Rolling the dice with Animal Crossing
Judging from the standpoint of an avid Animal Crossing player and enthusiast, the concept of new games coming into my beloved franchise is not always welcome. There have been particularly good games (i.e. Wild World, the original game) and mediocre offerings (Happy Home Designer and City Folk). Amiibo Festival is a little bit of both: It’s a fun take on the Animal Crossing universe, but it needs a little bit of polish and more things to do to keep the concept of a board game based on the franchise interesting.
I’ve always referred to Animal Crossing as the series about doing nothing. Amiibo Festival takes that concept and turns it on its head. With Festival, you’re tasked with moving around a typical Animal Crossing town in the form of a large board game. The town is transformed by spaces that can be events, Stalk Market sale stops and visits from the usual assortment of guests that visit a normal town in the franchise.
What makes the game fun is the usage of all things Animal Crossing. Game time is determined by a calendar that utilizes events commonly found throughout the series, and villagers that you would encounter in town show up to help out player characters. The player characters themselves are Amiibo figurines that you purchase and input into the game. For example, GI has about 25 Amiibo, eight of which are Animal Crossing related (Digby, Celeste, Isabelle, Villager, Tom Nook, Mable, Rover and K.K. Slider) that can be used to play through a session. These characters can collect points to unlock new outfits and modes in the plaza based on game performance. The tie-in to the series benefits the otherwise-tired Mario Party formula and enhances the charm of what would probably be a tiresome exercise in board game management.
Using some of that inherent charm of Animal Crossing, Amiibo Festival plays well and looks great. There is a notable pastel sheen over everything in-game, but it still looks just like you’d expect Animal Crossing to look: Bright, colorful and smooth. Because we’re long past the janky block graphics of the original game, Amiibo Festival is closer in style to the latest game in the series, New Leaf, and it works in its favor. The soundtrack is also in line with the New Leaf era and it’s servicable. It’s not the main feature of the game, so I’m not expecting it to reach the realm of New Leaf’s great tracks, but it’s not unpleasant so it works just fine for what it’s asked to do.
My main complaint about Amiibo Festival, however, has more to do with the polish of the final product and some of the additions. It feels as though there isn’t enough to do in-game, quite honestly. While the board game is fun, it’s not enough to keep me interested long-term. The additions in the plaza — mini-games that use Animal Crossing ideas — are cute but get old quickly, and some are outright frustrating, even for a longtime player like myself.
The trivia section, for example, tests your knowledge of the series. Setting aside the fact that there shouldn’t be a time limit to answer questions that test your prowess of a series that has at least seven games, the questions are incredibly obscure most of the time and require that you have encyclopedic memory and understanding of how the series works. Most people just looking for a fun board game aren’t going to know the answers, let alone know them quickly. I have been playing Animal Crossing since the “Population growing!” days of 2003, and I had trouble with quite a few of the questions asked. There should be more to do, more interaction with the town that you play in and more of an attempt to dig deep into that well of seven games.
Amiibo Festival is a unique take on a series that has managed to endure and improve over the past 15 years with new concepts and innovation. If there is some consolation prize for staying on this board, it’s knowing that while it could use some polish and fleshing out, Amiibo Festival is a good roll of the dice and gamble that paid off for the Animal Crossing franchise.