Review by biboo

Reviewed: 12/17/15

Good title for casual gamers and hardcore series fans

Having been already placed on a 100 Worst Games of All Time list, Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival Wii U is I believe one of the system's most controversial titles. Even before the director stated the game was made for amiibo, many fans frustrated not to be getting a Wii U main series title and gamers indifferent to the series alike slammed it as a shameless amiibo vehicle aimed at getting as much money as possible from Animal Crossing fans. Indeed, it's hard to disagree this game might be that--Animal Crossing fans are invested. Less invested than say Zelda or Metroid fans perhaps, but Animal Crossing's cute nature is appealing enough to draw attention from many for maximum profit. That this was released in combination with an absolutely enormous amiibo card collection is no hint that Nintendo is keeping its AC endeavors humble. Despite all of this, I could not see what everyone else saw from the moment we first saw footage in the E3 trailer. When I popped in the disc for the first time, with a Mabel amiibo in tow, my experience was no different. Perhaps this movement in Animal Crossing is motivated by money, but the game to me maintains the spirit of Animal Crossing absolutely. This is coming from someone who has played the series for more than ten years.

The game is split up into the main board game mode and eight mini game modes. The board game includes no mini games, and it's what I'll be discussing first.

Your first game you play the month it is in real life. Each turn takes a day, and you roll a die moving around an Animal Crossing town with a villager who plays the host. There is only one board layout regardless of what month you play; however, the board layout you are given is unique, just like in a main series Animal Crossing game. Players try to get the most "happy points" by landing on good pink spaces and avoiding bad purple spaces. Players also collect bells, which will be converted to happy points at the end at 1,000 bells a pop. Lots of events occur, such as Katrina visiting to give players fortunes, Katie arriving to sell cards, or Redd visiting to sell cards. Most of these events aren't terribly interesting but they do affect the game, *especially* Redd. There are events unique to the month you play also. (After the first game you can choose any month as you like.) Every Sunday Joan arrives to sell turnips, which players then try to sell throughout the week for a profit. Spaces have different prices, but there will also be an overall turnip pattern like "steady," "crashing," or "fluctuating" to dictate what kind of prices are out there. The stalk market will easily turn the tide of the game, as multiple investments throughout the month can result in 100 or more happy points' worth of bells. (My record is 740,000 bells.)

The weaknesses of the board game are the lack of game-changing events, items, and meaningful strategy. Players will want to travel to the four corners of the board to collect happy-point-heavy stamps, which confines their movement patterns by quite a lot. There strength of the board game is a certain hidden level of depth. After playing three games, you can customize the village in a number of ways, adding public works projects to available spots. You can also move in up to eight villagers of your choosing, who—and this is one of my favorite parts—will carry over their exterior from Happy Home Designer if you saved it to that card. That they allowed us this level of customization is really lovely. These factors also carry over into the full game. If a villager lives in the town, you can can scan their card instead of a figure to have that villager roll, with an increased chance of getting the die number displayed on their card. Occasionally, skits will pop up involving the public works projects you selected. There are also some specific skits for each character, like Tom Nook making a pretty penny by selling a house. All of the skits typically get more profitable and unfortunate as the game goes on, so while it can be a bit repetitive (much like a main series title), there’s a fair bit to uncover. Utilizing villager cards and item cards well can really help you turn the tide in the game, if you are strategic about turnips.

Despite this, the game doesn’t get much deeper. Characters have five unlockable outfits in addition to their default outfit, encouraging you to play again and again, and while I got a good two weeks of playing the game fairly regularly, I don’t feel particularly inclined to keep playing. I will get the rest of the figures because I’m a huge Animal Crossing fan, but when it comes to the board game itself I wouldn’t play it all that frequently for fun unless I was with friends who also liked Animal Crossing. I’ve only played one multiplayer match so I can’t comment on how much fun it would be. I would estimate it wouldn’t be terribly engaging but a huge plus is that its luck-based nature would make experienced players overly advantaged.

If it were up to me, I would have added a museum to the game, where players can pay tickets to unlock furniture pieces and gyroids to at least look at in HD. You could collect fish and bugs too by playing the board game in different months and also pay tickets to unlock K.K. songs to listen to anytime. Perhaps you could even look up villagers and read their brief profiles. The game displays these things in the quiz mode to ask questions so it has all of the information already; it’s just not accessible to the player. Even if they didn’t want the players to interact with these things like in a main AC game, some nice feature like this would not have taken an unreasonable amount of effort to implement.

Instead the only feature we have outside of the board game is the eight extra minigames, some of which are fun but not many of which are particularly deep. I cannot describe them all here but the most notable ones are the impressively difficult quiz mode and the surprisingly deep Island Escape mode. In Island Escape, you scan in three characters from amiibo cards, who all have one of twelve or so unique abilities. The player then uses these abilities to scavenge through a hexagonally spaced island in hopes of finding food and materials to built an escape boat before time runs out or the characters starve. With 30 levels and lots of different character combinations to try out, it’s a fantastic use of amiibo cards. I should note here that to play all of the different minigame modes, you’ll need at least six cards total, though most of them can be played with just the three that the game comes with.

The music and graphics are in my estimation good and not great. The music gets a tad repetitive, but there’s different themes for rain and snow and such. Different songs for different months (or at least seasons) or times of day might have been nice. The town looks stunning, but it basically is New Leaf HD. I preferred the shadier look the first three Animal Crossing games had. But overall it looks great, and it's heartwarming to finally see one’s favorite villagers attentively rendered in HD and such.

Overally, I love Amiibo Festival and am ecstatic I bought it. It, Splatoon, and Pikmin 3 made owning a Wii U worthwhile. But my tastes are very strange, and I will readily admit it’s not a truly great game. However, the incentives to collect the figures, the nice village customization (especially the HHD compatibility), and the Island Escape mode all save it from, in my eyes, being truly mediocre. For casual gamers and hardcore Animal Crossing fans I truly recommend it. If you already have figures and the cards it’s not a bad buy. When Nintendo decides to make a new main series Animal Crossing game, I hope it will be truly revolutionary for the series just as New Leaf was, and not just a copy of New Leaf like City Folk was for Wild World. This game makes me glad we actually got spin-offs because they don’t seem ready to take the series into bold new directions just yet. In the meantime, I’m glad to have spent some time with this cute and simple title.

Rating:   3.5 - Good

Product Release: Animal Crossing: amiibo Festival (US, 11/13/15)

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