Take a bunch of adorable animals. Take fishing and catching. Take a bundle of cuteness. That’s Animal Crossing in a nutshell. It is one of those games where you either pick it up for a week and fade out, or pick it up and stay glued to it for eternity. I am a member of the latter group. I have played every single Animal Crossing game since the age of nine.

The most recent game prior to the release of Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer was Animal Crossing: New Leaf. That was pretty much agreed on as being the perfect Animal Crossing game. So when I heard that a new game was coming out, I flipped-out in a good way. Then I read about it. Then I was a little unsure. A spin-off, focusing on one of New Leaf’s flaws: the inability to design villager homes. It also is the first Nintendo game to introduce amiibo cards to the 3DS. It sounds good on paper, but I am a human being and I do not like change. But after a few YouTube videos and the purchase of a pack of amiibo cards, I invested.

What an investment it was.

A Happy Home

The main feature of the game is executed really well. On previous Animal Crossing games, the only way to move around furniture was through estimating where it would drop out of your pocket, and pushing it around accordingly. In Happy Home Designer, there is a neat grid design which allows you to see where the furniture is going, the size of it, and allows you to switch the angle of it with a simple tap. The furniture itself is lovely too, with furniture from the previous games as well as all new items, which are slowly unlocked whilst you’re helping villagers who require certain themes.

animal crossing

Another feature I really love is the amiibo card usage. On the new 3DS consoles, you can tap the screen, as it’s amiibo card compatible. I have a very old 3DS, so I purchased the game and the NFC Reader in a bundle for £34.99. This is a steal, considering the game generally costs £34.99 alone. The ability to buy a pack of cards which have the potential to be either good or bad reminds me of Yu-Gi-Oh cards. The opportunity to be able to bring your favourite villager to the game is a step-up from New Leaf, where you’d have to spend millions of Bells (the in-game currency) buying it off someone via social media or a forum.

I both like and dislike the feature of Happy Home Designer not working in real-time. It’s great because in New Leaf as a veteran player I don’t have much else to do other than talk to my villagers. My house is huge (a castle, as a matter of fact), my shops are all expanded and open, I have all the villagers I like and my town is vastly decorated. In Happy Home Designer, I can literally play it for five hours straight (…what social life?) and still have more to do. On the other hand, Animal Crossing introduced real-time play to the mainstream gaming world, and it has been stripped of one of its iconic features here.

animal crossing

Domestic Issues

Linking to the time issue, I do have a few negatives about this game. I know this is a spin-off game, but I really dislike the lack of villager friendship building within the game. In all the past games, I made a point of visiting my villagers every day and doing little cute tasks for them (such as delivering items, burying time capsules, etc). In Happy Home Designer, you can visit them after designing their homes, but you can’t have an extended conversation. I suppose this is Nintendo’s method of making sure you don’t abandon your villagers in New Leaf!

One of the huge features Nintendo took out of Happy Home Designer that has been consistently present is the presence of a village. You can run around the main town centre, which is about double the size of the Main Street in New Leaf, But one of Animal Crossing’s original core themes was the idea of escaping to a little paradise. You don’t really get to escape in Happy Home Designer, as there isn’t any room for hapless wandering or a spot of fishing. You can walk around your various buildings, but that gets tiresome after a while.

The music also gets pretty repetitive as well. Apart from the music you can integrate into villager homes/buildings, there are only about four core pieces of music played throughout. Coming back to the real-world after a weekend of binge-playing the game left me with an ear-worm. The soundtrack itself isn’t bad, unlike New Leaf’s widely-criticised soundtrack, but it is still enough to drive anyone insane.

The Verdict

My verdict on the game? Despite playing it at first with apprehensions, the changes which I was ready to slate are actually quite great. For a spin-off game, it isn’t cruddy or glitchy – it sets out what it intends to do pretty flawlessly. If you’re looking for a change of pace gaming-wise, or just a change of pace at all, then this game could be the solution for you.

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