Since its debut on the GameCube in 2002, Animal Crossing has become one of Nintendo’s most enduring (and lovable) franchises for its slice-of-life focus on homebuilding, interacting with neighbors, and building the village of your dreams.
All of these prospects which will be a bit more in the background of a new take on the franchise in the upcoming Wii U exclusive, Animal Crossing: amiibo Festival.
Combining the addictive mini-game qualities of Nintendo’s Mario Party with the versatility of Nintendo’s line of amiibo figurines, this title is bringing the delightful, charming world of Animal Crossing into a more social, multiplayer-experience compared to previous games in the series with plenty of amiibo functionality to go around.
Taking place inside a board game-like environment, the easy pitch for amiibo Festival is an Animal Crossing-themed version of Mario Party at a first glance.
However, playing a few rounds inside amiibo Festival shows it offers much more than a simple reskin of Mario Party with its focus on amiibo interactivity, as well as adding in some fun and clever doses of customization and variety in the mix.
In particular, the game boards in amiibo Festival are filled with little bits of variety and new things to find as the boards are themed after months of the year, which can be chosen by the player at the start of the game.
The boards then change their scenery accordingly where I played in a lovely and fall-tinged October board, although I also got a glimpse of the colorful and vibrant springtime boards you can find in the March or April boards.
amiibo Festival also goes a bit further in adding some small doses of customization if you happen to have the 3DS title Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer.
Specifically, user-created homes and buildings from Happy Home Designer can also be brought over and populate the game boards — a neat little addition that I’m sure will appeal to those that have sunk in plenty of hours in the game and that can be brought over into amiibo Festival.
Once players have dropped their selected characters into the game through the Wii U’s GamePad, the real game begins in amiibo Festival with having players move around the various game boards to accumulate Happy Points.
Victory goes to the player with the highest total HP by the game’s end (with the number of rounds being selected at the game’s beginning).
Though the goals and strategy from a first glance are a bit light, amiibo Festival keeps things light, simple, and fun to provide an experience that can be tailored well to either short experiences or more involved games, providing a nice and casual environment to play as long as you wish, but being accommodating for shorter experiences.
Getting Happy Points comes down to figuring out the best place to move your character on the board through die rolls, though other options for obtaining points are available such as Bells, as collecting 1,000 Bells will earn you one Happy Point on the board.
In the comically cruel way that only Animal Crossing does best in teaching children the value of money (thanks for those lessons, Mr. Tom Nook), Bells are more than just an alternative way to earn Bells, as they can both help and hinder your ability to collect Happy Points.
In particular, losing Bells and going into the negative direction will also impact your Happy Point-collecting abilities, until you successfully collect more Bells and get yourself out of a debt hole. Even in a world that’s as unbearably cute and charming as Animal Crossing, capitalism still manages to wriggle its way into the warm and fuzzy hearts of its citizens.
While the board game mode and collecting Happy Points seem like the centerpiece of amiibo Festival, we also had the chance to check out two of the game’s additional modes that are sure to please those looking for more short-paced but energetic game modes, with the first being the game’s quiz show mini-game.
Like with the board game, players can drop in their Animal Crossing amiibo figurines into a quiz show, where players will answer franchise questions and compete to answer quickly and accumulate points.
Reminiscent of something like a miniaturized Buzz!, amiibo Festival‘s take on the trivia quiz show adds a fun diversion from the main experience.
While it may be a more difficult experience to those coming into the series for the first time, as most of the questions are about smaller details and things from the previous games, it’s a surprisingly fun and challenging mode.
Aside from just getting the questions right, you have to “buzz” in to the question by tapping your amiibo or character card to the Wii U GamePad, and only when an alternating spotlight shines on your character, making it just as much about timing and precision as it is about getting the question right.
We also had some time with the game’s Desert Island Escape mode, which personally could become a quick favorite in amiibo Festival. Combining the principles of popular board games like Forbidden Island or Settlers of Catan, players in the mode all collaborate on one of 30 different maps with varying difficulty levels.
With the boards divided up into hexagonal grids that reveal food, supplies, and other resources, it becomes the players’ goal to accumulate supplies to build a raft and escape the island, all while competing against the clock.
While it’s the mode we had the shortest amount of time with, Escape the Desert Island was the one I was certainly the most interested in, as it offered a fun and collaborative multiplayer mode with surprising doses of strategy.
Covered in a “fog-of-war” style shroud limiting players’ visibility, escaping the island together truly requires a team effort not only in insuring that players collect and trade supplies and food, but also in scouring the environment for watchtowers that can reveal more of the level map or building useful tools and supplies like slingshots and fishing rods.
At a first glance it would be easy to dismiss the game as the Animal Crossing take on Mario Party, yet even for short rounds or hours-long games, amiibo Festival already shows promise with some fun mini-games and features sure to please both Animal Crossing lovers and those looking for a unique experience built with amiibo specifically in mind.
Animal Crossing has always been one of those series that managed to warm its way into players hearts with tons of playability and its addictive home-building/village creation gameplay at its center.
amiibo Festival might just be another game players may want to make some room for in their hearts and minds this holiday season to play, especially with friends and family around. Just don’t get mad when you steal each others’ Happy Points and Bells: get happy.
Animal Crossing: amiibo Festival releases for Wii U on November 13th, 2015.