Take on the role of Tom Nook’s star designer in this first-ever Animal Crossing spinoff.
The Animal Crossing series has been going strong for over 10 years. With 4 (even more in Japan) successful titles under its belt already, this whimsical life-simulation game series has been doing quite well for itself. So much so, in fact, that Nintendo has deemed it worthy of having its first official spinoff; Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer. Is Animal Crossing‘s first side game really worth the bells, though, or should you keep your money nice and safe in the ABD?
The premise of Happy Home Designer is quite simple and straightforward. You, the player, have recently been hired as an employee for the by now well-known Tom Nook at the one and only Nook’s Homes in a town in need of plenty of renovation. Though new your character shows a lot of promise as a designer and is soon given free reign over building houses without help from the more seasoned employees and, soon after, are put at the front of the town renovation project.
This being a game in the Animal Crossing series, it should come as no surprise that the storyline of Happy Home Designer is next to nonexistent. There is some rather charming special dialogue here and there as you complete the town renovation projects (at your leisure), including a school, a hospital, and several stores, but that is as much storyline as you will get from Happy Home Designer. That being said, the game is about creativity and enjoying yourself; like the main Animal Crossing games, Happy Home designer is what you make of it. An in-depth storyline would most likely just muck up the flow of things.The gameplay of Happy Home Designer is incredibly friendly toward players of any skill level. All you need to do is talk to a villager outside of Nook’s Homes (or scan an amiibo card), pick a plot of land, and get building!
As the designer you are given a tablet, which is carried around by the player’s character during construction. The tablet, represented by the touch screen on the 3DS, allows you to order and instantly place furniture, change the look, location, and size of the house when outside, and easily search through your ever-growing catalogue; talk about some advanced technology. The catalogue doesn’t come fully stocked though; every single villager will have item requests for you. Once you complete their house, all of that furniture is yours to use forever. Since you don’t ever need to purchase anything, this could be considered one of the game’s few challenges. Once placed, players may use the touch screen to arrange furniture freely and hastle-free. For the first time ever, furniture can be moved by half-blocks, rather than whole blocks. Though it may seem simple, the addition of this honestly allows for much more creativity. Though the game is quite well-designed, is one mechanic that made the design process a bit disheartening. While villagers do request for certain items in their home, as well as a specific theme, players can in reality get away with doing whatever they want save the few requested items. That being said, it is important to keep in mind that this game was meant for players of all ages and has a positive aura about it; not every game has to be hardcore to be fun, and Happy Home Designer is a perfect example of this.
The audio and visual of Happy Home Designer is pretty much exactly the same as it was in Animal Crossing: New Leaf, though perhaps a tad smoother graphically. While pleasant, the design mode music is a little uninspired, can get rather tiresome due to how short it is. Fortunately, players may include ambient sounds or, if an audio device is present within the house, music by the one and only K.K. Slider. Doing either will mute the standard music.
Along with the release of Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer was Series One of the Animal Crossing amiibo cards. These amiibo, being cards rather than figures, were bundled 6 to a pack; 1 rare card (such as Kapp’n, Luna, and Isabelle), and 5 common cards (standard villagers) were included in each pack. These cards were randomized the same way that normal booster packs are. There is an NFC chip inside each of amiibo card, making them virtually the same as the amiibo figurines used for games like Super Smash Brothers and Mario Party 10. Upon scanning an Animal Crossing amiibo card through the in-game device known as the amiibo Phone, the player is connected to the respective villager and is given the option to build a house for them if they are new, remodel the existing house, or scrap the original house in favor of designing an entirely new one. Once the player has a house built for the villager, they can then save that house to their corresponding amiibo card in order to share it with others. Uo to four amiibo villagers can also be scanned into any house that you are currently visiting. This doesn’t have much purpose gameplay-wise, but it provides plenty of fun opportunities to take neat pictures. If the house that you are currently visiting has been designed by another player, and that house contains furniture that you do not presently have catalogued, your amiibo villager has the ability to “memorize” the furniture and will add it to your catalogue. These amiibo cards are not necessary; all 300+ villagers are present within the game itself. That being said, the amiibo cards are incredibly fun, provide a few bonus features, and are a worthwhile investment for any person deeply involved with the game.
Much like Animal Crossing: New Leaf, Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer is a game meant to relax and unwind with. Those seeking action should look elsewhere. Being a more concentrated Animal Crossing title, it also may alienate fans of AC games who cared little about house design. Aside from that, the game is incredibly charming, and more time-consuming than one may think. The massive amount of furniture coupled with a list of customers numbering over 300, Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer contains hundreds of hours of satisfying gameplay for those interested in living life on the other side of the Animal Crossing universe.
Final Verdict: 3.5 / 5
Available on: 3DS (reviewed) ; Publisher: Nintendo ; Developer: Nintendo ; Players: 1; Released: September 25, 2015 ; ESRB: “E” for Everyone ; MSRP: $39.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a retail copy of Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer.