E3 2008: Animal Crossing: City Folk Hands-On

It's time to save your bells: Animal Crossing: City Folk is just a few months away.

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When Nintendo showed a few glimpses of Animal Crossing: City Folk at its morning E3 2008 press conference, we were anxious to see it in action. After all, Animal Crossing and its DS follow-up were adorable, addicting games that kept players glued to their screens for hours at a time. We were thrilled, then, to spend some time with the upcoming Wii iteration and are happy to announce that it possesses all of the elements that made its predecessors so enjoyable--and brings along a few new features to boot.

The first and most obvious addition to the standard Animal Crossing gameplay is City Folk's use of the WiiSpeak microphone peripheral. Up to four players can join one another in town, but thanks to the microphone, you can use voice chat to communicate. While we wandered about, we were joined by three others via Wi-Fi: a prototypical Animal Crossing avatar named Hannah, and two others who chose to use their Miis (Mario and Luigi) to represent them in the game. Nintendo confirmed with us that players can create a persona as they could in previous titles, or import a Mii.

Once again you'll be able to customize your home to your liking. Nice crib!
Once again you'll be able to customize your home to your liking. Nice crib!

The microphone allowed us to speak flawlessly with our comrades. If you want to play but don't have plans to purchase WiiSpeak, no fear: You can use a virtual keyboard to type messages to your visiting friends. Once our toony friends joined us, we set off with them in search of fossils. Using the D pad, you can cycle through your items easily, and it took only a few taps to equip our shovel and search for the telltale signs of fossils. Movement is simple enough: You hold the A button and move the pointer using the Wii Remote, and your avatar walks in that direction. If you'd rather run, you can hold B. There is also an option to use the Nunchuk in addition to the remote, but the game seemed to control fine without it.

We performed some of the usual activities, including fossil digging and weeding. We also joined Hannah in some fishing, though surprisingly, none of these controls involve waggling the remote in any way. To cast your line into the water, you hit the A button; ditto for reeling it in. Sadly, we didn't get to leave the town and head for the city. According to Nintendo, however, the city opens up new innovations within the franchise. The most intriguing of these may be the auction house, where you and your friends can put items up for bid. You can also visit Gracie's store, where you can buy seasonal items unavailable at other times of the year. Happily, though, she won't be replacing the entrepreneurial Tom Nook, who will still set up shop in your town.

Everything else about Animal Crossing: City Folk, from the gibberish language of its characters to the bright, charming visuals, should please series fans. The communication aspects look to improve the gameplay even more, however, and we look forward to seeing what other surprises Nintendo has in store for us. The game is scheduled to be released on November 16, 2008.

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