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Critical Reception: Nintendo's  Animal Crossing: City Folk

Critical Reception: Nintendo's Animal Crossing: City Folk

November 19, 2008 | By Danny Cowan

November 19, 2008 | By Danny Cowan
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More: Console/PC, Columns

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Nintendo's life simulation franchise sequel Animal Crossing: City Folk, which reviews describe as "the same old routine with extra goodies that do little to change things in any meaningful way."

Animal Crossing's GameCube debut won praise for its unique take on the simulation genre, offering laid-back gameplay that focused on building relationships with the animal residents of a virtual village.

Its sequel, 2005's Animal Crossing: Wild World for the Nintendo DS, expanded upon the formula with the addition of online multiplayer. The series makes its Wii debut with this week's release of Animal Crossing: City Folk, which currently averages a score of 70 out of 100 at's Craig Harris gives City Folk a score of 7.5 out of 10, claiming that the title is "clearly aimed at either gamers new to the series or ones with incredibly short memory spans."

"Animal Crossing: City Folk is a great conversion of Animal Crossing: Wild World," he explains, "but as a console sequel? It's pretty lazy, and it's hard to praise phoned-in work like this."

Harris finds that some new features make City Folk worth a look. "There are slight enhancements worth noting, like full widescreen support, Wii remote motion control for casting your fishing line or digging holes, and an upgraded art program that enables users to create shirt textures with a front, a back, and two sleeves," he says. "Oh, and get this: your village's ground will now show wear and tear as you beat down a continuous path every day. It's silly, but it's noticeable."

Series fans will otherwise find that little has changed in this edition, however. "The Wii game takes everything about the DS title and applies the larger village scale and smoother framerate of the GameCube title," Harris writes. "That's pretty much it. Lazy would be an understatement: apart from a few new fish, bugs, and a revised script spoken by the in-game characters, if you've already spent a good portion of your gaming life in either Animal Crossing games, you're not going to get much new out of the Wii experience."

"Animal Crossing: City Folk wasn't made for Animal Crossing fans," Harris notes in conclusion. "It was made for those that missed out the first two times. And for those people, you've got yourself a fine product. To those that helped make the first two games a success: maybe Nintendo will thank you some other way, because City Folk is only for you if you want to go through the same things all over again."

Simon Parkin at Eurogamer scores City Folk at 6 out of 10, noting that the new city environment offers a small amount of gameplay variety. "With the exception of multiplayer on the DS it's the first time players have been allowed outside the confines of a village," he writes, "and it's a rare new feature in a game that otherwise exactly apes its forebears."

The city portion contains a number of stores and optional ways to spend in-game money. "The up-market Gracie Grace department store sells expensive tailoring and items for your home and it's a joy to walk around," Parkin describes. "Harriet at Shampoodle will give you a shampoo, cut and style for 3000 bells or, if you prefer, will apply a Mii's head to your character. For 500 bells you can have your shoes shined, a cute way of choosing their colour."

"There's also a comedy club where you can watch an awkward stand-up routine," Parkin continues, "an 800-bell investment that grants you a new emoticon for conversing with friends, while a useful MMO-esque auction house rounds off the city's attractions."

Though the idea of an explorable city is initially exciting, Parkin finds that the section becomes redundant quickly. "The extra space these shops have received is welcome," he admits, "but it won't take long for the novelty to wear off and after the first few visits there's not much reason to return."

"This is the best execution of Animal Crossing so far, but it is difficult to view it as anything other than a lazy remake of what's gone before," Parkin says. "With Wild World the adherence to template was forgivable: the original's framework was robust and interesting enough to warrant a rebuild. But for this Wii game there was no need for more polish, especially not in lieu of new ideas, fresh takes on core concepts and happy invention."

Over at, Giancarlo Varanini gives City Folk a grade of C. "City Folk still rouses some excitement at the prospect of collecting more rare furniture, fossils, and that one elusive bug or fish," he begins. "But all of this quickly subsides upon your introduction to Tom Nook, everyone's favorite predatory lender. That's when the realization quickly sets in: This is all just the same old routine with extra goodies that do little to change things in any meaningful way."

Varanini notes that a data importing feature comes as a welcome addition for gamers migrating from Wild World. "City Folk deserves some credit for trying to mitigate the painful process of collecting the same items all over again by letting you import save data from Animal Crossing: Wild World," he writes. This feature essentially makes most pieces of furniture, wallpaper, carpets, and special items from the former game immediately available in Tom Nook's store catalog."

The feature doesn't apply to all gameplay elements, however. "No, it doesn't make your house larger," Varanini warns, "nor does it automatically fill Blathers' museum with Wild World's artifacts or constellations -- which makes sense, since you need a reason to actually play this game -- but it's nice that all those hours spent in Wild World haven't completely gone to waste."

Otherwise, Varanini describes many of City Folk's new city features as rehashed content from previous Animal Crossing titles. "Sadly, some of its establishments and patrons are simple retreads of storefronts and characters from previous Animal Crossing games," he says. "The theater's now where you learn emotes from Dr. Shrunk, while the shady store is actually just Redd's. And does Animal Crossing really need another store with even more overpriced goods?"

"Ultimately, it comes down to this: Do you really wanna spend the time doing all of the things you already spent so much time on in Wild World? And do you want to do them in almost the exact same ways?" Varanini asks. "City Folk just seems like a huge missed opportunity -- either that, or a lazy cash-in on Nintendo's newfound casual audience. If it's the former, they ought to just call it Wii Mortgage Payments."

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