Wii owners have been waiting for quite some time for this new Animal Crossing title to be released on the Wii console, especially given how long ago the game was first announced for the system. It's this long wait that might have actually hurt the game more than helped it since expectations have become overly high given the innovative capabilities of the Wii console, not to mention the long development cycle. The one thing that tends to stand out when you first see Animal Crossing: City Folk in action is that it looks and feels more like a game that's aimed at casual gamers who have never played an Animal Crossing game before, rather than a game crafted for those who are already fans of the series.
If you have played an Animal Crossing game before, you've basically played this one. The game is very self-paced and once you complete the minimal tasks given to you at the beginning of the game, you can pretty much do whatever you want after that. You can make money by catching and selling fish, selling fruit you've picked off of trees, or selling items you are given or find along the way during your travels. As you pay off the mortgage on your house, you can then have your home expanded. You can also purchase flooring, wall covering, or furniture to decorate your home to your specific tastes. While this will be fun for newcomers to the series, the execution is so similar to past games that series veterans will likely find the experience entirely too much like past Animal Crossing releases to get much enjoyment out of the experience.
There are a few new twists to mention. In Animal Crossing: City Folk you'll find a few new additions to liven things up a bit. The Wii Remote brings a whole new way to control things which does offer a somewhat fresh take on the tasks that have been rehashed from the previous titles. You can now use the Wii Remote like a fishing rod with which you pull up on when you feel a fish nibble on your fishing line or swing it like a bug net to catch insects. It's a small touch, but a nice one nonetheless. There's also the biggest new attraction to Animal Crossing called "The City" that you can travel to in order to visit special shops and deal with many of the same cast of characters that would come to visit you in the original Animal Crossing game. No need to wait on them now as you can just jet into the city and find them any time you like.
With the use of online connectivity you can also visit any of your friend's Animal Crossing towns whenever you want to. You can even pick up the Wii Speak bundle and speak directly to them using the Wii Speak microphone if you so desire. The ability to travel between towns is a much simpler affair this time around, but it still functions in pretty much the exact same way it has in previous Animal Crossing releases. This online functionality is also an area that really lent itself to a lot more given what the Wii console is capable of.
The visuals in Animal Crossing haven't changed much since its jump from the Gamecube, and at times you'd be hard-pressed to tell the difference aside from a smoother frame rate. The landscape still rolls around like you're walking on a tiny globe and many of the same designs look as if they were taken directly out of the original game. You'll see small upgrades here and there, and the city will probably impress you the first few times you visit, but when it's all said and done, much like every other aspect of the game, you'll be left wanting more.
Fans of the series will also feel right at home with the music and sound effects in this Wii release as well. In truth, there's not much music to be heard as it tends to blend into the background. Instead the game presents a more real-life setting with sound effects being heard all around you. The sound of a rushing stream, or birds chirping in the distance tend to make up the audio presentation in Animal Crossing. While this was acceptable enough in the past, it would have been nice to have heard something new and unique. It would seem that Nintendo once again went with the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" mentality with this aspect of the game.
Animal Crossing does add a few new bells and whistles to the experience, but it just doesn't feel like enough, especially considering how long the game has been in development. The formula is still there, it just feels too much like both of the previous releases and will likely create more of a feeling of deja vu in fans of the series rather than the cutting edge Wii experience many were hoping for. The game is still a lot of fun, and the addition of the Wii Remote controls and microphone are a nice touch, but ultimately this feels like a game that's been done one time too many and could have honestly offered up a lot more considering what the developers had to work with.