With a title that says, “amiibo Festival,” you would think Animal Crossing: amiibo Festival would showcase the full range of possibilities Nintendo has in mind for the series. After spending well over 15 hours with the game, I can say that I certainly hope that is not the case. While the game does do some interesting things, overall, it is a major disappointment on multiple levels.
From the get go, you need amiibo. This is, perhaps, why Nintendo hasn’t released a digital version of the game, though a free digital version might have won over more fans (I’ll get to that later). You can’t even start up the game without a non-Villager amiibo figure, which feels incredibly odd, and must play two full board game matches before you’re able to explore beyond the title screen. The shortest games last over 30 minutes at a minimum, probably closer to 40 or 50, while a full game will take over an hour and a half with four players (or by yourself trying to level figures as fast as possible).
The game mostly plays like a physical board game, which might not really be that fun. For example, dice cards in real life could be traded or sold among players, but amiibo Festival doesn’t allow that. Essentially, the board game is Mario Party without player interaction (mostly). There’s little players can do to help or hinder each other, and there are no mini-games except random board events.
Since there’s little strategy, waiting for your turn is incredibly boring. You can’t skip dialogue scenes you’ve seen a million times, which is a big reason why games take so long. Painfully, rolling dice via amiibo gets old fast, but it’s the only way you can play. I don’t know who at Nintendo is telling the developers otherwise, but I still don’t know anyone who enjoys this.
The colored spaces on the board during events, like fishing tournaments, don’t seem to matter, making the game feel even more random. There are tons of “green spaces,” so green looks like the “normal” spots to land on. However, landing on green spots has often led to wins, but silvers have often lost to green. It’s very frustrating, much like many (poorly made) board games.
The game does try to boast some customization options, but they’re quite pitiful. You can load more people to town square (acting as a lobby for other mini-games when you don’t play the board game) with amiibo figures and cards, but doubles do nothing if you have the amiibo (i.e. My KK amiibo, card, and DJ KK card don’t spawn different versions of the character), and there is a hard cap of about 30 villagers.
For the board game, I had to play three games before I could customize it. You can add up to eight villagers (no special characters or repeats, so your rares are useless here), but cards don’t upload house exterior customization beyond the building’s shapes, colors, and textures. Was the house on a cute hillside? It won’t show. Did you have a nice garden? It won’t show. Not even your fence shows; only the house, roof, and door. Inside of houses in scenes don’t change at all. I was hoping for a better, if only cosmetic tie-in with Happy Home Designer, but was left severely disappointed, especially since the board changes very little.
See, you can add other structures, like Stonehenge and a Police Station using tickets earned in the game which can potentially add some new paths to the board, but they’re mostly useless. You will most likely only go around the outside of the board because the stamp mechanic, which is the best source of happiness points needed to win the game and level your amiibo figures (unlocking only simple costumes and cosmetic emotions), doesn’t move from the four corners of the board. This essentially ruins any kind of path customization or even board customization, making the game even more like a strict, physical board game with arbitrarily rigid rules. In short, the board game is boring, and it would take at least an update to move around stamp locations to make the game seem fit as a virtual title.
Being an “amiibo festival,” you would hope that there would be more than just a board game, and you would be happy to know that Nintendo at least tried to play with the concept. Earning tickets from the board game or other games helps you unlock more mini-games, but very few are worth your time.
Balloon Island is a multiplayer game that has you using amiibo cards to drop characters on balloons and (hopefully) a moving island to earn points, but it’s hard to move cards off and steer characters with the controller at same time. and there are only cosmetic differences character cards.
Amiibo Card Battle has very good potential as an actual card game that could work online. Players choose six cards and match them with a “theme,” (i.e. number greater than one). However, if you play the right astrology symbol, you reverse the rules (i.e. now you want a number closer to one). It makes use of so many aspects of the cards (appearance, astrology sign, and dice number), and cinches Nintendo’s reason for multiple amiibo cards of the same characters (same character but different die variable), but limiting all players to the same pool of cards strangles the game’s potential, as does keeping it limited to only local play.
Acorn Chase also doesn’t allow doubles of the same character (no using two different KKs), but I have no idea why, and, well, it’s not fun. You are gathering acorns while being chased by a lawn mower, but have to move by tapping cards. Again, the tapping mechanism isn’t fun, partially because it’s not reliable. The sensors aren’t good enough; sometimes it doesn’t read the card fast enough, or it reads twice when you think you only tapped once, leading to unfair deaths.
Mystery Campers allows doubles, probably because it makes the game harder. You choose several cards, see them sitting by a fire, and then tap to figure out the order of four out of six amiibo who are hiding in tents. Again, Nintendo, please listen: tapping isn’t fun. At all. The idea for the game is interesting, but the tapping makes it tedious. Maybe a rumble or something with various intensities could make the tapping less boring for this particular game, but as is, the tapping is a mechanic that bogs down gameplay that can be more enjoyably played without the cards. And this is where you’ll start seeing a theme.
Quiz Show allows you to use doubles (like two versions of KK’s card), but your card is just your player — no advantages or disadvantages, just different skins. You have to tap your card when the light is over your character to have a chance to answer the question, but, well, as a teacher, I can tell you this game is pretty flawed.
For example, “Terrifying sharp teeth” was the description used in a fish matching game. The “right” answer was piranha, but I chose hammerhead shark. Piranha may be better, but this doesn’t seem like a good question to me when there’s such a short time limit (10 seconds to answer but you have eight answers to read). On a school test, you might get something like this, but you usually have a solid amount of time and no one waiting to answer the question if you aren’t fast enough. This can be harder with four players since you risk damaging cards in the rush to answer first. Add to it the challenge of watching two screens, watching for the light to appear on your character while also watching the question on the main screen, updates between two screens (some times the main screen has a hint, or the GamePad eliminates an incorrect answer), and again making you tap. Oddly enough, there are no tie breakers at the end, making the whole mini-game feel like it’s a joke competition even in the game itself.
To make things worse, you also can tap an amiibo figure to ask for help (Mabel made no comment that Sable called her, Red asking Tom Nook for help with no commentary feels like a wasted opportunity; the same text is given to all characters that call that amiibo figure, but you can use same figure multiple times). A wrong answer means you can’t play the next round (or that one if you use you card at the wrong time). The one nice touch is that you can’t call cards if the same amiibo character is playing (KK can’t call himself and Tom Nook next to him can’t call KK either, even if it’s an alt suit next to you breaking this one small immersive detail).
Fruit Path is yet another mini-game that could be played more enjoyably without cards. The path shows three out of the next six spaces, with big rewards being marked on a countdown. You have to move according to dice on the card, but watch out for pitfalls (you see dig spots on the ground, but they’re not always pitfalls, which only makes the game seem more random than skill based). It’s very straightforward and uninspired. It’s far too simple, and the cards once again only serve to make the simple game needlessly complicated and slow.
Resetti Bop suffers the same fate as the acorn, quiz, and fruit games. It’s rock paper scissors with three amiibo cards of your choosing, and you whack Resetti if you tap the right card at the right time (that’s why there’s the rock, paper, or scissors icon on each card!). Again, tapping isn’t fun. This is a game that could have been played with a controller much more easily.
The biggest gem of the whole game is Desert Island, which I played at least as much as the board game. You choose cards to bring with you, and generally animal families share the same unique powers (i.e. dogs and chickens can sniff out nearby objects) with lots of variations. You’re trying to get three logs and a sail to build a raft in a certain amount of days, also trying to gather food and avoid pitfalls and dangerous creatures.
Again, if this had been made into an online game, Desert Island could be more interesting, with players teaming up with their own teams and trying to escape together or escape first, maybe leveling cards similar to amiibo in the main board game. It really could be expanded on in ways that feel very obvious. It could be Nintendo’s way of entering the popular online card game scene in a way totally and completely unique to Nintendo, something they do best, but Blizzard Entertainment usually dominates these days. Instead of forcing consumers to buy what I consider grossly overpriced and content-poor trading cards, you could be given the choice to either use cards or “buy” in-game cards by playing for in-game currencies, like free-to-play games do.
Overall, Animal Crossing: amiibo Festival almost feels like a tech demo. $60 for two figures and three cards (a Japanese booster with no rares) means you’re paying about $30 for a game that feels like many free-to-play games (both good and bad). The included figures and cards still feel stingy considering the overall price and what you need to get a lot out of it. Amiibo Card Battle and Desert Island stand out as possible stand alone winners, but even they truly need more development. The additional cost to experience these mini-games may not be worth it for everyone. The main game doesn’t need the cards at all from the feel of it, and having them adds very little for the most part. For an amiibo festival, the game is truly lacking on festivities.
I certainly feel that the amiibo aspect of the game should be the only price cost on this game. There are some decent ideas, but so much is poorly executed or mishandled that the game feels like a stain not only on the Animal Crossing franchise, but on Nintendo and the amiibo brand as well. If this is all Nintendo can bring to an amiibo party, we all may be in trouble.