So what's the story with this game? It seems to have stealth-released already with almost no fanfare and a very tiny number of reviews. What's more, those reviews are overwhelmingly negative--the worst I've ever seen for a first-party Nintendo game, in fact.
It's alright. You roll a dice and your person moves, with the player deciding where to head at crossroads. The goal is to collect the most happiness points. You can land on spaces that give or take away happiness points or money (money is converted into happiness points at the end of the game). There are also stamps you can collect at each of the four corners of the board, which give you a bunch of happiness points.
Each turn is a day and the game ends after a month. After 7 or so turns the turnip saleswoman comes to town and you can buy turnips. Every space has a value at which turnips can be sold. The value of turnips will randomly change with high and low trends from week to week or sometimes day to day. You'll want to buy low and sell high. Your turnips go bad after a week and have to be sold on or before saturday, with the saleswoman returning every sunday.
Also tied to the calendar are special events, including holidays. On american thanksgiving, every space is turned into one of 3 or 4 ingredients that all players must work together to collect so that the turkey can cook a celebratory meal. On the day of the fishing competition, spaces change color to gold, silver, and bronze, with gold offering the best fish to catch. At the end of the turn, whoever caught the biggest fish is awarded happiness points.
This game is low on interactivity. There are around 8 or so minigames that range from shallow to somewhat in-depth, which are accessed from the main menu after playing a few board games. There are no minigames during the actual boardgame, so player input comes down to only a few things:
1. Rolling the dice by tapping your amiibo 2. Selecting which way to go at a crossroad 3. Using cards that can be collected and played similar to mario party items. So far, the only ones I have seen either move you a certain number of spaces or change the spaces around you to positive or negative ones. There are also cards that reset your happiness or money to 0 if you've gone into the negative 4. Buying and selling turnips
It is easy to grow bored of the boardgame when it requires very little thought or investment. The sense of agency and control of one's fate in this game is less than that in any of the console Mario Party game. I once landed on a space during the last turn of the game that takes away all of your money, no matter how much you have. By chance, that same space could have taken away a measly total of 300. I also intentionally gave up the opportunity to collect the last stamp I needed to complete my set so that I could land on a golden fishing space, only to be beaten by someone who had landed on a silver fishing space. The money given out on spaces that award or take away money also varies greatly, with some spaces offering only a few hundred, while others have paid out upwards of 5000.
Having to constantly tap your amiibo to the gamepad in order to roll the dice is grating too. This requires all of the players to sit huddled around the gamepad in order to play. In Nintendo's vision of the world, all of their consumers must have a coffee table or something in their living room. But I live in a pretty small house. If I had a cofee table set up between my couch and my tv stand, there would be no room to walk. There is no reason for this restriction, other than the fact that it forces in amiibo "functionality" by making the figures do something that would have been more efficiently accomplished by just pressing the A button.
For a $60 retail game, the game also feels light on content. There may be some feature I haven't unlocked yet, but from all I've played and read, it seems like there's only one board that can be altered slightly through public works projects you fund with your accumulated happiness points. Considering that there is only one mode of play for the boardgame mode and only 8 minigames, the fact that there is only a single board to play on is kind of insulting. Once you've found the optimal path for collecting all of the stamps as quickly as possible, you can just take that route every time you play. The board's appearance can change with the seasons and the completion of public works projects, but it seems like the actual layouts of the spaces can hardly be altered at all.
The minigames are okay. I haven't played them all, but of the one's I've played your only means of input is holding up an amiibo card to the gamepad. This has led to instances where players are all trying to scan their cards at the same time, with only one getting through. Other times, the card will either scan later or sooner than the player wanted it to, resulting in input errors. There are a few times where the cards are put to good use, but those few creative instances do not outweigh the frustrations that come from this input method. Also, only three cards are included with the game, so if you have a fourth person who wants to play the minigames you'll need to buy another card.
So what is the appeal of this game? The biggest draw for me is the cute and charming characters. Every time you land on a space, you are shown a little scene of your character that explains how they gained or lost the resources they did on that turn. Tom Nook was bummed out because nobody read his latest blog post and lost some happiness points. Mabel was gained happiness points because she had a conversation with her friend at the park. Isabel gained happiness and money by helping to deliver mail. There is a light-hearted, carefree, and chipper tone to the writing.
The problem is that, in my experience, this isn't enough to keep me engaged for an hour long play session (which is about how long a 3 player game takes). It certainly doesn't help that I ran into repeating scenarios as early as my second game. It's disheartening that the primary appeal of this game is already starting to lose its luster as soon as the second hour.
Maybe it's more fun at a party when you're socializing or otherwise distracted, but the game can get pretty dull if given your full attention. I haven't tried that yet, so I can only speculate. Perhaps it would also be nice to unwind with after a long, mentally taxing day when you only have enough energy to crash on the couch and do something simple like watching random reruns of some TV show. But again, I can only speculate.
If anything, it feels like this game was made for people who don't play very many games or only play Animal Crossing. I say that because there is little input necessary, little planning or skill involved, and a slow pace. You mainly just roll the dice, decide which way to go, and decide how many turnips to buy/sell. The dice cards offer the smallest level of strategy, all that amounts to is checking how many spaces ahead the dice card will send you and deciding whether not that would be more beneficial than leaving things up to chance.
Amiibo support is actually pretty minimal. Aside from using cards for the minigames there's the aforementioned need to tap your amiibo to the gamepad to roll the dice. At the end of the game, your accumulated happiness points are saved to your figure. After collecting enough happiness points you level up and unlock a new costume for your character to wear and a new gesture. Of the collective 3 costumes we've unlocked, 2 of them are just the same clothes with a few colors changed. The gestures are just little buttons on the bottom of the touch screen that you can tap to make your character emote and waste time before you roll your dice. It seems that you can play with just one amiibo, with the peasants who haven't bought any playing as figureless villagers, but I'm not sure how that works either.
In terms of the board game, amiibo integration is worse than in Smash Bros. There's no reason why those costumes and gestures couldn't have been available from the start. If they do have to be unlocked, they could have just been saved to the system, rather than a figure. I doubt most people will feel the need to bring their amiibo to a friend's house in the same way they would want to bring their amiibo fighter for Smash Bros. As for the minigames, a fair number of them would be improved if you swapped the cards for controllers. In fact, there's only one minigame I can think of where this change would be detrimental. Most of the time, scanning an amiibo or card just takes the place of pressing the A button. It's mostly pointless, detracting from the experience rather than adding to it.
Overall, my thoughts on this game are mixed-negative. If you approach it as you would most games, you're probably going to be disappointed. But if you go in with the right mindset and under the right circumstances, you may have some fun. If this doesn't sound like something you would enjoy, then it's probably not. But, if you're up for a low-involvement, simple game with a pleasant coat of Animal Crossing paint, this might be worth picking up at a heavily reduced price.
@Hero_Of_Hyrule Geez! Thanks for the big ol' write-up, very thorough and informative.
I have to say that you didn't raise my confidence in the game. In particular, the act of scanning your amiibo every single turn sounds like a bizarre, pointless idea that reeks of strained implementation of amiibo. If the goal of the game is to have a pleasant, relaxing time, having to hang onto a figure and physically scan it 30 times in an hour doesn't sound like the most comfortable method of input. The amiibo usage just sounds really crummy from what you've said, almost like a cynical cash-grab.
It sounds like Nintendo's writing and playfulness help out, but it's odd that this game otherwise seems to be an even-more-casual/random Mario Party (how does that happen??). As someone who has no real desire to collect all the amiibo (and is already kinda tired of Isabelle's ubiquity), I think I'll avoid this one.
Thanks! I guess it ended up closer to a review than some quick impressions.
I would say this game is good for little kids since all you have to do is tap the figure and press A to make the cute animals do stuff on your TV, but they wouldn't get anything out of the experience if they can't read. And if they're old enough to read, they'd probably be better off with Mario Party or Wii Party U anyway, both of which are more enjoyable and cheaper at this point.
It's really hard to recommend something like this when it doesn't completely dedicate to filling in some sort of party game niche and is outclassed by two other party games on the same system. Not to mention the other great multiplayer Wii U games like Mario Kart and Smash.
In particular, the act of scanning your amiibo every single turn sounds like a bizarre, pointless idea that reeks of strained implementation of amiibo. If the goal of the game is to have a pleasant, relaxing time, having to hang onto a figure and physically scan it 30 times in an hour doesn't sound like the most comfortable method of input. The amiibo usage just sounds really crummy from what you've said, almost like a cynical cash-grab.
Scanning it to roll is actually great. It's much closer to truly rolling the die than it is to press a button. Imagine playing an actual board game but just tapping a button on the table in order to roll the die. It'd be more boring. So while it does have a genuine purpose and I think it feels better than having a simple button press, that doesn't take away the fact that you're rolling with little actual strategy. I've played this game a bit as I do own it. However so far that board game mode hasn't been my favorite. I wish there were more mini-games but I haven't tried them all yet. The use of the amiibo cards is interesting and I'm glad I have more than the three it comes with.
The Desert Island game is pretty fun and requires more skill than the rest. Still heavily luck based but more elaborate. Plus you see the personalities of the different villagers come out and that's great.
All in all, this game makes me want a real Animal Crossing even more but it really should have been free with two amiibos.