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Animal Crossing: Let’s Go To The City Review

Published December 14, 2008 by |

Despite trying desperately to prove otherwise, Nintendo’s holiday release schedule has been somewhat lacking in big titles. Warioland: Shake It! arrived too early to be considered a holiday title; Disaster, while good fun, lacked depth and was poorly advertised; and Wii Music? Well…

Elsewhere, the last few months have been pretty busy for gamers; in the last few weeks alone we’ve had Gears of War 2, Little Big Planet and Fallout 3 to keep us glued to our controllers. Sadly, the Wii has had nothing recently that could match these in terms of size, complexity and retail clout, with Nintendo seemingly content to sit back and let their so-called evergreen (or long-tail if you prefer) releases like Mario Kart, Wii Fit and Wii Play bring home the bacon. With the majority of their big franchises already recipients of a Wii outing it was perhaps inevitable that there would be a franchise drought at some point but it couldn’t have come at a worse time.

It’s hard to imagine a Christmas without a big Nintendo game to take your mind off over-cooked turkey, family members attempting to sing, and re-runs of the Dad’s Army Xmas special. The small glimmer of hope this year is still a Class-A franchise, but can ‘Animal Crossing: Let’s go to the City’ be enough to satiate those of us that live and breathe all things Nintendo?

Given that most die-hard Nintendo fans would have played the first two (or four if you count the N64 original and the Japanese re-release of the US Gamecube version) games to death, the answer must surely be a resounding no. The lack of any real changes to the core gameplay isn’t necessarily an area to direct criticism, after all the original was really good fun in small doses and that remains the case here, but the lackluster additions should definitely be called into question. This is one of the first in-house Nintendo titles that could be labeled a lazy port, given the unabashed similarities to the DS version; it’s incredibly disappointing that the Wii has to make do with what is essentially ‘Wild World Plus’. The few changes that exist between these two simply aren’t enough to make this worth playing through once again.

Firstly, the big additions that Nintendo have been keen to advertise, the city location and the optional Wii Speak peripheral, barely make any difference at all. The ‘city’ comprises of a small plaza offering permanent shops for some of the wandering guests that used to visit your village in previous games. You no longer have to wait for Katrina, Dr Shrunk or the shifty Crazy Redd to happen upon your little village, they are now available whenever you decide to pay them a visit, which may be convenient, but takes away some of the fun of waiting for those random visitors. Then there’s Wii Speak, which is only an optional extra and so naturally isn’t built to be an integral part of the experience and is only useful if you have friends who have also plumped for the pricey peripheral.

There are some minor improvements, the inclusion of four possible locations to set up your house when you start the game being one of them, and the online item auction is also a great feature. Nintendo have also back-tracked on some of their design decisions from the DS game, most notably with the welcome return of proper events to mark holidays like Christmas and Halloween. And if you have a DS save file you can transfer your character and their catalogue over to the Wii (although without bells and items). But there could and should have been more.

Newcomers won’t share any of these concerns, of course, for at its core Animal Crossing is still a wonderful and long-lasting experience. And will surely enthrall any first-timers who have the spare time and dedication needed to fully appreciate all it has to offer. But like Mario Kart before it, it’s painfully clear that this Wii version wasn’t made for fans. It was made for those who’d never cursed and run away as a beehive fell from a tree they’d just shaken; or sat for hours in the pouring rain waiting for that Coelacanth-shaped shadow to take the bait; or cheered as another home extension had been paid off.

Animal Crossing remains as charming as ever but it’s hard to enjoy when you know it could have been so much more.

7/10
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