By many accounts, I shouldn’t enjoy Animal Crossing: amiibo Festival. Nintendo’s latest ‘board game’ outing is far from exciting—lacking the tense moments of cut throat, stressful mini-games and competitive play as with their other familiar game concept in the Mario Party series. That’s probably exactly why I like it. It also helps that I paid only $30 for it.
Games, movies, television, and music have the potential to be so enjoyable when you don’t expect too much of them. Amiibo Festival never had that problem of hype with good reason — it’s not great. There’s so much wrong with it. Mini-games, which are in a separate plaza and not connected to the main board game, are unlocked by acquiring happy tickets, which is done by playing the main board game which carries its own repetitive play and problems. The board game does not have any real mini-games, or battle spaces as with Mario Party 10 and its predecessor, nor are there mini-games at the end of every round, which is what I think a lot of people may have been hopeful for.
Amiibo Festival’s main campaign is nothing more than a virtual board game, with less strategy and no wilful backstabbing. In fact, it’s a series of dice rolls which amount to nothing more than luck and chance.
The mini-games themselves aren’t so fabulous either, and they all require amiibo cards to play (and the game provides three). Desert Island Escape isn’t the inadvertent dark, survival fantasy I secretly, half-jokingly hoped for... Though there is a terrifying fisticuffs encounter with a centipede which can leave your characters dejected and bruised.
There’s another mini-game that plays out like a fun time waster, that involves dropping your little animal neighbors for your amusement on balloons in a hilarious manner. They bounce erratically all over the place and then try to nail landings on a moving island. They fall off edges spectacularly, and I never quite understand why my penguin Puck can’t swim to save his life.
There’s also a rock, paper, scissors game, and I can’t fathom how anyone could play it on their own with a true degree of success. Then there’s the fortune telling type card game. I really don’t have the patience or the inclination to sort out what the heck is going on in that one. There are more too but I haven’t played all of them just yet.
So why did I spend the last few days dedicating 3 hours and more to amiibo Festival’s half-baked ideas?
It’s all in that Animal Crossing humour.
I look at amiibo Festival and I see the charm of a series I’ve grown to love. It’s in every stupid scenario the board game presents, even though many of the scenarios get recycled albeit with some seasonal changes within each monthly board. When you land on spaces, your characters lose or gain money, or happiness points in the most ridiculous of trade-marked Animal Crossing ways. Nook gave a seminar on business practices to his apprentices Timmy and Tommy, and got a hefty sum for doing so. What a crook! A Boy Villager missed meeting up with a friend because he was too busy composing a town tune for hours on end. Mhm. That’s happened to me. Isabelle was singing on a park bench when K.K. Slider waltzed by and paid her a compliment. What?
Just look at this ridiculousness:
Yep. Who can argue that logic? Samples are the best.
Customizing the game board with houses built from Happy Home Designer is kinda fun, even if admittedly shallow. My ice palace looks so shimmery in the moonlight that I can’t help but love it. I also can’t help but wish I had a card of my favourite hipster horse Colton, so that I could bring that fool into my game. I also am awaiting and wishing that Pietro would make his triumphant, evil return but I’ll just have to wait for his card to inevitably become available then barter for it, like a hellbent crazy person.
All Hail Pietro.
There’s also the stalk market which can really turn the tide of the game. In the main game series, every Sunday, players are given the chance to buy turnips at a set price, in the hopes that the week’s market values skyrocket allowing players to sell their turnips at a hefty profit. This practice has been implemented into amiibo Festival, and it’s quite the rush when your lovely real-life neighbors scream nonsense about taking risks, and subsequently rack up thousands of bells much to your chagrin.
Fluctuating, crashing or steady turnip prices will elicit audible groans or cheers from all players involved. Taking a risk every Sunday is part of Animal Crossing’s life, and here it’s just another way to strike it rich and buy happiness. Because yes, bells may not be able to buy you love but they sure can buy you Happy points.
It’s a funny point to amiibo Festival, and another way in which Nintendo’s obsessed with money in so many of their games—Mario and his endless coin collecting in New Super Mario Bros. 2. $1 for 5 plays in Nintendo Badge Arcade. The fact that I still know the price of every fish and bug in Animal Crossing as I spent many nights paying off those accursed home loans in New Leaf amuses me but leaves me a little concerned too about how obsessed with that game I am.
Regardless, that knowledge comes in handy for one of amiibo Festival’s silly quiz mini-game too, along with all the other useless information about Animal Crossing’s lore that I’ve come to know, thanks to my many years of spending hundreds of hours in its various towns.
The game is Animal Crossing light. Dialogue is funny but not as deep as the interactions in New Leaf and other games in the series. It’s not a game I could recommend to anyone with resounding enthusiasm, and it’s likely I’ll tire of it soon. It doesn’t do too much to change what it does throughout the 12 month board game period. And yet, as hard a game it is to recommend, I intend to play every board at least once, and with an average playtime of 45 minutes to over an hour for 12 games, that’s still quite the number of hours of play I have invested and will happily invest in the future with no regrets.
It also certainly helps that I’ve an interest in collecting Animal Crossing amiibo. Even if my intention was for Isabelle and Digby to never be used for anything other than to chat casually with my other amiibo—Robin as he preaches from a book, or Ness as he points rudely at an innocent blue yarn yoshi—they are welcome additions, and ones I wanted.
At $30 for 2 amiibo, and 3 cards plus a bonus of a fun diversion of a game, amiibo Festival for me, is even more of a steal. Unlocking costumes for the amiibo (the data saves to the amiibo and levels up to unlock outfits) has made the game more compelling to play too (and made me release a gift of a Tom Nook amiibo from his plastic prison. I am ashamed). It’s not as in-depth at customization as Animal Crossing can get at all, but in a small way it’s still an incentive to see how adorable they look.
While having extra amiibo cards and importing Happy Home Designer’s functions into the game makes it feel slightly grander than what it comes packaged with, they’re an added bonus, and were not purchased to boost enjoyment of amiibo Festival in mind.
All of these justifications and price points aren’t ways for me to forget that amiibo Festival could be much more than it is. Animals, for one, could be used to thwart players’ efforts, and be more interactive than simply watching a cut scene of an event you have no control over. Maybe giving the tools to lay pitfalls on the board would be hilarious. Dialogue choices wouldn’t hurt. There are any number of things to bring more of the core main games of Animal Crossing’s ideas into this game.
It could be more engaging, while showcasing much more of its roots than it does—without injecting too much of the fierce competition of a series like Mario Party. Animal Crossing’s already got its strange humor that can easily be applied for something absolutely unique without relying on similarities from another Nintendo franchise.
For now—at the lower price, and even lower expectations—Animal Crossing: amiibo Festival surprises me, and feels like a win for its relaxed, good-nature, and silly fun that I’ve had with friends and family, for an easy board game night.
I mean...I could just be a filthy casual though to enjoy it as I do. That’s also a possibility.
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