Animal Crossing: New Leaf was the first Animal Crossing game I ever played a few years ago, and I fell in love with its cute, light-hearted characters and relaxing gameplay. A spin-off inspired by the modelling and styling of your own home that takes place in New Leaf came out last year. Having finally gotten around to buying and trying, I can say I am enjoying it a lot!
The premise of Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer is exactly as you’d expect. Whereas in New Leaf you were buying your house extensions from Nook’s Homes, this time around you’re on the other side, working as an employee of Nook’s Homes. It’s now your job to snap up residents wandering around the little town and design their new home and garden.
The actual home designing gameplay is pretty simple, and also very similar to ACNL. All the furniture you will need to arrange a room or garden tastefully to your client’s needs is categorised into broad categories such as furniture, wall mounted, window, ceiling, carpet and wallpaper or rug, and then into smaller categories such as kitchen, lamps, chairs, curtains, toys and so on.
From this point it’s as simple as rotating and placing your furniture (you can drag it around and rotate as much as you want after you’ve placed it to find the perfect spot). If you decide you don’t like an item after all you can easily drag it to a trash can at the bottom of the screen. The game also lets you rotate the camera and zoom in to almost eye level or out to a bird’s eye style view so you can get the best idea of what the room looks like from every angle, and take screenshots with your DS.
Once you’ve finished, you’ll be granted a cute cut scene of your client wandering around and getting comfortable in their new home which showcases your finished work to its best and is cute to watch.
Once your animal chum has moved into their new home, you’ll unlock a new expression (you’ll remember these from New Leaf if you played it). You can also visit them (you know, to show you care that they’ve settled in okay and everything). After you have helped a few cute critters furnish their homes to their personal tastes, you will unlock the “Happy Home Handbook”. By spending a few play coins you can unlock a lesson, which is essentially a new feature to designing homes, which adds an extra dimension to gameplay.
As well as helping individuals settle into the town by designing their homes, you will also be approached by Isabelle (assistant to the mayor in New Leaf) who asks you to help develop the town itself and work on projects such as designing a classroom, cafe, shop and hospital. Once these have been designed you will see the town’s residents happily wandering around and enjoying each new institution in a cut scene, and you can later visit these places to see the villagers enjoying them. The more places you help Isabelle develop, the more critters you’ll attract to the town!
My only real complaints about this game are that it only lets you carry out one design project “per day” within the game. After that, you are automatically taken back to Nook’s Homes, and have to save your progress before the next day will commence. This is mildly annoying if you just want to play continuously for a while without saving. My other complaint is that even with new unlockable features, the home designing aspect itself is incredibly simple. The client will provide with their must have furniture and the furniture’s themes will match the request in a really obvious way e.g. “robo” furniture for someone who wants a tech heavy home. While you can still inject your own personal creativity into it which is fun, it would be nice to see the difficulty increase a little as the game progresses, such as having multiple criteria to meet, time limits, or other little challenges to help keep things fresh.
It would also be nice to see existing residents come back to Nook’s Homes and ask you to do up an extra room they’ve added, or change things around in their existing room to match a new request. However, you can visit them and change up their house to your liking, and with plenty of newbies showing up with unique requests, and a lot of town development, there’s still a ton of gameplay. The extent to which you find it too simple and repetitive will depend on how much you love arranging and styling rooms and gardens.
Nintendo have also developed Amiibo cards which are compatible with this game. If you have a newer DS console, or an older one with an external NFC reader, read this article to learn more about how to use them – Animal Crossing Amiibo Cards
Although Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer could have done with a little variety in the home design gameplay to make things more interesting, it’s still a lot of fun, and definitely worth a purchase if you enjoyed arranging your ideal home in New Leaf! I can’t wait to see what Animal Crossing games will come out next.