Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer Review

It may seem like I’m a little late to the party, but having played the game since the Japanese release with probably close to 100 hours under my belt, experience with the amiibo cards, and a critical eye towards the game’s biggest cash sink, you may want to consider this a slightly more informed review compared to your average day one review. I bought the game not once, but twice, and I assure you there’ll be no perfect score here. Curious?

As you probably have read in other reviews or even my preview, this game is a really stripped down version of the typical Animal Crossing experience. No paying rent, doing chores, or anything related to earning bells, just decorating and experiencing the atmosphere. Truthfully, it’s taken me awhile to figure this out, but the game’s essentially a giant dollhouse. Don’t take that the wrong way though — any boy will tell you how much more satisfying it is to have Batman and Joker figures duking it out in Barbie’s nice big dream mansion rather than those puny playsets, what with so many dainty pieces of furniture to knock over. Instead of a rough and tumble battle though, you can decorate cute animal houses to be a little creepy, weird, funny — whatever you want. It’s just that it takes a while for you to realize this.

Tortimer’s retired but not fully out of the game (found at 0302-7782-194)

See, one of the biggest complaints about the game is that you don’t get a rating for your decorating style from the animals, and I’ll admit, that was one of my original complaints. It’s fun to try to make a house you think the character would like, and the lack of feedback is initially unsatisfying.

However, after a while, you start to remember that one of the things that makes the Animal Crossing series beautiful is the amount of control the player has. Having a point system is actually one thing that ruins my design drive because I obsess over the game’s Feng-shui and house rating. I usually use another house for decorating, but that’s kind of time consuming, and expensive. AC:HHD frees me from point systems that usually discourages more open play, and I’ve seen I’m not the only one that feels that way.

Muggle approved
Muggle approved (found at 0408-7729-385)

You can blast past the game to the end credits within a few hours if you want by just placing the required furniture pieces and telling the customer you’re done, and they’ll be happy with their single room with a couch and TV with or without all the extra stuff you and I would expect a real home decorator to add. The “story” isn’t very long, but even though this was my second time playing, I found myself decorating despite my initial goal. It’s really hard not to since it’s so easy to get inspired by the furniture and settings. I feel like I’ve designed hundreds of houses, but in reality, skipping the homes I powered through, it might be closer to 30 or 40; I just spend a lot of time on them. Rooms tend to take me 20 minutes or more to finish, but it’s nice that I can spend short bursts of time on design and not have to worry about doing one of the series’ usually daily tasks, like watering all my flowers.

That’s also sort of a downside of the game. You create these really neat “dollhouses,” and it’s nice that the new online options not only lets you share them, but lets real people rate them (which is so much more satisfying than a point system). The Twitter integration helps too! The additional ability to use QR codes from past games didn’t go unnoticed, which makes the game feel somewhat connnected to the usually more developed AC entries. However, there’s not a lot of deep interaction with AC:HHD‘s decorating. We can’t copy a house and bring it to our town to rework it. The areas don’t change. We can’t even change the dialogue or leave some kind of reward for players unless you’re into making themes to show a story.

This gets worse when you add in the amiibo cards as a gating mechanism, preventing us from decorating series staple characters’ homes unless we have the right card randomly found in packs. You’re paying $40 US for the base game, then $6 per pack, which is about $1 per card. However, let’s be honest: most people are after the rares, of which you only get one of, randomly. I covered this previously, but in short, it doesn’t feel like it’s a good way to spend you money. You can totally play the game without the cards, but knowing what you’re missing is frustrating with the amiibo phone and icons constantly on display. It seems like a real world gimmick that’d play out in a mobile title.

Someone must dislike their neighbor (found at 0498-7754-420)

However, this is actually kind of a good complaint, in that I feel like AC:HHD could work very well as a starting point to lure in the younger generation of mobile-obsessed gamers. Pokemon Shuffle was reworked into a mobile title, so I figure this game could work too, despite the rather steep purchase fee when you consider the price you might pay for similar games made by anyone other than Nintendo.I still recommend this game for anyone who enjoys the Animal Crossing series or wants a very small peak at why people love it, especially if you’re more of a mobile gamer. However, if you’re price conscious or looking for a really new experience, it’s easy to skip the game and find similar indie titles for cheaper, though admittedly few will have the polish a Nintendo product will have.

This may be the end of my review, but that doesn’t mean our coverage of AC:HHD is over. Keep designing houses and check back with us, as we plan to explore some of the things youthe readers, are doing with the game!

Published by Laguna Levine

Laguna Levine, who did not appear in Final Fantasy 8, is the illegitimate son of famous explorer Toma Levine, disowned for forsaking the family tradition of moustaches to join Team Beards. That's fine though, since both are translated into the same word in Japanese, the language of Laguna's current home country. When he's not writing about games, culture, food, or mythology, Laguna's teaching English, sometimes even with the help of games without getting fired.