The Animal Crossing series began life as an experiment. Would gamers actually enjoy a title where you have no combat, or really any objective at all? The answer, as sales figures and review scores over the years have shown, is a definite yes. While the main line of Animal Crossing games seem to only gain in popularity, Nintendo has taken the series in new directions with a couple of spin-offs into other genres and styles of play. Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer kicked things off on the 3DS with a mediocre attempt, and things unfortunately only get worse with Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival for the Wii U.
Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival is like a combination of the worst parts of both the Mario Party and Animal Crossing series. The game plays almost exactly like the board game elements of Mario Party. Players tap their Amiibo to the Gamepad in order to roll dice and move around the board, with the space they land on determining if they gain items or lose them. Gaining Happy Points is the goal, with the winner being crowned based on who has the most. You also can collect Bells, Animal Crossing’s form of currency, and use them to buy cards that have various effects, or just save them to buy Happy Points at the end.
There’s a little bit more to the game, but overall this is it. Going into Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival one might expect to enjoy some fun mini-games in between all the dice rolling and Happy Point gathering. The board is laid out exactly like older Mario Party games, and considering how the fun mini-games made that series what it is today, it only makes sense to continue the formula. Instead you’ll quickly find that this is all that the game offers in its marquee mode.
A few things are peppered in to try to enhance the experience, thankfully. Random visitors stop by on various days, changing some of the board’s spots to their face and offering special cards or bonuses if you land on them. Sometimes these bonuses can be helpful, but overall it just feels like more control over something that you care little about. The stalk market also returns, letting players buy turnips on Sunday to sell throughout the week. The price can fluctuate, but mostly you’re just hoping to land on the right spot on the board to sell your turnips before time runs out.
Everything within the game is just so random and luck based, as it relies heavily on die rolls over the skill based mini-games that made Mario Party work so well. The board also remains largely the same throughout, with only spaces shifting locations, rather than the actual makeup of the board changing. There’s a bit of strategy to which direction you move, but without different board layouts players will hone in on one strategy and never really change it.
Games can last upwards of an hour, pushing players’ patience quite a bit, especially if they are younger. You can enforce a time limit, but the lowest is 30 minutes, and even that feels overly long, yet the end comes after so few turns that the game feels incomplete. This is where Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival adds the worst parts of its namesake to the mix, with chunks of text that scroll so slowly that players might break their Wii U Gamepad in frustration at some encounters.
Animal Crossing has always had a lot of text contained within it, in fact, reading the text and conversing with other characters was sort of the whole point. What made this seemingly impossible game work was the fact that the text was actually fun to read. Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival doesn’t have that luxury, with only a few encounters featuring anything in the way of creativity or charm. Instead of reading through each morsel of text, players will just jam on the buttons, hoping to make it scroll by just a little bit faster.
One good thing that Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival brings from its progenitor is the use of time. Games are played out over the span of a month, with each featuring different events for holidays and such. The seasons change around players, presenting a nice visual element, but not altering the gameplay in any significant manner. Only after playing through the game once will you unlock the ability to change the month you are playing in, and by then most will have given up on the experience.
Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival is the sort of game that should have been free
As the title suggests, Amiibo play a large part in Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival. Players tap their figure to the Gamepad to roll the die, and at the end of the game your progress can be uploaded to the Amiibo, unlocking costumes and other cosmetic items. While this will likely feel like some neat integration at first, or for children, once more time is spent with it the feeling sets in that it is both forced and unnecessary.
With four players, each with an Amiibo of their own, though only one is absolutely required, you’ll end up passing around the Gamepad so often as to become annoying. If players actually used the Gamepad for something interesting, such as a quick game or anything other than choosing a path or power-up, then it might be acceptable, but as it is most will find themselves simply having one player control the action for everyone else.
Once you’ve taken the hour or more to play through the board game mode a couple of times Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival opens up a bit, offering a selection of mini-games that would have been better suited inside the game itself. These require the use of Amiibo cards for seemingly no reason other than to sell Amiibo cards.
Some of these games offer an interesting experience, but the way they use the Amiibo cards is simply frustrating. Even playing by yourself you’ll have to tap multiple cards to the Gamepad in difference sequences for some of the games, causing you to shuffle through them and hoping that they register the first time. Players might find one or two that they enjoy here, but the overall feeling will be wondering why they can’t just control the action with the Gamepad, instead of having to tap cards against it over and over again.
Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival is the sort of game that should have been free. It holds such little content that is actually interesting that most players will find it a waste of their time to play, especially when the far superior Mario Party series already exists. It is a nice way to actually use those Animal Crossing Amiibo figures that you might feel the need to collect, but their function is so forced that it detracts from the experience rather than enhances it. Few will find anything of value here outside of perhaps one or two of the mini-games, but even those require Amiibo cards in frustrating ways. Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival doesn’t offer much of an engaging experience for anyone outside of the most diehard AC fan.
Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival
- Available On: Wii U
- Published By: Nintendo
- Developed By: Nintendo EPD, Nd Cube
- Genre: Party
- US Release Date: November 13th, 2015
- Reviewed On: Wii U
- Quote: "Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival is the sort of game that should have been free. It holds such little content that is actually interesting that most players will find it a waste of their time to play, especially when the far superior Mario Party series already exists. It is a nice way to actually use those Animal Crossing Amiibo figures that you might feel the need to collect, but their function is so forced that it detracts from the experience rather than enhances it."