Amiibo Festival – Review
Wii – U
I want to tell you a little bit about a special concept called Gross National Happiness.
This was a concept originally introduced by Bhutan’s fourth Dragon King, Jigme Singye Wangchuck. With it, Bhutan committed to creating an economy that would be distinguished by embracing Buddhist spiritual values, instead of the material development sought in Western economies. The GNH Index prioritises physical happiness, emotional and spiritual health, time-balance, and social and cultural vitality on a par with good governance and living standards. It is criticised as subjective, but also praised for inspiring a modern political happiness movement.
It was a concept that I heard about when I was a teenager and family members travelled to the Kingdom of Bhutan for work, and it is a concept that amiibo festival endeavours to capture.
The initial association is the alignment with amiibo festival’s primary form of currency: happiness points. Everything that you do with your amiibo focuses on the procurement of happiness. Even the physical currency of Animal Crossing – Bells – are processed through a currency exchange that generates even more happiness. The acquisition of happiness points and bells is facilitated through a board game mechanic that is similar to Mario Party and so incredibly different that Mario Party fans will smack you upside the head for the association. Mario Party’s mini-games occurred during the navigation of the board, whereas the amiibo festival gameboard is simple and facilitates daily moments where a player’s character either has a happy day, a prosperous day, a sad day or an expensive day (who knew that ice cream cost 800 bells in Animal Crossing?). These days focus on activities that reflect a character’s passions, inspirations, social engagement, and regard for culture.
Rolling the dice will determine the tile that you land on and your character’s fortune that day, and each playthrough of the board game takes place over a chosen month with an assortment of highlighted holidays and tournaments. Due to this the board game is calm, slow-paced, and encourages players to experience each day as it happens. The engagement with amiibo festival is passive, and arguably potentially boring in the hands of players who enjoy games that require less luck and more skill development.
However, that is where the similarities with Gross National Happiness end and we are brought back to the time-tested mechanic of “own all of the things to be happy.” Despite being able to play amiibo festival just with the box contents (an Isabelle amiibo, a Digby amiibo, and three amiibo cards), players will be tempted to head back out to their game store of choice and purchase more amiibo figures and more amiibo cards. As Animal Crossing fans to begin with, this was not a particularly difficult sell, and currently six of the Animal Crossing amiibo figures are sitting on my shelf exuding joy from their little plastic moulds.
(I don’t have The Nook because no one wants The Nook, the snivelly little capitalist.)
There are a plethora of small ways to enhance your chances of winning the game, from purchasing or winning cards within the game that allow you to move squares instead of rolling or inverting the positive/negative attributes of tiles to “mess” with other players. Similarly, participating in the weekly Stalk Market could lead to a Bell profit or regretting your life choices. However, in the many board game playthroughs that I have played to date, I cannot say that anyone has felt the strong desire to be that strategic. It is not a cooperative game, but it is not anywhere close to being a hardcore competitive game either. Instead, a group of 2-4 of people would sit and go “aww” at the happy moments that Lottie or Digby experienced, or make sympathetic mutterings when Mabel’s blog did not get a single comment. Only in one tragic moment when a character’s Bells were completely stolen did other plays express any semblance of schadenfreude.
Your happiness points accumulate to unlock costumes and emotions to use during the board game – none of these are actually useful, but they are nonetheless adorable bonuses. Happiness points also translate into tickets to unlock mini games. Island Escape is certainly the most strategic of the bunch and very engaging, and people who want to complain about amiibo festival requiring no skill can go and play Resetti Bop and eat some humble pie.
Overall, amiibo festival wants you to be happy – not excited, not squeeful, but simply joyful for every day that you get to move forward and experience new things. amiibo festival wants you to experience happy rewarding moments with your friends without pressure or conflict. It is certainly very passive and quite slow, and arguably has a basic integration with the Wii U’s NFC reader, but it is a nice way to spend an afternoon or evening with some friends and reacting to the fortune and misfortune of plastic figurines.
(If that’s not enough, I think someone on Destructoid made a drinking game for it.)