Animal Crossing: City Folk «

If you’ve never played an Animal Crossing game before, then Animal Crossing: City Folk is a perfectly fine place to start. It once again immerses you into a colorful candy-coated world where your neighbors are all adorable anthropomorphic characters of the cute and furry variety, and living life on your own is about decorating your house with a variety of knick-knacks while you make ends meet by collecting bugs, going fishing, and picking fruit from nearby orchards. It’s an imaginative child’s dream of life as an adult made into a non-violent virtual reality, and players of all ages will find something fun to do with each new day. The game is built around being a daily experience, the idea being that there’s always something new going on when you come back to play.

Animal Crossing: City Folk is probably the closest that Nintendo will come to publishing a massively multiplayer online game. The television commercials present Animal Crossing: City Folk as a distinctly social experience that can bring friends and family together electronically, thanks to the game’s wireless microphone chat (powered by the newly launched Wii Speak microphone). This is not a revolutionary device by any means, but it works. The technology at play here is not too dissimilar from the stand-up microphones commonly used by those who would prefer not to muss up their hair with a headset. The only drawback to this idea is that the game connects its users through the arcane ritual of the friend code exchange, making it impossible to make new friends as you would in other online games.

Marvel at the New Voice Chat!

The Wii Speak microphone worked well in our testing, though there was a slight delay between transmissions. The microphone appears to cut down on background noise significantly, and was able to pick up our conversation-level voices clearly. Setting up the microphone chat within the Animal Crossing menus was painless and worked instantly.

Despite the smooth introduction of voice chat technology, Animal Crossing: City Folk doesn’t use the Wii’s Wi-Fi capabilities to their fullest. While we were easily able to visit each others’ towns after going through the friend code rigmarole, we just couldn’t find any cooperative play experiences that made the effort worthwhile. Sure, we could chat with each other and exchange fruit, but there was a lack of meaningful activities for us to engage in together. Fishing, for instance, isn’t the kind of thing you can do together, since there’s only one fish onscreen at a time, and once it’s caught you have to move on. Persistent fishing zones or some sort of competitive game we could play would have made this interaction more fun.

If you’ve played previous Animal Crossing games, and were looking forward to some interesting new features and an expansion to the previous formula, you’ll be sorely disappointed. The big new addition is the city, which in reality is more like a city-themed cul-de-sac, accessed by taking a short bus ride from your town. At the city, you can watch short comedy routines that will teach your avatar emotes that can be used to express yourself, like the cowering fear emote, or something more gleeful.


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