False starts with Animal Crossing: amiibo Festival

Animal Crossing: amiibo Festival is many things. It’s a means of tiding over all the Wii U owners craving a full Animal Crossing installment on their consoles. It’s also a part of Nintendo’s kid-friendly charge this holiday season. That isn’t even bringing up how heavily it pushes amiibo, what with requiring constant NFC figure tapping to roll dice or save Happy Points to characters and amiibo card swiping to perform actions in most of the minigames. But, above all else, it’s demanding.

The problem isn’t that Animal Crossing: amiibo Festival is often ridiculously easy. The target audience is clearly younger and casual gamers. That it focuses more on making people happy as they enjoy a “month” of daily activities as their favorite animals is fine. What isn’t is the need to unlock every feature. When those being targeted are ones unfamiliar with mechanics and in search of an immediate, full and fulfilling time, you can’t keep denying them access to every little thing.

When Animal Crossing: amiibo Festival is popped into a Wii U for the first time, the only thing you can do is play a round of the board game with one to four players. There are eight additional minigames, but you can’t access them. Characters and the board can be customized, but you’re denied the opportunity to be creative. You’re forced into a board game that will last at least 30 minutes. If you’re going with a single player game or four people are involved, the host acknowledges that a full game could take at least an hour and forty five minutes. Someone might even thing something is wrong, because there isn’t a main menu. From the start, Nintendo should have accommodated users by letting them decide what they want to do.

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But there’s nothing we can do at that point. Fine. We’ll play your game, Nintendo. Except the problem is compounded. Once isn’t enough. To unlock the minigame plaza, you have to play the board game twice. That means a minimum one hour investment before getting to the “good” stuff. Again, this is a way to quickly lose people and alienate the audience. More experienced players will be turned off by such hand holding, while beginners will feel frustrated that there’s more to do.

Especially since two mandatory board game sessions isn’t the end of it. (For those who thought it might be, that optimism is refreshing!) That unlocks the plaza, where only Balloon Island, one of the eight minigames, is immediately available. To get the other seven, you need to earn additional Happy Points to accrue Happy Tickets. Each Happy Ticket is 100 Happy Points, and every locked minigame costs between three and five Happy Tickets. Desert Island Escape, which you’ll want to play as soon as possible, is five. Again, it’s discouraging. Even if the point is to make everyone play each minigame at least once, there are better methods to encouraging it. While no unlocking would have been preferred, opening up each additional experience after playing one would have been more effective.

Even when all of the Animal Crossing: amiibo Festival minigames are available, it isn’t over. If you want to customize the board in the board game, you need to keep playing the board game. Should playing dress-up with the playable characters prove appealing, prepare to use them as your avatar repeatedly to earn more Happy Points for each one. Grueling grinding is a go.

I wish I could offer you some sort of cheat code you could put in to get around all this drudgery. There’s none, sadly, but I can offer two suggestions to keep from prolonging the Animal Crossing: amiibo Festival ordeal. The quickest and most enjoyable ways to earn Happy Points for Happy Tickets are rounds of Balloon Island and matches of Desert Island Escape. They dole out the points rather liberally, making it easier to fill up the plaza. To unlock board game elements, choose a two player game and control both characters for a speedy way to unlock customization features.

It’s a shame it has to be this way, especially given the attention spans of the people who will grab the game. But hey, at least Desert Island Escape is pretty great!

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