Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer Review
When Animal Crossing: New Leaf came out, Animal Crossing fans were losing their minds over how good the game was. And to their credit, it was good. Great in fact! So when Nintendo announced a spin off title that involved decorating the homes of our favorite characters, fans again voiced their excitement. I enjoy Animal Crossing, and while I enjoyed New Leaf, Happy Home Designer had me incredibly skeptical.
An Hour is all it Takes
You will know whether Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer is the game for you within the first hour. After that, you’ve experienced most of what the game has to offer, outside of expanded houses and more facilities around town. However, you will have had the opportunity to design a home, lay out a yard, work on a school, visit the creations of others, and use amiibo cards. That about sums up what can be done in Happy Home Designer. But if you give up after the first hour, you miss out on the depth this game has, especially when it comes to designs.
If you believe the Happy Home Designer detractors, than you will think Nintendo is charging full price for a designing mini-game that might appear in future Animal Crossing games. To be fair, I hope all of what is in Happy Home Designer does show up in future Animal Crossing games, but I would consider that getting extra value for my 44.99 – or 59.99 should it be a console game – rather than not getting enough value in the 44.99 consumers would spend on this. The depth of design is amazing. There are so many items to use in homes that no house will ever look the same. The more you play and the more you unlock, the more your imagination can run wild.
The depth, however, is where the first problem lies. I want to be able to freely renovate the homes I have already completed. In the real world, that is not realistic, but this is Animal Crossing: I want to uproot a resident, tear his house apart, and re-decorate whenever I want. The reasoning is that the more you play, the more you unlock. The item that you originally wanted to put in design #1 isn’t unlocked until design #8, but without a direct request to expand or redecorate, you cannot just go back to your first home and make changes.
More Than Just Houses
There is more than just designing the interiors of various residences homes. Players can choose which location to place the house – mountains, desert, forests, plains – and what natural resources will be present – cliffs, trees, rivers and lakes/oceans. After choosing the location, players can then begin laying out the yard around the home. You can place porch springs, swimming pools, trees, sandboxes, vehicles and more. How you design the outdoors is completely up to you, providing there is space. Like the interior, do your best to tailor it to your clients needs.
Once the outside is done, it is time to design the interior. You can place items from kitchens, bathrooms, bedrooms, sitting rooms and more. You can hang pictures and televisions on the wall, and hang chandeliers from the ceiling. Pick some matching floors and wallpaper and your home is complete.
Every once in a while, you will get a visit from town planner Isabelle, who will hire Nook Homes (and yourself) to design important venues around town, including a school, a mall, and much more. These venues also require players to meet certain requirements. For example, the school design requires a certain number of desks and chairs, as well as a desk for a teacher. After those items are placed, the rest of the design is up to you! Will you go modern with LCD TVs and laptops, or old school with blackboards and bulletin boards?
Of Course, amiibo
Alongside Happy Home Designer, Nintendo released their newest merchandising effort, amiibo cards. These card are currently limited to the Animal Crossing franchise. As of right now, there are 100 to collect. The cards are sold separately from the game, and come in a pack of six in North America, 5 regular cards and one special card. The packs are blind, so you never know what you will get.
A lot of the data found the card is actually – we assume – information that will be relevant for the Animal Crossing amiibo Festival game launching this holiday season. Each card has the players name, their astrological symbol and their birthday, a die value, and either a paper, scissor, or rock symbol. It appears as if a lot of the information on the card has no use in Happy Home Designer.
When you tap the amiibo card to you reader or the bottom screen of the New 3DS, that character will appear. You can invite characters to play in a facility or in someone elses home if you want. Tapping the special characters will bring that character into the game. It appears as if this is the only way you can get the character in the game, and the only way to get a home design request from them.
After you have progressed far enough into the game, you can begin using the amiibo Phone in Nook Homes. When you load up the amiibo phone, players can tap an amiibo card to their 3DS or reading device, and that will begin the process of designing a home for said characters. Normal characters will appear naturally in Animal Crossing without the card, but if you really want to build a home for a specific character, cards are the way to go, if you have them. Another very cool feature of amiibo cards in Happy Home Designer is the ability to save furniture to them. For example, I can visit the home of Phil in someone else’s game, tap the card again when visiting the home to save the furniture, and bring that furniture back to my game. This is a really great way to get access to furniture you may not have unlocked yet!
Animal Crossing has always felt like a great community game, and it is no different with Happy Home Designer. Eventually you will unlock the ability to visit the facilities and houses that are designed by your Nintendo network friends and random strangers. This is a really great feature especially if you feel your designs could use a shot of flare that someone else might inspire in you.
Part of me an envisions an Animal Crossing future where we are playing a traditional animal crossing game on our Wii U’s (or NX’s!) and using the 3DS version of Happy Home Designer to decorate the rooms within that game. The reality is, Nintendo has actually produced something that easily stands alone as a complete game, but holds a lot of promise and potential for the future. Like I said off the top, I don’t feel cheated with this release; if you enjoy design style games, than Happy Home Designer is easily worth the price of entry. If this makes its way into future Animal Crossing Games, great. However, I would never pass this off as Nintendo attempting to sell people a mini-game at full price. It simply isn’t true.