Nintendo has a big franchise in Animal Crossing, for those who like the games, they spend months lost in the world of Animal Crossing. It doesn't matter which game it is for these people, Animal Crossing is fun so they will live out the same tasks over and over again, but what about if Nintendo shakes things up and shifts the focus to a single element, would these people stick around? Honestly for a spin off title, they would probably give it a go, but find themselves lost and away from what they love, however, where the main fan base may run from a spin off others can enter.
I have never hidden how much I dislike the Animal Crossing franchise, the standard games are tiresome, dull and to me they're never fun. But Nintendo is trying something different, they have spun off their franchise to offer a different experience and one that allows access for a new much different fan base, and while Happy Home Designer may alienate the Animal Crossing fans, it actually gives life to an otherwise lifeless franchise.
In Happy Home Designer you work in real estate agent Nook homes, you are a new employee who is quickly welcomed to the job and made to just jump in. Your job at Nook’s home is to be an interior decorator, and later landscaper and the entire game is built from this premise. The story of the game itself really does not extend beyond this opening introduction, but this is fine, actions speak louder than words and in this case, the gameplay is really all we should care about.
Happy Home Designer is all about flexing your creativity muscles, you are constantly tasked with designing rooms for your clients and with this following specific goals or setups that are requested. For the most part, clients are specific, they will usually say that they want a certain design for their rooms/ houses, often these come down to something like a polka-dot filled house, a garden perfect for children to play, and much more. Every client has a specific set of criteria which you need to follow and of which are all unique and mean that while working on client's houses I never felt like I was doing certain designs twice.
The only thing is, as creative as this game is, things do get repetitive really quickly, while each room presents several options for how you want to proceed everything is very much the same, every house you decorate takes the same form, place furniture, deal with the goal but sadly there is still a certain level of fun and interest. As much as I felt like I was repeating the same activities the game seemed to constantly evolve, new furniture options are constantly unlocked and the aforementioned flexing of your creativity is constantly welcomed, in fact, this is one of the biggest parts and the creative options are quite open, even to a point that extends further than it should be.
While we are technically given a goal by clients to fill, these are actually very basic. Most of the time clients are happy with you only doing the bare minimum of their goal. Often when you start work the clients present you with a couple of pieces which they want you to incorporate and just having these in their room will often leave them quite satisfied. Now this is a point that I thought was very stupid for multiple reasons, Nintendo seems to have taken things to a very easy level which from a player perspective is quite unsatisfying, likely the reasoning behind this is strictly so that young players didn’t need much thought to get a happy result.
This all means that you can do barely anything and move forward with a very happy customer which for me personally does not work. However, even if the clients don’t give a realistic viewpoint and only require the bare minimum, it comes down to the player, in this case, I decide what I think offers the best vision of the client's goal. I personally was never satisfied with going for the minimum and found it best to scour the furniture catalogues in order to find the best items to satisfy my client’s goals as well as create a proper house filled with things that make it a home. Being the best person you can be and creating the true vision of your client was a big goal for me and something that I think you need to follow up on in order to offer the best experience from the game, even if it asks the minimum I needed to attain my own goals and offer the best set up I could.
One further issue does persist which is honestly more frustrating than it’s worth, while I like creating my clients visions on the basic level of attaining their goals, things are far too easy. For every client's vision you receive brand new items that match what they want from their goal, while honestly, this is fine to help with forming a home that suits their goal. It does however make things too easy and offers no reward for trying to collect furniture items. The idea is useful, but at some level things do become shallow.
The further I into Animal Crossing Happy Home Designer, the better things got as new additions were added. One level of the game is about decorating houses, but things become better as you hit the next level. Through the game we get the ability to landscape the gardens of clients which was also pretty basic but fun in another way, then we also get new jobs such as businesses, as well as bonuses which allow for more personalisation to clients homes and buildings.
At a point in the game you unlock the Nook’s Home teaching book, with this book you can learn a new technique on every in game day. Each lesson costs a certain amount of play coins (which are unlocked through usage of the 3DS), and each is worth using to help make the game more fun. One of the big lessons you can learn is the ability to choose floor plans. This extends beyond the standard level of the early game, allowing you to choose room sizes as well as if your client's house will have one or two rooms. There are several of these lessons to go through and every one of them adds to the game, allowing for more options and further possibilities which make the options offered in designing places more fulfilling.
At the furthest level, Animal Crossing Happy Home Designer moves its focus from homes to town development, this for all intents and purposes works the same as everything else in the game except to a much bigger scale. You are tasked with decorating multiple shops and building outlets such as a school, a hospital, and even a music hall, and these all play out the same but is even more satisfying. On the whole you still work on a simple form of placing specific furniture, but the level of options to how you place additional items is your choice and these venues offer much greater opportunities which made me happy whenever I was afforded the chance to work on one of these shops.
The way Happy Home Designer plays is simple but also very much intuitive, for most of the game you operate things using the touch screen. You simply tap different icons on the touch screen to access catalogues then place specific items in the room, using this you can then go and alter items around the room to find the appropriate place. This is a simple system, but was quite enjoyable and I found it easy to work around my rooms and fill them, this just adds to the game and made me enjoy things more. Overall, this made it easier to jump into the game and made things more intriguing to me personally than a regular Animal Crossing game, and the level of items available to place through this system kept me quite happy.
So does Animal Crossing Happy Home Designer offer a change that welcomes non Animal Crossing fans? Personally, I think it does, those who don’t enjoy the aimless goals of the regular franchise will feel quite happy with the goals of this game and might actually have some fun. Things may not sound or even seem exciting, but it is enjoyable and honestly, this is the most fun I have had with an Animal Crossing game. The game is tiresome and tedious in places, but overall it does offer an enjoyable experience which should keep multiple people happy if only for a limited time.