→ Xander Davis (TheRingofChaos)
There are two types of Animal Crossing players: the Designers, and the Socializers. The designers being the ones that enjoy building magnificent houses, and the Socializers being the ones that enjoy the other main aspects of Animal Crossing. I consider myself a Designer, but that hasn’t always worked out in my favor; for the longest time, the user interface for moving furniture has been clunky and slow, and it would take absolutely forever to find the furniture that I wanted in the first place. Luckily, Nintendo seems to have realized this, and have created Happy Home Designer, which as you likely guessed from the title, is about designing homes. Does it succeed in what it does? Well, that’s a bit iffy.
As you can tell, the major gameplay mechanic of this game revolves around building houses for all your favorite Animal Crossing villagers, using a revamped simple touch interface to drag and drop items. This isn’t the only change, as plenty of other smaller tweaks have also been added, such as the ability to place items on half tiles, design outside the homes, and plenty more. The main thing the developers were looking to add in this game was better accessibility, and they completely nailed that. Building a house in HHD takes minimal work, and the real challenge comes in making it look good.
There is a lot of stuff to unlock, and the game does a pretty decent job of giving it to you as you play. Besides furniture, there are several features you can unlock in the Happy Home Handbook, by spending Play Coins. These include ceiling furniture, custom designs, new items, and more. It should be noted that you can only unlock one handbook each in-game day, which is made easier by the fact the the game no longer runs in real-time. The dialogue in these handbooks are incredibly humorous, which also applies to the rest of the games writing. I have to give it to the localization team; they really did a brilliant job with this game.
Like I said before, you can design houses. However, the game lets you go beyond that, as you can actually create a whole town! Once you have the ability to build the town unlocked, you can start building all kinds of different buildings, from hotels to schools to even office buildings. This was by far my favorite part of the game, as I really enjoyed making these large scale facilities and then seeing the animals interact with them.
I am aware that there is an elephant in the room that needs addressing: amiibo. And to be honest, I actually quite like it! You see, Nintendo has made a whole new format of amiibo just for this game: cards. The come in random packs of 6, with 5 villagers and 1 special character. I had a lot of fun opening and collecting these cards, but I just wish there was some way to buy them all at once, as opposed to blind bags. By scanning in a villager card, you will be able to design their house for them, which is also possible via playing the game. The real draw here is building houses for the special characters, which are amiibo exclusive house requests. They all have unique dialogue, and are great, but again, I just wish they were easier to collect.
I really want to like this game, but the sad fact is, it’s incredibly flawed. There are minor things, such as the little amount of much dialogue, the lack of anything to do besides house designing, and the fact that you get literally nothing for beating it. And, of course, there are the big things.
This is where my biggest disappointment in Happy Home Designer lies: It is impossible to not please the animals. As long as you unpack the boxes and leave the items there, they’ll be happy. There isn’t even a HHA rating system, which they could’ve easily brought back. This singlehandedly make the game way less fun than it would’ve been, and it just discourages you from doing anything other than unpacking the boxes. While I consider some of the houses I mad ‘nice’, I wouldn’t say that I felt very motivated to make them that way. If it weren’t for this single flaw, I would’ve absolutely loved this game.