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"Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer"—Nintendo 3DS Game Review

Jennifer Wilber is a teacher and writer. She holds a B.A. in English and an Associate's in Computer Game Design. She is a life-long gamer.

"Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer" for Nintendo 3DS

"Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer" for Nintendo 3DS

What Is Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer?

Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer is a 3DS spin-off game in the Animal Crossing series published by Nintendo. It was developed by Nintendo with the assistance of Monolith Soft. This game was released in Japan in July 2015, in North America in September 2015, and in PAL regions in October 2015. Unlike the main series Animal Crossing games, this game revolves mainly around designing homes for the animal villagers.

You can customize both the exterior and interior of your client's home.

You can customize both the exterior and interior of your client's home.

Gameplay

In Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer, you play the role of a new employee of Nook Homes. As an employee of Nook Homes, the animal residents need your help in designing the interiors and exteriors of their new homes. As you gain experience, you will also be able to choose the location of your customers’ homes, unlock new items to use in your designs, and get upgrades to be able to make bigger and better homes. You will also be able to design public buildings, including shops, a doctor’s office, and a school.

While you have the freedom to design the homes and buildings however you want for the most part, there are certain items that must be included for many of the projects. For example, the school classrooms always require a teacher’s desk and at least four chairs and tables for students.

Your character cannot have their own house in this game, unlike in the main-series Animal Crossing games. You can visit any of the homes you have already designed anytime you want however. You are also unable to change your outfit, as your playable character must always wear their work uniform. This game is definitely pared down from the main-series games in terms of features, but it is still a fun little game.

A small sampling of the many Animal Crossing Amiibo cards available to collect.

A small sampling of the many Animal Crossing Amiibo cards available to collect.

Amiibo Cards

Nintendo has released a special series of Animal Crossing Amiibo cards that are compatible with this game. While these Amiibo cards are a fun addition to the game, but they aren’t a necessity.

Most of the cards let you do design homes for villagers that can randomly show up in the game anyway. There are also special cards that allow you to call “Special People,” such as Isabelle, K.K. Slider, or Tortimer. The Amiibo cards can also be used to invite villagers to visit animals for whom you have already designed a home.

Every pack of Amiibo cards comes with five random regular cards and one random special card. These cards are reminiscent of the Animal Crossing e-Reader cards from the Game Cube era.

Show off your favorite designs via the Happy Home Network.

Show off your favorite designs via the Happy Home Network.

Happy Home Network

The Happy Home Network feature in the game can be accessed from the red computer in Nook’s Homes and is available after completing the second facility. This feature allows you to share your favorite designs and visit houses designed by other players. You can score designs in the Happy Home Network using the ratings Cute, Cool, Unique, or I'd live here! You can also give homes in the Happy Home Network a rating from 0–3.

Until June 2017, Happy Home Network could also be used to participate in design contests.

Use play coins to unlock the ability to import custom designs via QR codes, such as the Jigglypuff design on the wall in this screenshot.

Use play coins to unlock the ability to import custom designs via QR codes, such as the Jigglypuff design on the wall in this screenshot.

More Customization Via Play Coins

By using the handbook on your desk in Nook’s Homes, you can spend 3DS play coins to unlock new customization features to use in your designs. You are able to complete one lesson from the handbook per in-game day using play coins to unlock these new customization features. The unlockable upgrades include items such as custom curtains, the ability to create custom designs, and the ability to import designs from QR codes via the sewing machine in Nook’s Homes. QR codes created in Animal Crossing: New Leaf will also work in Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer.

Some critics may have poo-pooed this game, but I thought it was fun.

Some critics may have poo-pooed this game, but I thought it was fun.

Critical Reception

Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer received mixed reviews from critics upon release. It has an aggregate score of 66.15% on GameRankings.com and a 66/100 from Metacritic.com

Kallie Plagge from IGN praised Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer for its "freedom to be creative" but also said that the game sometimes felt unrewarding.

Nintendo Life said that the "sheer volume of content was staggering" but also claimed that it "lacked any real challenge".

Jeff Cork from Game Informer gave Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer a 5 out of 10, stating that it is "a deep dive into Animal Crossing’s ordinarily shallow home-design pool, without the town elements that make the series such a success".

Similarly, GameSpot gave it a score of 5 out of 10, stating "[w]ith what's in the game, Happy Home Designer would have been amazing DLC for New Leaf: it revamps the previous game's clunky design controls, and the glut of new items would give even hardcore fans a reason to revisit their likely neglected village. But as a standalone experience, no matter how many happy homes I design, the town just feels barren."

Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer did better with Japanese audiences. It was the bestselling video game during its first week in Japan. During this week, it sold 522,556 copies in the region. As of March 2016, the total Japanese sales have surpassed 1.48 million copies sold. Total worldwide sales of this game were at 3.04 million copies at this time.

Interior of a school I designed in "Happy Home Designer."

Interior of a school I designed in "Happy Home Designer."

My Thoughts

Though Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer is different from the main series games, it is still a fun game with plenty of Animal Crossing charm! Fans of the series are sure to enjoy this cute little spin-off, as long as they don’t go into it expecting it to be like the main series Animal Crossing titles.

Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer might not be for everyone, but it is still worth picking up for Animal Crossing fans who enjoy decorating their homes. This spin-off game is also great for visiting your favorite Animal Crossing characters whenever you want. This game lets you have almost as much Animal Crossing fun without worrying about losing your favorite villagers if you don’t play for a while.

© 2018 Jennifer Wilber