Animal Crossing Happy Home Designer Review

I’ve been streaming Happy Home Designer on twitch since it’s release in Japan on 7/30. One of the questions I get asked the most, aside from “Do you speak Japanese?”—日本語が話せますよ! is “Is this game fun?” My typical response is “If you like designing houses in Animal Crossing, then yes.” And I stick by that answer, but I’d like to delve a little deeper into the changes from the regular games and why you may or may not like this game.

If you haven’t been researching here’s the low down on the game. Your character works in a real estate office (Tom Nook Housing) where you take on clients either by wandering around the town outside or by scanning amiibo cards. You can then pick their house’s location from a map, and I should probably also clarify—the spots on the map are reusable, so you can put down many more houses than will fit on that tiny little map. I think that you can have every single villager in one game if you so desire, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. You then design their house according to their wishes. There are always between 1-3 items they want in or outside of their house and so long as those items are present you can do whatever you want with their house. You can’t fail a house because you must have those items out before the villager will let you finish up. But you can put the requested items out and then put out items that you know the villager doesn’t want there just to be mean (I’m looking at you Kitt).

It’s not in real time. Think of each project as your 9-5 day. You get in to work it’s daytime. You design one house, you clock out (save), and then voilà it’s a new day. And you get to do it all over again. There is night in the game too. If you finish a project and go outside, or go to visit one if your previous clients before you save it will be nighttime (useful if you want to visit someone with the aurora, or in a creepy house).

Since it’s not in real time, the sad fact is that nobody knows or cares when your birthday is. But the upside to this is neither do you have to babysit clients so that they don’t list their houses and skip town.

There is no money. Tom Nook is still a fat cat raccoon who likes nothing better than to golf the day away, but you don’t have to squirrel away bells made from selling seashells to buy the king’s crown. All of the items you get in your catalog you get by playing the game. Each new client gives you items to help with their house. There are overlaps to the items and I may get a gorgeous counter from a different client than you do, but at the very least the client will happily give you their picture to make their housing dream come true (still waiting on that pic in New Leaf Aurora). Also, once you receive an item, you can use it as many times as you like. It’s unlimited.

There is no online to the game. Sorry folks, you won’t be visiting Yumi any time soon. The game does let you easily post pictures to twitter, tumblr, facebook, or miiverse, so you can share your masterpieces with your friends. They just can’t run over and chop down your trees.

Also, so far as I can tell you don’t get a house to design for your character. I’m on the fence about whether this is a bad thing. On the one hand, I totally think Yumi cries herself to sleep in her company car, but on the other, every single house that you design is your house. Or at least it uses your design sensibilities. I still think this would have been a great streetpass feature (there isn’t any—yet???).

This game is pretty big on instant gratification. While I miss Reese and Cyrus I do not miss dropping off my item and waiting an eternity for it to be remade, picking it up and then repeating that process 11 times for an entire set. You have to unlock remaking in this game. It will cost you a few play coins, but once you do remaking is instantaneous. You pick up a piece of furniture and drag it to the remake icon on the left of the screen where the magic happens.

Speaking of items, there are a ton of new items. You get little ducks, boxes of donuts which your clients wander around munching, and mountains of new food items (hope they’re all in the NA/EU releases, no way to know). Some of my favorite items have come from villagers I wouldn’t normally give a second glance to if they were in my campground: Walker the dog longed for a mountain bike and he came with all the trimmings to make his house into a sweet bike shop. Here’s what he came with for me. Items with an asterisk are new and I’ve translated them. That’s probably not what they’ll be called in the NA/EU version of the game:

tool cart*, toolbox*, tool shelf*, bike pump*, mountain bike, city bike*, pile of tires*, k.k. country, k.k. country (wall), Walker’s pic, steel frame wall*, concrete shop floor*, cycling shirt, cycling shirt (wall), no. 67 shirt, no. 67 shirt (wall), bike helmet, yellow umbrella

You may be wondering, what about fishing, catching bugs, and digging up gyroids? All of these items are in the game and unlockable using play coins to fund further study in the real estate business (you need around 30 coins to unlock everything) but you don’t have to perfect sneaking up on 426 elephant beetles to upgrade your home. These items are all just used as furniture, so a lot of the Animal Crossing that you know and love isn’t really a part of this game. Similarly there aren’t any festivals, but you may find clients who want samba Festivale houses (Portia), or who want every day to be a birthday party (Bunnie), so you can still experience some of the big moments from previous games without getting 6 Pavé clocks without a single closet.

Another question that comes up is, what about the amiibo cards? First off, you don’t need them to play the game. I played the game for about a week before mine arrived from Japan. I had a blast. But, if you want to design Isabelle’s house, or Redd’s counterfeit lair, you need the cards. NPC’s will never just roam your town in search of the perfect house. You have to cold call them using the “amiibo phone” to get them to come down to your office. But if you don’t feel you must catch them all, you can still have fun with the game. I should probably also mention that I thought the NPCs would come with super rare items and you would have to get them to get certain items. That’s not been the case. Lyle for instance only came with these: gold hha plaque, gold house model, k.k. tango, k.k. tango (wall), Lyle’s pic. I don’t know if you can get the HHA items from somebody else (Lyle likes to tango???), but it’s not a big loss in my opinion if you can’t. Also, the NPCs don’t come with specific demands for their houses. They tell you they’ll leave their house planning up to you, so if you’ve never thought about what sort of house Digby might want, you’d best put your thinking cap on, cause he ain’t gonna to tell you.

The other aspect to amiibo cards is that you can revisit houses you’ve designed and invite villagers—and some NPCs when they’re not busy—over to the house for a party. Once at the house you can dress yourself up (it’s the only time you get to ditch your work jacket, though you can change everything else about your wardrobe whenever you want), and even dress up villagers and give them hats and glasses. The NPCs usually have a “secret” outfit—sweatpants! or the like, but you can’t dress them up much. Once everybody is dressed you can place everyone in the room where you think they should go and take pictures to your heart’s content. Just don’t be surprised if someone falls asleep and won’t wake up for the camera.

Lastly I’ll talk about the town building. No, the able sisters don’t have a shop in town (Sable has an amiibo card and her sisters visit her), but you get to completely design 2 shops and a department store, so you could make a clothing shop to rival theirs. Or a candy shop, or a toast shop. How you design the shops is completely up to you (aside from a couple really easy parameters set by Isabelle). All total their are 10 buildings in the town: the aforementioned 2 shops and department stores, a school, a hospital, 2 restaurants, an office building, a music hall, and a hotel. You get to design these from the ground up and rebuild the little town next to your real estate office. The town comes alive as new clients and old clients alike wander around with shopping bags from the department store, ice creams, and soda and make it a joy to visit each time you’re looking for the next house to design.

In closing, after playing more than 60 hours, yes, I really like the game. And I hope to see some of the additions in future releases in the series. I do kind of miss hauling up sea bass after sea bass, but I can always put one in a client’s house to remind me of my time spent fishing.

Did I miss something? Leave a comment.

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