E3 2008: Animal Crossing Hands On
Nintendo's employees discover voice chat and chat up some smack.
Thanks to the success of the DS version, Animal Crossing is now one of Nintendo's biggest franchises in Japan. So there's obviously a whole lot expected of the Wii version, now officially titled for its American release as Animal Crossing City Folk (the Japanese version is still going by the placeholder Doubutsu no Mori).
Nintendo had its E3 Showcase Pavilion demo of the game set up with a keyboard. As players moved around one in-game city/lobby, a particularly cheery Nintendo rep typed in chat messages. These were picked up by a trio Nintendo reps who were playing the game as Mario, Luigi and Melvin lookalikes in a back room somewhere. These three had access to WiiSpeak microphones, a separately sold $29.99 device that gives the game voice chat (Japanese pricing or release information has yet to be announced). They were able to chat back using their voices, and took the opportunity to talk up some smack.
There wasn't much of a point to the demo, which presumably makes it a perfect representation of the full game. Starting out in a hub world, the Nintendo rep lead me to a portal that would take me to the "Ninten Andy" town, where the three other players were waiting. Following the typically slow Nintendo online game connection crap, I ended up in the town, and eventually found my three "friends."
The Mario and Luigi characters really did look the part. It turns out that the game has a pretty packed dress-up component. You can select different patterns for different areas of your character's clothing.
The three Nintendo players suggested that we set up a timer to see who's the fastest bug collector. I really wasn't interested in doing this, but, not wanting to hurt the Nintendo rep's feelings, I hid my lack of enthusiasm. And so began a very brief quest for bugs. After selecting a net from my item menu, I went around collecting bugs until I just couldn't take any more and gracefully made an exit.
Outside of the bug net, the demo's item list also had a fishing pole and a slingshot. This presumably means that you can go fishing and kill other players. I was able to confirm the fishing part, but the killing other players thing didn't seem to work.
One neat little feature that the Nintendo rep pointed out is that you can switch between items using the d-pad. No need to go into a menu!
She also noted that, while the demo unit was set up with a nunchuck attachment in place, the game can be played with just the Wiimote. Without the nunchuck, you move your character around by pointing and clicking.
If I sound a bit disinterested in Animal Crossing City Folk, it's because the E3 demo didn't really do anything to grab me. But, this should be expected. As anyone who's played the DS and Cube versions will tell you, this particular title doesn't really lend itself to a short ten minute trade show demonstration. Before passing judgement, I'll wait until I have the final version of the game in my hands and can play it with friends rather than smack-talkin' Nintendo employees.
A bit more on the Animal Crossing experience was revealed in a round table interview session held separately from the play test. You can access details from that on the main channel.
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