With amiibo becoming a huge source of profit for Nintendo and a collecting craze for many fans of the company, it is no surprise to see Nintendo's games make use of the figures. While past games have used them to varying degrees- ranging from cosmetic unlockables, to alternate modes of play, to exclusive playable characters- Animal Crossing: amiibo Festival aims to take amiibo incorporation a step further, basing the entire game around the figures. On top of this, the title seeks to apply the world of Animal Crossing to the party game genre, a style of game that Nintendo has consistently pumped out solid releases for over the course of nearly 2 decades. Can Animal Crossing: amiibo Festival successfully translate what makes Animal Crossing enjoyable into an engaging party game while also integrating amiibo support, or will these demands prove to be too much?
Let's start with the gameplay. You roll a dice and your character 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, which 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 large sum 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 even 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 a 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.
At least the characters are cute
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 board game, 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. They 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 board game 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 th console Mario Party games. 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 (in my case, over 20,000 bells). 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 coffee 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. When I played at my cousin's house, we gave up on passing the gamepad around and just had one person control inputs for every player, with the rest of us just telling her what to do during our individual turns.
The board game mode grows tiresome quickly
For a $60 retail game, amiibo Festival also feels light on content. There may be some feature I've overlooked, 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 board game 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 layout of the spaces are hardly be altered at all.
The minigames are okay. For almost the entire time, your only means of input is holding up an amiibo card to be scanned by the gamepad. This has led to instances where players are all trying to scan their cards at the same time, with only one being registered by the gamepad. 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 a pack of cards.
This minigame was particularly problematic
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 he lost some happiness points. Mabel 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.
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 hint of strategy, but 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.
Considering the word "amiibo" is in the title, 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 to perform. Of the collective costumes I've unlocked, most 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.
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, Animal Crossing: amiibo Festival is a disappointment. If you approach it as you would most games, you're probably going to be bored by the monotonous board games. 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 probably isn't. It is hard to justify recommending this game over Mario Party 10 or Wii Party U, especially considering that you don't need an amiibo to enjoy most of what those games have to offer. If you are interested in trying this game for yourself, I would suggest waiting for a large price drop first.
Ouch. It sounds like playing this game could lead to a loss in happiness points.
It's disappointing that the game board remains the same and that there aren't any others to choose from in that mode. It's like if you were playing Mario Party and were restricted to playing only one of its boards. Since it's Animal Crossing, I think it would have been cool if the game board was randomly generated similar to how towns are when you begin an Animal Crossing game.
I've watched some footage and I agree that the little scenes showing a character's daily activities are very charming and very Animal Crossing. Too bad they started repeating so early during your experience. Perhaps there should have been more of those!
Did you give the "Desert Island Escape" mode a try? I've actually read some good things about it.