Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer


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.

Requests usually aren't this niche...
Requests usually aren’t this niche…
Help your client pick a spot for their house and a floorplan
Help your client pick a spot for their house and a floorplan
Your chibi clients bring only a few treasured items and let you pick the rest trusting
Your chibi clients bring only a few treasured items and let you pick the rest yourself…how trusting

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.

A close up view...
A close up view…
...and a long distance shot. Looking good!
…and a long distance shot. Looking good!

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.

This bunny likes to sit and stare into the void...each to their own
This bunny likes to sit and stare into the void…each to their own
You can also style the garden space for your client too!
You can also style the garden space too!

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.

The Happy Home Handbook lets you unlock new features - neat!
The Happy Home Handbook lets you unlock new features – neat!

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!

A newly designed cafe!
A newly designed cafe!

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.

Some people take getting their five a day very seriously...
Some people take getting their five a day very seriously…
So I'm just going to leave this briefcase of cash here...and you're going to tell Nook's Homes you loved my house design, deal?
“So I’m just going to leave this briefcase of cash here…and you’re going to tell Nook’s Homes you loved my house design, deal?”

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.


Animal Crossing: New Leaf

Residents are full of adorable little quotes
Residents are full of adorable little quotes

It’s hard to explain the allure of Animal Crossing to someone who’s never played it without coming off as a bit weird. “Yeah, I dig up fossils and collect things and sell them to make my house pretty?” But the key selling point of Animal Crossing New Leaf is its simplicity. Lots of little activities add up to make a unique and personable game.

Your role in the game is as mayor of your very own town. As mayor you can pick and choose projects to develop for the town, building fountains, lamp posts, fire hydrants and other fixtures wherever you like. This personalisation is a large part of the enjoyment of the game, alongside arranging the town as you choose, you can buy items for your very own house, arranging each room to your choosing, and pick out your own fashion and accessories.

To do a lot of these things in the game require the town’s currency, Bells. This is earned by collecting fruit off trees, fishing, and digging – Animal Crossing encourages complete interaction with your environment. Interacting with the chibified animal villagers in your town will also sometimes get you free gifts – though you should talk to them anyway as they’re full of adorable phrases like “I’ve got a dream to eat rainbow sherbet til I can’t eat any more!” Different villagers leave and move into your town over time, so if there are any you don’t like (a rare occurrence!) you might not have to see them about for too long anyway.

Although a lot of the game centres on finding objects to sell in order to buy things or pay off your house expansions and town works, there are a lot of other features you can enjoy. You can travel to other towns to visit friends, donate fossils to the museum or visit the eternally tropical island and play fun mini games to earn medals and rare items. The Dream Suite feature even lets you visit the towns of people all over the world (provided you have internet access) and have a nosy at how other people have styled their town.

Seeing the Northern Lights on Animal Crossing is almost as cool as seeing them in real life, right?
Seeing the Northern Lights on Animal Crossing is almost as cool as seeing them in real life, right?

One thing I really enjoy about the game is that the weather changes with the seasons. It’s a neat little touch that helps keep the game feeling fresh, you can pootle around in spring blossoms, under autumn leaves or through winter snow. You can also take part in themed events that occur on particular days. These include the obvious celebrations for holidays like Halloween and Christmas to other fun events such as bug catching contests, or fireworks on every Sunday of August. As this game can get a bit repetitive (catch things, sell them, buy things, repeat), these little touches help to keep the game fresh. I’ve been playing it on and off for the past year, so I’d say it has a pretty long lasting appeal as you can dip into it whenever you like.

Take a trip into an adorable world – Animal Crossing: New Leaf is available now for Nintendo 3DS.