Animal Crossing: City Folk
I’ve come to realize that “Animal Crossing” is legalized crack…there’s just no other reasonable explanation. It has a cartoony / kiddie theme and doesn’t feature any sort of violence in the slightest (unless you count roach squashing). Yet…I keep playing it. I’ve come to the realization that at this point, I should probably stand up, announce my name to the general public, and admit that yes, I’m an “Animal Crossing” addict. Admittance is the first step to recovery, is it not?
Okay, so what is “Animal Crossing”? It started out as a “Japan-only” release for the N64 back in 2001, but eventually made its way to the States in 2004 for the Nintendo GameCube. From there, a few different versions have surfaced over the years…”Animal Crossing: Wild World” for the DS and “Animal Crossing: City Folk” for the Wii, just to name a few examples. The formula doesn’t change much from game to game, so folks who played the GameCube version will most definitely be familiar with its successors. “Harvest Moon” did something similar…same concept across the board, but each featuring slightly different ideas and ways to play.
In “Animal Crossing”, you play a character (male or female) that has traveled to a small town of fun-loving (if not at times, creepy) animal characters. You can talk to them, interact with them, run errands for them, and so on. Tom Nook, a racoon who has his own store, offers you a house when you arrive. He’ll put you to work for a brief amount of time running errands and talking to people, which mainly serves as the game’s tutorial. You’ll still need to pay off your loan by earning bells, the game’s form of currency. Most of your time is spent earning bells by collecting stuff, fishing, and selling items you don’t need.
“Animal Crossing: City Folk” doesn’t change at all in this regard. You’ll still meet Tom Nook, you’ll still get a house, you’ll still have to pay off a loan, and so on and so forth. It plays very similarly to the original “Animal Crossing” on the GameCube…though the point of view takes some getting used to. Rather than a steep top-down view, the angle is much shallower (horizontal). This 3D effect causes items in the background to appear as if they were cutouts in a pop-up book when you travel north. All of us commented on the new view when we first played it and pretty much said the same thing…”I don’t like it.” Of course, that doesn’t stop us from playing it.
Note the use of the “we” and “us” pronouns in that last paragraph. My significant other, who rarely takes to video games, plays this one with a passion. Carolyn (14) and Anthony (17) both play it as well…it’s one of the few games we actually fight over in regards to who’s playing next. Sadly, there are only four houses to move into (just like in the GameCube version). Vinnie (12) has to borrow my character from time to time, but as long as he’s making me bells and not selling all my stuff, I don’t mind. While local profiles can’t be played simultaneously, you can connect to other people’s towns via the Wii’s internet and friend code feature. The game conveniently provides all of this to you, if this is the first time you’ve ever enabled these options.
For those of you new to the series, it’s worth mentioning quickly what all you’ll be able to do in this disturbingly addicting world. Once you purchase the necessary tools from Tom Nook’s store (axe, shovel, fishing rod, bug net, etc.), you can go around town and start collecting things. Fossils can be dug up from the “X’s” that appear on the ground from day to day, which can be either donated to the town’s museum or sold to Tom Nook for profit. Fishing can be difficult and requires quick reflexes, but can earn you a nice chunk of change. Bug catching requires a light foot and steady movement, as running will scare these critters away. From time to time, you’ll acquire items from either other characters, balloons in the sky, or from Tom Nook’s store…this is where the game really gets me.
You see, “Animal Crossing” is one big collection simulator. Think of the TV show “Hoarders” times a gazillion. You can seed your home with various things like chairs, musical instruments, wallpaper, flooring, lights…even Mario Bros. memorabilia. What’s more, you earn points from the “Happy Room Academy” based on your layout and the collections you’ve acquired. Need more space in your house? Tom Nook can make it bigger, include a basement and second floor…the works, but you’ll need to pay off each loan in turn. Since the game runs in real-time (your real-time), it can be really exciting to play at night as opposed to the day, as different things pop up for you to collect and showcase. Of course, you can mess with the in-game clock and time travel…though some of us consider that cheating.
So, what new features are in “City Folk”? For one, I really liked the ability to select multiple items when you sell things to Tom Nook. In the GameCube version, you sold things one at a time…blech. You no longer have to mail your fossils to a separate, larger museum to have them identified…you can bring them right to that annoying know-it-all owl Blathers and he’ll identify them for you. You can design your own clothes or the town flag, and even visit a town center via bus that’s bustling with activity. Stores line this town that allow you to give your character a makeover, buy expensive hard-to-find items, and more.
With all of that said, is “Animal Crossing: City Folk” worth it? If you already own any of the previous “Animal Crossing” games, it all comes down to whether or not you enjoy the repetition of earning bells and collecting items. “City Folk” is more of the same, with some new features that make annoying tasks a bit more convenient. There’s still room for it to improve (limited backpack space, etc.), but it’s still addicting and fun to play. I do think the developers could have stretched the boundaries a little more, but I can see why the old axiom “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” works in games like this. As an owner of the GameCube version, I have to say that I don’t regret my purchase of this one. If you’re new to the series altogether and don’t mind kiddie-looking games, then you honestly can’t go wrong with “City Folk”…just don’t be surprised if you find yourself still playing until the wee hours of the morning.
Final Verdict: 8/10
Want to earn more bells faster? Check out my “Earning Bells Guide” below: