Happy Home Designer gently puts you to work

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I stopped playing Animal Crossing: New Leaf on May 5, 2014. That’s two days after my favorite villager Sylvia’s birthday. I missed her party. I meant to go all out and get her every gorgeous, pink item I could find, wrapping each up in special paper to make her day all the more memorable. Instead, I blanked and didn’t even show. With panicky fingers, I visited her only to discover her entire home in boxes, ready to be picked up and moved by a service of muscles. She was leaving me. I tried my everything to convince her to stay, but it was too late–she was unmovable. Or rather, completely movable.

It was hard to step away from Animal Crossing: New Leaf, a game which still to this day sits at the top of my Nintendo 3DS stats as my most played game, with only a few others creeping near it. And yet, Sylvia’s departure from my town, as well as her finally giving in and presenting me with her portrait only a few weeks before, unfolded right around the time my marriage was concluding. Two lives ending in unison, and me, standing still, scared and uncertain of what I could do. Thankfully, to help ease the nights, another game swooped in and stole all my attention.

Well, Happy Home Designer is not another full-blown Animal Crossing title, and that’s fine. I’m not ready to commit once more. Instead, it takes elements from the main series, specifically the home decoration aspect, and expands it into a full-time job for your character, who is no longer mayor of the town, but once again another employee of that nefarious rascal Tom Nook. As the newest designer at Nook’s Homes, you’re given the power to create homes, yards, and other buildings, inside and out, with the main goal of making your animal client friends happy. You can help out one client or building request from Isabelle per day–that’s in-game per day, not real life–and before you call it a night, you can spend Play Coins to study your handbook and acquire new blueprints, items, and other decorative thingies for future use.

For some people, decorating is not the siren’s call of the Animal Crossing series. They might prefer fishing and collecting bugs, selling beetles from the tropical island for a large amount of Bells, or doing all the community requests around your village. Or perhaps you really got into designing outfits. There’s also working at the cafe. I think the great thing about Animal Crossing is that it is wide open, and you can love what you love and go deep on it without completely pushing everything else out of the way. For instance, when my sister Jules was playing, she made a great effort to breed all the rarer flowers and enforced a strict “no running” rule when I’d visit her town.

For myself, I really enjoyed expanding and decorating my home, both in Animal Crossing: Wild World and Animal Crossing: New Leaf. I’ve gone to great strides to get rare furniture before. For the most part, I’d pick a theme for a room and work towards collecting items that were either officially part of the theme, like astro furniture only, or somehow related, like a meteor or toy rocketship to place in the corner. The struggle sometimes was finding all the pieces of furniture, which relied on the daily luck of the shop, the generosity of your neighbors, and whether or not you had a friend who could visit and dump everything you need at your tiny, pointy feet. Thankfully, Happy Home Designer gives you a large amount of the furniture objects to you right from the get-go, so you can attack your client’s house with all you have and not be restrained by things like missing lamps or using a chair that obviously clashes with the aesthetic.

Or, if you want, and this is something I don’t ever want, you can go against your client’s wishes and run amok in terms of design and feng shui. For instance, say a squirrel wants a forest-themed house, but you decide to fill it up with pink princess furniture, robots, and all things not related to the forest. As far as I can tell, the job will still get done, and the client might be okay with it. There doesn’t seem to be any penalty for going outside the box, but I prefer to accomplish what the buyer is paying for. I mean, you’ll still get something to eat if you order a hot dog and get a hamburger instead, but that doesn’t mean you’re one hundred percent satisfied with the course of action.

I’ll never stop moaning and groaning over the severe lack of Play Coin integration during the lifetime of the Nintendo 3DS, but the Animal Crossing series has at least tried here and there. In this one, before you clock out for the day and count some sheep that hopefully look nothing like Pietro, you can spend Play Coins, ranging from one to five (so far), to upgrade your decorating abilities and the items available to you, as well as other functions. Like, now I can change my avatar’s skin tone and hairstyle in the boutique section upstairs at Nook’s Homes. Also, I have every gyroid possible, simply at a fingertip’s reach. Same with famous pieces of art.

Now, you’ll recall I had a bad case of epic fail last time I went to GameStop. Well, seems like there was still some in my system when I went to purchase Happy Home Designer with a Christmas gift card. Speaking of cards, there are special amiibo cards for this game that allow you to personally invite celebrities like Tortimer and DJ KK to Main Street and help construct a home for them. Since I have a regular ol’ launch Nintendo 3DS, I asked the young man behind the counter if the amiibo cards would still work or if they only worked on the New Nintendo 3DS, which remains a terrible name to this day. I mean, there’s only one copy of the game, and the game itself comes with a card, so I hoped they would work no matter where you ended up playing it. The GameStop employee told me they would work. Got home, played for a bit, unlocked the amiibo phone, and nope–they do not. I’d have to buy some sort of electronic reader for $19.99 to get them to work, and I already spent enough money on the game and cards themselves that I’m annoyed by the whole process, so forget it.

I’m not playing Happy Home Designer every day like I did for Animal Crossing: New Leaf when I first got it and then for many, many months thereafter. Instead, I’m chipping away at it, doing a client’s request or a job from Isabelle, and then calling it a night. That’s fine. It’s a leisurely game about making animals happy, and making animals happy makes me happy, so this is how I get my fix when needed. However, I am curious to know how long this whole business plan lasts because, eventually, I will run out of clients and things to do.

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