I wholly recommend getting it with the WiiSpeak peripheral as it makes online communication with friends much easier.
Pro: Better online features than the DS, WiiSpeak works well
Con: Little innovation, not enough new content for series regulars
Final score: 7