I’ve been playing Animal Crossing since the Japanese Gamecube version and I’m still playing New Leaf daily, more than two years after it came out. Even so, I only had a vague interest in this new spin off, Happy Home Designer, until I started seeing screenshots on Tumblr and then I got more and more excited and pre-ordered it. These are all my own screenshots.
Instead of being the mayor of a town, in this game you’re just the newest employee at Nook’s Homes and help new villagers to design their homes according to their wishes. It sounds pretty repetitive, but new things are introduced all the time to keep things interesting. By the time you’ve worked through the designer handbook, you can decide everything about each home from the interior choices on furniture, rugs, lighting, doors and windows, sounds and more, plus how the house looks from the outside including adding any items to their garden. You can choose from lots of different plots by the sea, on a mountain top, in the desert etc., with each having different weather options. If you’ve got the time, you can create something that really suits your villager in every way.
After a few tutorial homes, you get let loose to choose which villagers to work with and each one will have a specific theme in mind that unlocks new items that you can then use again in future homes. The entire Animal Crossing cast of characters is in the game so it will take a long time to get though and I’m finding that characters I would normally find boring and annoying can be just as fun to design for as my favourite cuties. I’ve done everything from a chocolate theme to a haunted house!
It can get a little stressful with so many things to choose from, but they’re organised quite well and moving stuff around with the stylus is a dream compared to previous games. You have so much more control and can centre things on tables, hang clothes on the wall and even add extra rooms for a separate bedroom or kitchen. Apart from a couple of items the villager requests, everything is up to you and they’re always delighted with the results so there’s no pressure at all. You can also go back and offer them a redesign at any time once you unlock new items or have a fun new idea.
You also get to design a series of buildings for the town including shops, restaurants, an office, school, concert hall and hotel. These are much bigger projects with multiple floors and rooms and thankfully you can save your progress so you don’t have to do it all in one go. You can visit the buildings and individual villagers at any time later to find them working and shopping and cooking and move them around for fun photos. Any projects you’re really proud of can be uploaded to the Happy Home Network on the internet for other players to view and rate. You can check out my rock venue with the QR code below!
There’s also a card reader that you can use to design houses for special characters and use with amiibo cards, but it’s not necessary – I don’t have one. Add in special projects that can be downloaded from the internet and hotspots and a monthly challenge and I can imagine playing this for quite a long time. If you enjoy the design part of previous Animal Crossing games and wish you had more control over your villagers’ homes and the rest of the town, you’ll love this. If you mainly enjoy chatting to your villagers, doing errands and catching bugs, you might find it a bit limited. I’m enjoying it a lot and finding it’s really quite addictive!
Happy Home Designer is available as a standalone game or as a bundle with the card reader or new DS. It’s also available for download from the Nintendo eShop. Anyone else playing? I’m posting more screenshots at Quincy & Usagi, me and my sister’s AC blog.
(This is not a sponsored review – I paid for it with my own money and just love it a lot!)
Marceline is the co-founder and editor of Super Cute Kawaii and author of The Super Cute Book of Kawaii. She also designs cute character goods as Asking For Trouble. Having visited Japan five times, Marceline is enormously inspired by all things Japanese and especially loves bunnies, space and any kind of food object with a happy face.