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Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival – Wii U

Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival – Wii U

Animal Crossing: Amiibo FestivalPlatform:  Wii U

Release Date (NA):  November 13th, 2015

Developer:  Nintendo, Nd Cube

Publisher:  Nintendo

Genre:  Party Game

Nerd Rating:  5.5 out of 10

I was a little conflicted when it came to rating this game.  Objectively, it has some real problems…some serious problems.  But on the other hand, I’ve actually had a really good time playing this with my 8 year old for hours on end, as well as exploring a couple of the minigames on my own.  Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival aims to build on what has made Mario Party a largely successful series (Nd Cube, developer of the last few Mario Party games, helped out here as well) while simultaneously working hard to develop its own style.  The main problem is that the main mode of a play – essentially a board game – feels a little too much like a board game, and a super simple board game at that.  Underlying this and other issues is that Nintendo still hasn’t really figured out how to make their Amiibo integral to gameplay and this entire game was created specifically to require some number of the current 111 Animal Crossing Amiibo (100 Series 1 cards, 3 “special” cards, and 8 figurines).

Even the game’s director admitted that Amiibo Festival was created because they wanted the company to create Animal Crossing Amiibo.  That right there should’ve been a red flag…not a game created for Amiibo, but a game created to entice Nintendo to make Amiibo.  If you’re not paying attention, you’ll be tempted to think that this is one of Nintendo’s best efforts yet to integrate Amiibo into gameplay, but it becomes obvious that this game was – sometimes annoyingly – crafted around the use of these toys.

Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival

There are several things to do in Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival, including a slew of mingames and additions and changes to be made to the gameboard in the “main” mode of play.  What’s kind of a drag is that you’ll have to invest a few hours into this main mode before you’re even aware of any of this stuff.  If you’ve got a friend to help you out it’s not so bad (my son and I played as 2 characters each) but if you’re playing solo, well, all I can say is “good luck.”

Animal Crossing: Amiibo FestivalAmiibo Festival is basically just a board game.  You roll the die, move some space, some shit happens.  In the game there are 3 types of spots to land on: good spots, which give the character bells (the in-game currency) and/or Happy Points; bad spots, which take away bells and/or Happy Points; and special event spaces which periodically change and offer up ways for the character to gain advantages, mostly in the form of cards to affect die rolls (and a few other things).  Each time you land on a space, a short scenario pops up to read.  They’re cute and thoughtful – involving catching valuable fish, making friends happy, doing chores, hanging out, shopping, and lots more – but at the end of the day, they’re just words on a screen.  Nothing is really happening.  Everyone just glides along on the board, gaining or losing money or Happy Points based on the roll of the die.  The player does get to make a few decisions, such as choosing which fork in the road to take, though many of these pathways aren’t available immediately and it takes time to build up the in-game resources necessary to spruce up the board.  Even then, the game is still pretty much the same and largely an exercise in luck.

The one big variable in Amiibo Festival, and perhaps the only important thing that the player can really control, is the “Stalk Market.”  Each Sunday (the game is played over the course of 1 month, with each round of turns lasting 1 day), the player has the option to spend their money on turnips, purchased in increments of 10 for typically 80 – 100 bells per turnip.  Then, Monday through Saturday, the player will be able to sell these turnips.  Each space will have a “turnip value” on it; after the turn is over, the player can sell or not sell.  (If a player still has any left on Saturday, the game forces the player to sell under the premise that turnips over 1 week old will become rotten.)  Turnip values can change from day to day – they can be steady or fluctuating, and they can also drop and rise.  The trick is maxing out the value on your turnips.  Of course terrible things can happen too, like losing all your turnips.  As far as I can tell, buying/selling turnips are the only real role that money plays in the game (besides using a card here or there), and at the end of the game, every 1,000 bells earns you 1 Happy Point.  So a few successful trades in the “Stalk Market” can really boost your income and make a big difference at the end of the game.

Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival

The more devastating this is for one player, the more fortuitous it is for the other.

All of this taken into account, it might not be the most fun and/or interactive game ever, but it is fun enough for some friendly competition.  One of the major issues though is that the game occasionally throws in spaces/events that are outright game changers.  One such space involves losing all of one’s money in the ocean.  Imagine 50,000 bells – that’s 50 Happy Points – down the drain.  That’s not insignificant, and the likelihood of being able to recover that many points is slim.  Other spots have effects in the other direction, such as finding a “money tree” and instantly receiving 90,000 bells.  That’s a lot.  One is lucky to finish the game with between 150 to 200 Happy Points.  Gaining 90 out of thin air is a virtually guaranteed win.  And the real problem is that these super lucky/unlucky spaces are so few and far between that they don’t allow for the game to switch back and forth.  I hate to cry “no fair!” but that’s exactly what happens.  There’s 4 days left, 2 players are within 20 Happy Points of each other….and then one of them lands on than 90,000 bells money tree…the preceding accomplishments pretty much mean nothing, and there’s very little incentive for the losing player to push through those next 4 days.

This speaks to a larger problem of being able to predict the outcome for a game far in advance.  Again, there’s just not enough going on, or enough of these “crazy” spaces to keep things wildly interesting.  It’s a great game for little kids who are enjoying the moment, but for those interested in truly playing a game, it doesn’t offer much satisfaction.

Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival

So where do the Amiibo figures come in?  Every freakin’ second almost.  Hell, you have to tap an Amiibo on the NFC point to even move off of the title screen!  During the game though, the player places his or her Amiibo on the NFC spot to start the die roll, then lifts it to roll the die.  Yes, the game “requires” the use of Amiibo, and frequently at that, but it’s pointless and purposeless.  Why can’t we just press A?  This also creates a situation where everyone has to share the GamePad, which can be more than a little annoying, especially since the battery will only get you through about 1.5 games and after that you’ll have to plug it in.  The entire physical setup of playing Amiibo Festival is cumbersome and inane.

Animal Crossing: Amiibo FestivalThat’s pretty much it for the main mode.  Luckily, there is a little more to do.  Inviting residents to live in the town (where the board game takes place) via the Animal Crossing Amiibo cards is kind of fun, as is building little amenities throughout the town, some of which open up new pathways to make the gameplay just a tad more interesting.  After each game, all players’ Happy Points are totaled together and banked.  Every 100 Happy Points equals 1 Happy Ticket, and these Happy Tickets are used to unlock minigames and build features on the board.

Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival

The bundle is definitely the way to go if you plan on picking up Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival…come to think of it, is it even offered as a standalone title…?

Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival

Be careful not to destroy your cards during this flurry…

To be frank, most of the minigames are frustrating as hell.  Nearly all of them revolve around using a few of the AC Amiibo cards.  (If you get the Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival bundle with Isabelle and Digby, you’ll also receive 3 special cards – Goldie, Rosie, and Stitches.)  Ok, cool, another use for these cards!  Oh wait…the way in which they’re used is ridiculous.  For the most part they involve quickly moving one card or another to the NFC point on the GamePad.  This would be great if I had 3 hands, but with my paltry 2, the task becomes annoying, not challenging.  One game involves tapping one of the 3 cards to quickly change direction in a Snake-like game.  Way too easy to tap the wrong card, accidentally tap a card twice, or move the card so quickly that it doesn’t register.  Another game akin to Whack-a-Mole requires the same (tapping the appropriate card to have that character “bop” the mole (or Resetti in this case)) but what’s more is that you also have to look at the Rock-Paper-Scissors logo on the card and make sure it can beat whatever symbol has flashed up…it would be one thing if I was having to just quickly move cards around, but by the time I’ve looked at the symbol onscreen and then the card…well, Resetti has already disappeared.  Seriously, these damn games drove me nuts.

Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival

Mastermind, Animal Crossing style!

There are a couple of cool games though.  One of them (Mystery Campers) is basically a version of Mastermind played with 6 different Amiibo cards (instead of 6 colored pegs).  You try to guess which 4 are in which tent, and after each round, you’re told how many are in the right place, and how many are actually in the tents but not in the right place (like the black and white pegs from Mastermind).  Yeah, it’s just Mastermind with Animal Crossing cards, but hey, nothing wrong with Mastermind, and nothing wrong with kicking it up a notch from colored pegs.

The other one I like involves escaping from a desert island and could be fleshed out as a “real” game.  The player picks 3 cards – any 3 cards – and uses them to explore a deserted island space by space.  The player has a limited number of days to get off the island as well as a limited supply of food.  By moving about, items are discovered.  Some items can be used to make tools to more effectively surmount perils (such as pits, centipedes, snakes, and tarantulas), other spaces contain food (if you run out of food before the time limit is up, you’ll lose), and the most important spaces contain logs and a sail, needed for your escape.  Winning the scenario involves finding 3 logs and 1 sail within the time period, without giving out of food.

Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival

I’ve actually spent a ton of time playing this minigame!

What makes it so much fun to play again and again are the fact that different cards have different abilities.  Some cards can tell you what’s in unexplored spaces before you visit.  Others can gather food more effectively, or smash through rocks, or move through water.  There are quite a few abilities, and although I’m sure each scenario has an “optimal team,” I’m sure most can be won with any combination of characters.  This gives the game almost infinite replayability since changing even one member in your party (or, in some cases, the order of your party) can make a huge difference in how you explore the island.  Now not all 103 cards contain different abilities, but there is a significant amount of variation.  Even better, there are 10 levels each at 3 levels for a total of 30 scenarios to play through!  Maybe it’s just me, but I thoroughly enjoyed this strategy-meets-luck bigger-than-minigame.  I even had a good time when I lost because it got me thinking about where and when I could’ve made a different decision or what sort of team might make it through the quest more efficiently.  Plus, besides scanning the cards of the characters at the very beginning, there’s no pointlessly irritating use of Amiibo.

Now graphically, Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival is a great looking game.  It’s got all that brightness and vibrancy that a Nintendo original ought to, though many of the details have been omitted in favor of the cartoon-ish and simplistic appearance.  This isn’t really a bad thing, but since the game has a very little action, it should be aiming to dazzle at every turn.  Some of the lines could be smoother at times and I wish the developers had worked a little more variety into the game, for instance why not give the board a different color every month?  Or theme each quadrant?  Just anything to keep from looking at the same thing game after game.  However, the splash screen that appears as the game is booting up is absolutely beautiful.

Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival

I really hate giving Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival such a comparatively low rating, especially considering how much time I’ve spent with it and the fact that it has provided a good deal of fun for the little guy and myself.  But if I’m really looking at the game and being a good reviewer, it just misses a lot of the marks of a great – or even good – game.  It does deserve credit for managing to be fun despite its intrinsic flaws, though I doubt I would’ve spent so much time with it if not for an 8 year old to share the experience with.

Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival

Two or three hundred cards like these and we could replicate the experience perfectly without a TV, or a Wii U, or a game disc…

It’s tough to say whether or not the game lost its way somewhere during development or if the developers just had a flawed concept from the start.  Surely there had to be other ways to design a video game to get Nintendo to make Animal Crossing Amiibo…Nintendo has generally been pretty clever with their marketing but at times Amiibo Festival seems like a game created purely for the purpose of making the player buy more Amiibo.  The bitter taste of this overt marketing ploy might be lessened if there were a little more heft to this title, but honestly, I feel like 99% of the experience (of playing the main board game) could be replicated by a cardboard gameboard and a couple hundred cards to draw from while using the Amiibo as playing pieces.  It might succeed on some levels as a game, it just ain’t much of a video game.

Reviewed by The Cubist

Written by The Cubist

The Cubist

Co-founder, Head Author, & Site Technician

Find out what these ratings mean and how I rate video games.

I collect as much video gaming paraphernalia as I can get my hands on, especially when it comes to hardware. With over 40 systems including oldies like the ColecoVision and Intellivision, obscurities like the CD-i and 3DO, and the latest and greatest including the Wii U, PS4, Xbox One, 3DS, and PS Vita, I get easily overwhelmed. Most of the time you can find me firmly nestled sometime between 1985 and 1995 when it comes to my games of choice, but I’m also having a great time seeing what the 8th generation has to offer.

Currently in love with: Mortal Kombat

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  1. Steroid Gamer
    Steroid Gamer says:

    Well, this is another stinker. Add that to what’s becoming a bit too big of a list for Nintendo.

    • Preach! Nintendo really isn’t bringing their A-game this holiday season. Looks like they jumped the gun a little early with Mario Maker and Woolly World.

      I though Rodea the Sky Soldier looked interesting, but decided to pass on it after reading some really harsh reviews. I just have started playing Xenoblade Chronicles X and so far it’s off to a good start. Not sure when/if I’ll ever finish a game like this, but I’m gonna give it a fair shot. It’s a very pretty game, but the Wii U constantly grinding and whirring makes me a little nervous!

      I’ll probably put some of the new stuff on the sidelines though – I’m still determined to bang out 3 more Mario reviews by the end of January!

      • Steroid Gamer
        Steroid Gamer says:

        You’ll have to let me know what you think of Xenoblade. I passed on it for now and decided to pick up Devil’s Third. I’m glad I did too. Apparently the physical U.S. version is going for $150+ on ebay right now.

        The game only came out last Friday! I guess Nintendo massively underestimated how many people would be interested in it.

        • Good god…….what was the big deal? Just a really limited supply? I’ve never even heard of it, not that I necessarily would have.

          So far so good with Xenoblade. The learning curve is/was a little steep, but I’ve finally gotten into a groove and really started enjoying it.


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