Despite being a paid DLC expansion for Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Happy Home Paradise is an improvement on the base game in almost every way.
In addition to a major free update, Animal Crossing: New Horizons received all-new paid DLC titled Happy Home Paradise. In it, island representatives can work for Lottie the otter entrepreneur, creating vacation homes for villager clients and unlocking useful rewards over the course of a charming storyline. On top of providing another reason for fans to revisit Animal Crossing, the experience Happy Home Paradise offers is a clear upgrade from the base game in almost every way.
The free portion of the update brought a number of much-needed quality-of-life changes to New Horizons, including a storage expansion, a handy customization service and Isabelle announcements that are actually useful, but Happy Home Paradise is so fun and convenient to play that it actually makes returning to the base game and its content almost painful.
First, there’s the DLC’s storyline. In the base game, island representatives work towards a three-star island rating to organize a K.K. Slider concert for their villagers. Sweet though this reward is, the game feels empty and directionless afterwards, leaving players with little to do but continue tweaking their island design — a frustrating process for many reasons.
By contrast, Happy Home Paradise has a robust storyline with plenty of fun events along the way. Highlights include adorable company parties with the HHP staff and decorating fully functional facilities like a restaurant and hospital. Players can even visit these facilities once daily to receive free items like recipes and shrubs, and (of course) to interact with cute NPCs.
The final objective is to organize a rave hosted by DJ K.K. with all the vacation home clients and anyone else present on the island (including Wilbur the pilot) as guests. This rave is objectively more exciting than the K.K. Slider concert back home, and it can be experienced on a weekly basis, providing an incredibly enjoyable way to hang out with the ever-growing roster of clients players can recruit.
This brings up another one of Happy Home Paradise‘s improvements. New Horizons has a vibrant roster of nearly 400 unique villagers, which makes it almost unthinkable that the base game’s islands can only include a maximum of 10 at a time. In contrast, the DLC allows players to form relationships with as many villagers as they can design homes for — and the sky is the limit. These villagers hang out on the main HHP island, strolling around the buildings and making use of the facilities. One wonders what the point of going home to hang out with villagers is when all the cute characters one could want are meandering around happily on the Happy Home Paradise island.
Then, there’s Happy Home Paradise‘s streamlined design system. While players can decorate vacation homes in the “classic” way by physically moving their character around and placing items from the catalogue, but HHP‘s design mode is far better. Hitting down on the D-pad activates a top-down view in which players can place furniture anywhere with a cursor and a simple click. Infinite duplicates of any item can be spawned and instantly customized with a single button press.
Trees, flowers and bushes can be placed in the same way, and even customized to different levels of growth, allowing players to easily layer stumps and miniature trees for a more lifelike effect. The same convenient mechanics apply for building fencing, placing paths and choosing options for the home exterior. Creating builds like this is infinitely easier than the painstaking process of laying down elements one tile at a time on one’s home island, and the freedom to simply create without arbitrary limitations is frankly incomparable.
One of the most frustrating aspects of New Horizons is the bevy of limits on obtaining items. Even for those who time travel, without copious amounts of trading — a time-consuming business for all parties involved — amassing the items needed for even moderately ambitious builds ca feel like a never-ending slog. Only a handful of pieces are available to purchase every day from Nook’s Cranny and the shopping app, and worst of all, catalogue orders are limited to five per day.
Happy Home Paradise alleviates these frustrations with two innovations: tying design catalogue expansions to new clients and Wardell’s Poki-based ordering service. Completing a job will significantly increase the player’s design catalogue, and once they unlock the Poki shop, they can order anything from said catalogue to keep.
It’s often argued that these arbitrary limitations are part of the Animal Crossing franchise’s identity. Defenders of Nintendo’s design choices will contend that these games are meant to be slow-paced, leisurely experiences. While this is true, that message has been muddled with the way New Horizons has emphasized player choice in its new features and its marketing. Though there are players who prefer the classic experience, there’s also nothing wrong with preferring to play the game in a purely creative way. Happy Home Paradise shows that Nintendo understands this by offering more ways for players to flex their creative muscles.
Happy Home Paradise feels like the answer to so many Animal Crossing lovers’ prayers, and the only downsides are that these seemingly basic quality-of-life features are locked behind a paywall and that it makes New Horizons on its own far less enjoyable. Experiencing Happy Home Paradise‘s satisfying design system makes it hard to return to the base game. Of course, longtime New Horizons‘ players will always love their islands, so it’s a shame they can’t be paradise too.
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About The Author
Jessica Fong (47 Articles Published)
Jessica is a Features writer at CBR. Her many interests include geeking out over sci-fi and fantasy as well as anything even remotely related to musical theater, and she has Zelda memes on the brain pretty much at all times. She can be found screaming about magical girls on twitter at @puellamagica1.