In keeping with Animal Crossing’s ever changing, free roaming spirit, Nintendo’s popular social sim has made the jump from GameCube to DS, and finally to the Wii.
So, how has it settled into its new lodgings? Animal Crossing: Let’s Go To The City (a.k.a. Animal Crossing: City Folk) does introduce some new features, but as the saying goes, “The more things change, the more they stay the same”.
Fans of the series will instantly find themselves on familiar ground, since the game’s tried and true formula remains unaltered in Animal Crossing: Let’s Go To The City. After creating your character you are transported to a new town where you must carve out a new life for yourself. It’s well-trodden territory: buying a house (complete with mortgage and ongoing renovations/upgrades), earning money, socialising, and of course collecting stuff.
All of this takes place in real time because the game runs on the console’s internal clock; day turns to night and seasons change, whether you are playing or not. Such day to day activities may seem mundane; after all, you can experience them in real life, without having to resort to a video game! There’s no intricate plot, no adrenaline pumping action (catching fish and getting stung by angry bees is about as violent as it gets), and no rigid structure which must be adhered to. Nevertheless there is something about Animal Crossing that keeps you coming back for more – sometimes for hours at a time.
The game uses both the Wii remote and nunchuck, with some actions such as inputting text and accessing menus using an onscreen pointer. This requires you to position yourself in front of – and in close proximity to - the sensor, for it to register your movements. We found this to be frustrating at times; the last thing you need with a “chill out” game is to worry about the controls. Despite this, it is easy enough to manoeuvre your character around, and for new players the learning curve is minimal.
Initially, you will spend a good few hours acquainting yourself with the environment and inhabitants of your new home town, before the lure of the city beckons and you jump on the bus to check out the bright lights in the ‘big smoke’. This new addition to the game consists of a bunch of shops and entertainment venues which provide a change of scenery pace to your usual routine. In the city you can get a makeover and customise your appearance – even swap out your character’s head with a Mii ‘mask’; buy gifts, accessories and furnishings, attend auctions and performances, or visit a fortune teller to learn what the future may hold.
Fostering relationships with in-game characters and being able to visit other players’ towns has always been a mainstay of the Animal Crossing titles, and this one is no exception. You’ll spend a goodly portion of game time meeting other residents, sending out letters, giving and receiving gifts, and otherwise interacting with the animals in your town. While this particular incarnation lacks the portability of its handheld predecessor, provided you own a DS you can use the DS Suitcase option to transport your character to another person’s Wii (single player only). You are also able to import your character from Animal Crossing: Wild World over to the Wii, minus all your worldly goods.
Multiplayer has more to offer than previous versions, thanks largely to Wii Speak – the USB microphone which enables real time conversation over Nintendo’s Wi-Fi Connection. There’s a bit of patience required to set it all up, since you have to first register and swap ‘friend codes’ with your mates (which means you need at least one other friend with the game and Wii Speak and a broadband connection to do this), but ultimately it will make for a more inclusive experience. Animal Crossing: Let’s Go To The City is an excellent vehicle to promote Nintendo’s microphone, which we’ll undoubtedly see put to good use in future titles.
Cute, colourful and instantly recognisable they may be, but the graphics in Animal Crossing: Let’s Go To The City look somewhat dated on the Wii. They’re not bad; they just haven’t evolved to a next-gen level, which is disappointing. Despite this, newcomers to the world of Animal Crossing will enjoy the game’s charmingly addictive open-ended play, which has transitioned extremely well from the DS. For fans of the series it’s a safe, comfortable bet – provided you are not expecting any trailblazing developments.