As the newest employee to be hired at Nook’s Homes, Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer presents a differentiated experience in which you can see what it is like to work under Nintendo’s “misunderstood” and business-minded raccoon.
Shop-keep turned real-estate agent Tom Nook is now looking to give back to the neighbouring community through his latest business venture. As ‘Happy Home Designer’ suggests, that sees players help out unfortunate homeowners with no sense of style – listening to their meticulous requests to decorate their humble abodes in ways more suited to their tastes.
As Nook’s newest recruit, players are initially required to complete the necessary hiring forms to help remind him what you look like. Rather than an ambiguous quiz on a bus or train journey deciding your villager’s appearance, after entering their name players now have more freedom in choosing between a predetermined selection of options that cover eyes, hairstyle and skin colour. The Animal Crossing series has always allowed for a particularly personal experience, and this is a positive stride toward that being reflected in the player’s own avatar.
Forms complete, your villager wanders through the door to be welcomed to Nook’s Homes with gleeful applause. Introduced to your colleagues – office veteran Lyle, the enthusiastic Digby, and home design expert Lottie – Nook then disappears to do his own work, and leaves you in their capable hands.
Lottie, who is described by Nintendo as “a smart, sassy river otter,” provides your early training as a decorator. This starts with a simple interior remodel on a client’s home, which isn’t the most gender-neutral of beginnings to your newly discovered career path. The request asks for you to decorate an ‘utterly charming room’ that incorporates a ‘lovely love seat’ that the client is particularly fond of.
That lone piece of furniture sparks enough inspiration to approach decorating the rest of the room accordingly. Wandering into the room with your trusty clipboard, players will browse the Catalog as they look to select wallpaper, carpets, furniture and rugs that match the vibrant pink allure of the love seat.
Upon completion, the camera will slowly swoop around the decorated room in allowing you to take some snaps for posterity. But, it’s the client that takes priority, especially when Lottie reveals that the garishly pink room was for herself – oops! Thankfully she was delighted with it, sharing that she had been too busy to decorate and resorted to snoozing in a sleeping bag.
Early on, the Catalog’s selection is limited as you patiently listen to Lottie’s guidance. But, sink a few hours into Happy Home Designer’s charms and it will soon feel like you’re flicking through an extensive IKEA catalogue. Specific item placement can be chosen with ease thanks to the Nintendo 3DS touch screen, dragging furniture to wherever you want it to be positioned and simply tapping it to rotate it. Furniture can also be stacked, grouped and duplicated, clearly showing that Nintendo have taken their time to make decorating as easy a process as possible for everyone.
At the time of writing I’m still only early on in Happy Home Designer, but it isn’t only homes that you will be decorating. Players can also create buildings, build houses from scratch, and spend time plotting out gardens with flowers and furniture. Other elements include the Happy Home Handbook which lets you spend Play Coins to potentially unlock new kinds of client requests, whereas the Animal Crossing Collection amiibo cards are supported through the trusty amiibo phone. This will let you call specific animals, and also write their house data to the card. Whether this will have any relation to Wii U’s Animal Crossing: amiibo Festival is unclear, but we’ll likely learn more in the coming months.
Objective-based play worked well with Animal Crossing: New Leaf’s mayoral duties, and that certainly remains the case in Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer. Retaining every pixel of charm that has allowed many to adore the series over the years, Happy Home Designer looks set to become as equally special.