After years and years of decorating my Animal Crossing houses with Japanese-style tea rooms, toy-filled playrooms, and cutesy kitchens, spinoff Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer has finally gotten me to completely change it up. Decorating animals’ houses instead of my own, combined with a vastly improved decorating and sharing system, allowed me to be more creative than ever. The lack of tangible rewards and other things to do sometimes left me feeling unsatisfied, but there’s still so much to do within the limits of home design that it doesn’t feel empty or lacking either.
In Happy Home Designer, your entire job is designing homes (surprise!) for the series’ animal villagers and various community buildings in the town square. Each of over 300 animals has their own design vision, and taking on a job helpfully unlocks items relevant to their stylistic visions. This new catalog system is far better than checking the stores every real-life day for that one elusive item as you do in a typical Animal Crossing game — gaining access to the enormous item catalog this quickly allows for far more options for creativity in design than trying to decorate a room based on what little furniture is available to you. The downside is that a lot of the satisfaction in regular Animal Crossing comes from working hard to acquire everything, and that's absent here — but it's a trade off I make gladly.
Actually placing items is absolutely better in Happy Home Designer, too. The new drag-and-drop decorating system is a significant improvement over manually pushing and pulling furniture. It also made experimenting and fixing mistakes far easier; I could quickly test a few different tables in a room to see which worked best without having to fumble through an inventory menu and rifle through my character’s closet for a better one. Everything is easily accessible and just as easily removed. Customizing colors and patterns in an instant is also a serious upgrade — it used to take real-life hours to tweak one item to my liking, and now it's a snap. I’m still super excited about how much nicer it all is.
The actual gameplay here (as opposed to freeform sandbox play) comes from smart limitations each animal homeowner places on you when you're designing their space. Treating design like a job, complete with clients who have requests, forced me to explore the full range of decor items available and play with styles I wouldn’t or couldn’t have had in my own house. I’ve made both a spooky Halloween-themed home and a Christmas wonderland using items that are incredibly rare in regular Animal Crossing, which felt like achieving a long-time goal. I also had fun making a fast food-themed home for a sheep named Frita, even though I would never have done that in my own house.
Maybe it was the uniform, but I took my job very seriously. There isn’t a scoring system to judge your designs and push you to improve and no Happy Home Academy to reward matching or feng shui — there’s just a lot of satisfaction that comes from doing the best for all the adorable animals.
I was also incredibly motivated by the online Happy Home Network. Anyone can upload the houses and town buildings they’ve designed, and you can visit other people’s houses and rate them. It’s an excellent, very necessary feature that kept me making the best homes I could, and I know I’ll keep tweaking my designs in order to get good ratings. It’s also a great source of inspiration for anyone with design block.
It can sometimes feel unsatisfying to just design without actually participating in a town like in the main series. It’s not the actual town environment I’m used to in Animal Crossing — it’s a very creative but also more distant experience, being an employee instead of a villager. I found myself wishing that there was just something else, even a K.K. Slider concert, that would make me feel like I was a part of the world I was designing.
The biggest thing missing for me is my own house. I always treated my Animal Crossing house as a satisfying form of self-expression, especially with StreetPass sharing enabled in New Leaf. But I’ve played more than 20 hours of Happy Home Designer so far with no personal home in sight. It’s disappointing. I would have loved to share my dream mansion on the Happy Home Network and see how it rated.
Instead, I've been treating the town buildings as personal space, since they allow you to do whatever you like. When asked to build a restaurant, I went with the Japanese style I’m used to. I turned a shop project into an arcade and filled the department store with my favorite clothing options. They’re designs I’m proud to share on the Network, and they feel true to me.
It’s not related to design, but one of the most important customization options is the ability to change your skin tone. Finally! That’s a big change for people who’d have to tan all day on the island just to look like themselves. Even though Happy Home Designer offers little outside of design, it’s a nice touch to have that level of personal customization.
Happy Home Designer gets pretty much everything right when it comes to decorating, encouraging creativity, and exploring different styles. It’s sometimes unsatisfying to work without a sense of progression, but taking away progression unlocks means there's no limits on the creativity you can express with Animal Crossing's huge range of options. There’s no shortage of actual designing to do, and the series’ charm prevents it from becoming just a series of soulless tasks. Plus, you won’t have to worry about being in debt with a raccoon this time around.
Source : http://www.ign.com/articles/2015/09/22/animal-crossing-happy-home-designer-review