This party needs some livening up.
I remember back at E3 when Nintendo trolled us all by not announcing a traditional Animal Crossing game for the Wii U. Instead opting for a Mario Party style game, which would utilize their most popular export, amiibos. I was saddened at the time, cursing Nintendo for toying with my emotions. But this is Animal Crossing, so I had to give it a chance to win me over.
The box includes two amiibos to start off your collection; Annabelle and Digby. There is of course several different amiibos to buy separately, including KK Slider, Reese, Cyrus and the tyrannical Tom Nook, among others. These aren’t essential to play the game, even with four players, but using the figures in the main game allows them to level up and unlock costumes and emotes. And as usual the quality of the figures is outstanding.
Platform: Wii U
Multiplayer: 1-4 Local
The first glance, there seems to be little to amiibo Festival. It plays out like a video game board game should. Touch the amiibo on the game pad to roll the dice, select a direction and away you go. The presentation here is pure Animal Crossing. The look, sound and the feel all ooze the charm that is expected from Nintendo’s classic franchise, which unfortunately does make the fact that this isn’t an ‘Animal Crossing’ game a little harder to swallow.
The game is won by gaining as much happiness as possible by the end of the month. All games are themed around the 12 months of the year, which affects the look of the board and also the ‘Special Days’ that appear. For example, play in December and there are days set aside for Toy Day (Nintendo’s inoffensive version of Christmas Day). Play in November and you get Turkey Day. You get the idea. The board is made up of good and bad tiles. Land on a pink tile and you will get a boost to your happiness, bells or even both. Land on a purple one and the effects are the opposite. Bells play an important part as well, as Nintendo clearly believes that people can buy happiness; because the bells players have at the end of the month get converted in to happiness and added to the score.
As the characters are guided around the game board, random Animal Crossing characters will make an appearance for a day. Dr. Shrunk, Katie, Red and many others will add special tiles to the board for one turn. Landing on them will normally end up in gaining bonus cards. Some of these allow players to move a set number of spaces (handy if you want to avoid certain tiles) and some give the character a bonus for a week, which can add, or remove, bells and happiness if any player rolls a certain number during the seven days. Sow Joan also turns up every Sunday to sell some turnips. This feature works the same way as it does in previous Animal Crossing games; where players need to sell them at the right time in order to make a profit. The only difference is that it’s the tiles that dictate the price players will get for the turnips. The Stalk Market will also fluctuate during the week. So picking the right time to sell is key, and can really make a difference at the end of the month.
The problem here is that this is as exciting as it gets. If players are looking for Mario Party style mini-games while playing the board game, then they are going to be disappointed. On one hand, it seems like a sorely missed opportunity to add some real frantic rivalry between players. But this was obviously a conscious decision on the part of the developer; because having multiplayer mini-games would have required Wii remotes to play, just as Mario Party 10 does.
The mini-games in amiibo Festival are relegated to the side lines as an additional mode that unlocks once players have played their first game. Even then, they are locked behind a currency called Happy Tickets; which are earned after each playthrough of the main game. Happy Tickets also allow people to change the layout of the board. Spend them to build attractions intown; such as Stonehenge, Resetti’s Reset Centre or maybe a fountain. Each built attraction creates a new path for the players to follow during the game. It’s a cool feature; but one that is definitely needed to stop the players getting bored from repeated play.
Another glaring omission here is online multiplayer. Seeing as this game is more enjoyable with more players, why not give us an online mode? The game is slow-paced, so it’s not as if it would have been taxing on the servers.
Then there are the amiibo Cards. These were introduced when Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer was released earlier this year. The cards include an NFC chip and allow players to play with up to four players if they don’t actually have four amiibos. Each card has a character on it and those characters can be added to the village permanently once registered in the game. They will also increase the amount of game hosts available when playing. The game throws in three cards; but if players want more, they are going to have to hand over some serious bells in real life. The packs are available to buy from game retailers and each packs only include three cards; with only two being eligible to add to the game (the third is a special card that can be used in mini-games). But these packs are blind, which meant I had no way of telling if I already had the cards. That sucks.
Animal Crossing: amiibo Festival could have been really fun. But the lack of things to do during the main game hinder it so badly. The reason why Mario Party is so beloved is because of the crazy variety of action available on offer as you’re running around the board. It’s the thing that lets this game down the most. Everything else has been crafted to the standard you would expect of a game bearing the Animal Crossing name, it is a shame that the core gameplay couldn’t hold up its end of the bargain. It’s the perfect example of ‘So close, but yet so far.”
Review copy of game provided by publisher.