The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
I gave the original Animal Crossing for GameCube a 9 out of 10. So why is this Wii edition leaving me bored and disinterested? Instead of a tearful reunion, it feels more like meeting an old high school friend and having that uncomfortable feeling that there's nothing left to say. Sure, we had some good times in the past, but I've changed. Animal Crossing, on the other hand, has studiously avoided paying attention to any of the innovations that happened since its release in 2002.
Instead of following the original Animal Crossing, City Folk is an extension of the 2005 DS release Animal Crossing: Wild World. It features the same odd ''rolling barrel'' perspective, which is a distinct change from the original GameCube title (and, it should be noted, a viewpoint more appropriate for the DS than the Wii). In a neat twist, the game allows you to transfer data from your DS game, allowing you to have a leg up in your new life. For most of us, however, the game begins much as the first did: You name your town and your character, then start delivering goods for Nook's Cranny as a part-time job. Soon, you get your first mortgage and you can begin decorating your bachelor(ette) pad.
And then...well, it's up to you. Animal Crossing: City Folk isn't really a game. In retrospect, the original was probably Nintendo's first experiment with its new philosophy of creating entertainment for non-gamers. Most of your time is spent wandering around much as you would in a real town. Talking to your neighborhood chums is a big part of the experience, and one of the areas in which the game shines. Nintendo's classic, offbeat sense of humor is apparent in every line of dialogue. From a bus driver who spouts pirate slang to any number of eccentric Animal Crossing denizens, the game's speech bubbles are frequently full of laughs.
Sadly, the rest of the game doesn't captivate me the way it once did. While some will appreciate the game's free-form structure, I found myself wanting more of a purpose than tracking down the odd lost item for a friend or scavenging shells to sell and pay off my mortgage. In the city (a new location added since the first game), you can shop, bid on items your online friends put up for sale, buy new clothes, or even get a haircut. Your house is customizable with an astonishing supply of furniture, decorations, and other items. You can also catch fish, use a net to catch bugs, or plant and water trees. For the first time, voice chat is available through the new WiiSpeak microphone, but Nintendo did not provide us with one for this review (We did see a demonstration at E3 that appeared to be working well, although with some suspect sound quality).
If you think the last paragraph sounds more like a list of random features and activities than an actual game, you're right. Compared to Animal Crossing, The Sims seems as regimented as a tactical first-person shooter. For some, this is the charm. While it's certainly neat when the game, for example, has a New Year's Eve celebration, this practice is now commonplace in games like World of Warcraft. A lot has happened in gaming since 2002. When you compare the shallow ways you interact with the world in City Folk to a game like Fable II or Grand Theft Auto IV, there's no comparison. Too often, it felt like I was playing an endless loop of ''town exploration'' segments from old-school Japanese RPGs only without the actual gameplay. Also, where the first game gave you nearly 20 old-school NES games to collect and play, City Folk gives you none. The reason? Nintendo wants you to buy them on the Virtual Console.
Times change, and games must change with them. Animal Crossing, while still a charming and often engaging experience, seems stuck somewhere in the last generation of gaming.
Email the author Matt Helgeson, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.
Animal Crossing gives players a ton of things to do from the moment they create their town and start paying off their first mortgage. Meeting new townspeople, planting foliage, removing weeds, and endlessly collecting the many fossils, bugs, fish, and furniture in the game will keep players busy for as long as they care to play. Unfortunately, none of these activities are any fun. Anything resembling gameplay here is implemented with the skill and grace of a week-old puppy. It's cute that they tried to make interactive activities like fishing and bug catching. Engaging in any of these pursuits, however, holds the appeal of cleaning up after a dog that got a little too excited when Daddy came home. Likewise, you can learn new emotes in the big city's theater or change up your look at the salon, but I just can't think of any reason you would want to. The title's much-vaunted online capabilities would have been cool in 1997, but the tiny amounts of online interaction are a pitiful reward for the hassle of dealing with friend codes and the rest of Nintendo's asinine connectivity barriers. At its best, Animal Crossing is a relaxing way to play around in a neat little sandbox, albeit one with incredibly restricting rules. Most of the time, though, it's an endless, boring slog as you search for something genuinely interesting to do.