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Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer (3DS) Review

Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer is a great place to show off your design sensibilities, but not much else.

There’re several things you need to do in order to squeeze the most fun you possibly can out of Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer.

Number one, throw away what you expect from an Animal Crossing title.  You’ve upgraded from chores to an actual job, from debtor to employee.  You won’t be spending your days digging up fossils (in truth, you can buy the lot of them for just a few Play Coins).  You won’t be amassing bells or upgrading (or even designing) your own home.

Happy Home Designer strips the series down to a single, core element: the element of design.

Initially, I admit that did not sound to me like an excellent idea.  However (and it did take a while), Happy Home Designer eventually showed me that from that solid foundation could still be built a fun game.

The crux of HHD’s gameplay revolves around taking requests from any one of hundreds of traditional Animal Crossing townsfolk to design their living space.  While initially this involves only the interior, you eventually get to decorate the exterior, the yard, (a first for the series), and even pick the room layout of the house itself.  Then it’s up to you to utilize that animal’s favorite furniture in a room or set of rooms that follows their specific theme.

Except HHD isn’t too picky about how well you stick to that theme.  So long as you used those required furniture items (often only so many as three), then it doesn’t matter whether you cover the room with Christmas Trees, Grand Pianos or Paper Lanterns.  You’ll still pass, and your customer will still walk away happy.

On the one hand, this might seem unfortunate.  After all, there’s no challenge.  There’s no actual way to measure up your designing abilities, because no matter how awful you are, you’re carrying Nook’s Homes on your shoulders.

On the other, this allows you to have the freedom to actually design, to explore the options and the theme a little more figuratively.  For example, Shari the monkey wanted a place where she could lay on a bed of flowers.  I designed her final resting place, complete with picture and bouquets.  A bed of flowers, arguably, if not necessarily the one the developers and community expected.

Number two, then, is don’t be afraid to forgo the animals’ requests in order to design something a little more you. 

Because Happy Home Designer gives you the entire catalogue of Animal Crossing’s furniture, wallpaper, fish, fossils, and more, at an accelerated pace compared to the main game, you’re able to design the places you’ve only dreamed of designing, but might not have put the hours in to do so.

And also to design the places you might not have thought to when you’re thinking, “home.”  Enter my favorite element of Happy Home Designer: the facilities.

HHD’s facilities are places in town that New Leaf (and now the extended Animal Crossing catalogue) figure-head Isabelle requires your help for.  Simply, you get to design the buildings in town.  These range from school to hospital to restaurant, and designing them means you’re using pieces you might never have used before.  You might turn one room of the school house into an outdoor track or an indoor gymnasium, and another into a science classroom, a library, an art classroom, or a college auditorium (whatsoever you desire, really).

Most entertaining is that the townsfolk occupy these spaces as you gallivant around town, and their dialogue revolves around what they’re doing and where they are.  An animal in the school may fret about not having done the homework, while one in a restaurant might wonder why their food is taking so long.  It really serves to give the town a sense of place and life, like the animals actually live here.  It is certainly a step above the window-shopping of past games.  You can even choose what the animals wear in your facilities.  One haunted hotel I found online equipped its staff with Halloween costumes, while I made associates of my own pirate-themed restaurant dress for the sea.

When you share your town’s facilities online, it’s paying attention to these little details that will really make the difference in the way your designs are perceived.  It’s not enough to just pile a room full of Princess furniture and call it a day.  What will the guests wear?  What can you do with custom designs?  What kind of lighting and music really help to set the mood?

It’s not necessarily easy for novices to think in those terms, which is why the community elements of HHD are so important: other people’s houses are not only lessons in elements of design and atmosphere, they’re also a ruler to measure your own work up to, a goal to set to better yourself.

Once you’ve unlocked the community sharing capability, you’ve come upon the final thing you need to do to prepare yourself for Happy Home Designer: peruse the work of others to learn just how intricate and thoughtful the designs can get.  When I felt HHD slowing down (after I finished all of the facilities), I checked out some of what other people have been up to in order to rejuvenate my urge to design- and meet up to their precedent.

It’s nice to have, when the game has no real other way of ensuring you put any effort in.  And honestly, it’s all I really need.  Just like the Animal Crossing main game, there’s no real end-game goal, or goal in general.  You design houses, day to day, and how much you get out of Happy Home Designer is dependent entirely on how much you want to put in to designing the most intricate homes and facilities.  Happy Home Designer I imagine would be boring for people who want a game that they can finish- but hasn’t that always been the case with Animal Crossing?

Final Thoughts

Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer is not the next Animal Crossing main game, but the features it introduces- the much more intelligent interface for home design, the sense of life added to the town, yards, and the greater amount of control- hopefully will find their way into the next step of the franchise.  Happy Home Designer won’t be for everyone.  There’s no goal beyond designing the coolest home or office you can, no reward but community approval and self-satisfaction.  But for the people who create several characters in their Animal Crossing towns just to design more houses, Happy Home Designer is the perfect creative outlet.  You need look no further than the Happy Home Network to see just how rich the elements of creation on hand.

About Michael

Brutal Gamer's Nintendo Editor began his gaming life a little late- at five years old. But he's made up for it in the two decades since, gaming and writing about gaming with the same passion, fervor, and unrelenting love as his five-year old self.

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