Previews: Everyone knew Animal Crossing would be coming to the Wii, but no one was expecting WiiSpeak (good) or GameCube graphics (bad) to be part of it. Here's David's take on the new game.
Nintendo announced three major first-party titles at its E3 press conference. Two of these were the upcoming Wii Series titles, Wii Sports Resort
and Wii Music
. The third was the long-awaited next installment of the Animal Crossing
series, entitled Animal Crossing: City Folk
The game is a sequel to the original Animal Crossing
that Nintendo released on the Gamecube in 2002 (although a Nintendo 64 version preceded it in Japan). Like the original, ?communication? game, Animal Crossing: City Folk
will center on the player interacting with the various anthropomorphic animals that inhabit their individual towns. Players will encounter many of the same characters from previous games such as that eternal haggler Tom Nook and the musically inclined canine, KK Slider. These animal friends usually have names that relate to their species. For example, the duck you encounter introduces himself as Bill (get it?).
Based upon the press conference and our time playing the game, it is safe to say that the game play remains largely the same as the GameCube installment. The game doesn't assign the player any specific goals that he or she must accomplish. It's all about the effort the player puts into it. If Animal Crossing: City Folk
follows the GameCube version as closely as it outwardly seems to, then players will spend a lot of time digging for fossils, fishing, and decorating their homes.
Like the GameCube version, Animal Crossing: City Folk
will use the Wii's internal clock to keep track of the date. The date then will be reflected in the game itself. For instance, the creatures that inhabit Animal Crossing
will celebrate Christmas and Halloween at the correct times of the year. A player could even countdown the New Year with the critters if he or she felt so inclined (and lonely). The weather and look of a player's town will also be affected by the seasons. When Nintendo releases Animal Crossing: City Folk
this fall, most players will see their towns for the first time bathed in the colors of autumn.
As the game's title implies, players are now able to take a bus to a new city area. There are a number of new shops in this urban setting, including an auction site and hairstylist. In the auction site, players can bid on items but also sell items that he or she discovered around the forest for some much need bells (The coin of the realm in Animal Crossing
?It's still probably worth more that the U.S. dollar!) At Harriet's Salon players can change hairstyles, or undertake a total makeover by slapping his or her Mii's face onto the game's default Raggedy Andy-esque character. Hannibal Lecter would be so proud.
Perhaps the biggest addition to the game is the inclusion of an online mode. Up to four friends can visit a town at once. The demonstration at the Nintendo press conference showed four characters participating in a fishing competition. These players can talk to each other through a new first-party microphone peripheral called WiiSpeak. Unlike Microsoft's headset for Xbox Live, the WiiSpeak connects to a USB port on the back of the Wii and rests on top of the player's television. The idea is that the whole room can participate in the game. In demonstration, the microphone worked incredibly well. When Gaming Target played the demo, we were sitting roughly five to six feet away from the television. From this distance we could hear the representative at Nintendo's booth downstairs talking to us, and vice-versa, with no problem. The WiiSpeak will be sold separately to the tune of $29.99.
Outwardly, the game looks almost identical to the GameCube version. While it's true that graphics do not make a game (right, Alone in the Dark
?), it still would have been nice to have seen more of a visual upgrade in Animal Crossing's presentation. This isn't to say, however, that the game does not boost some visual enhancements. For instance, you'll notice the curvature of the earth as you walk from one area to the next. This eliminates the impression that you are simply seeing one static screen after another.