Animal Crossing: New Leaf released on the 3DS back in 2013. As our readers may recall, it was not only one of my favorite games on the system, but one of my favorites in general. It still is. AC:NL was my first ever dive into the world of Animal Crossing, and after nearly 2.5 years, I’m left wondering why I never picked up any previous titles.
As players may recall, you’re the new mayor of a town after Tortimer retires and goes on permanent vacation (for real, not the vacation you tell your kids their pets went on after they died while they were in school). As you go through the game, you slowly start to build the town up and acquire new items. After a while, you can effectively break the game’s mechanics and complete tasks much faster. It’s fun to build relationships with other villagers, see some off, and welcome new ones in. One of the major components of AC:NL was the array of items you could acquire in order to individualize your home. Hell, my front room is an arcade with a side room leading to a movie theater. It’s wonderful ever after years of play.
Imagine my delight when I saw Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer announced at E3 a few months ago! It’s a whole game centered around designing other townsfolk’s homes in an effort to build relationships and create a self-sustaining town. Well… we partially got that.
You start off as the new employee of the Happy Home Academy (HHA), which is an organization centered around ensuring homes ooze feng shui. You go about the small town area, seek out new clients and then drive out to a location (of your choosing) and set up a living space for them. You design the house’s outward appearance, as well as the yard space and indoors based on the vague description given by the client. As you enter into the home, you’ll notice a few boxes with items in them; which are released when tapped on the bottom 3DS screen. The items are essential and need to be included in the home design in order to make your clients happy. As you progress, Isabelle will enlist your help in renovating the town with new buildings to keep citizens happy. You’ll find a list that includes items that need to be in your final design in order to finish. You’ll discover more clients as you build up the town, as well at new items in your inventory as you keep playing.
So, here’s the overall issue with the game: IT’S TOO EASY. Not that Animal Crossing games are notorious for being difficult, by they (at the very least) offer a decent challenge. Your necessary items are included in every household, and as long as they’re in the design somewhere, you can literally do anything you like and pass. If your villager wants his prized tea set in the room, as long as it’s in there, you can make the most drab and ugly room imaginable so long as you haven’t discounted their prized item. In fact, there isn’t even room for failure or disappointment because you can’t actually complete your task if their prized item is missing. So basically, you can’t fail at anything you do. To top it off, this is literally all you do. Turn it on, complete a task, check in and complete the day; start over again.
This could have easily been avoided if items had been limited from the beginning and the game worked in real time like previous installments. Perhaps I do up a client’s home and I acquire unwanted items, which I keep in my inventory and use in the remodeling of other client’s homes. Maybe I have to go out and buy items at other points in order to make my clients happy. Any sort of challenge would have been fantastic!
Of course, this isn’t to say that the game isn’t fun; it is. It’s filled typical Animal Crossing quirks and charm that we’ve come to expect, and it serves are cute filler while waiting for other games to release. But the $40 price tag seems exceptionally cheap when considering that it feels like, at best, $20 DLC that should have been added to New Leaf. It feels shoehorned in, especially when you remember that the Amiibo cards got released in addition to the game and work with it. They simply allow you to fix up main character’s homes, like Tom Nook or Isabelle, along with a variety of other characters that come in random card packs.
If you have younger kids though, this would be a perfect game for them. I may, at some point, pick this up for my niece who really enjoyed the home design aspects of New Leaf… and not much else. Overall, it’s not bad, but it definitely isn’t geared toward me. I can’t say I’m not enjoying it, but it offers little or no challenge and everything you do seems arbitrary. But for a kid, I could imagine them having a blast.