How Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival Is Inspired by Mario Party and Settlers of Catan

In more common terms, Animal Crossing: amiibo Festival is Nintendo's way of saying, “Hey, we haven't made any of those Animal Crossing amiibos you've been clamoring for yet, so here they are and we're making this game to make sure you buy them.” This game is, essentially, "Amiibo Party", a cross between your favorite Animal Crossing characters and a light, turn-based board game that's about collecting Happy Points and bells instead of stars and coins.

Since amiibo Festival requires a Animal Crossing amiibo to work, the game will come in a special bundle that hardcore Animal Crossing fans will want to pre-order as soon as they can. I'm usually not a proponent of pre-orders, but the $59.99 bundle comes with amiibos for Isabelle and Digby as well as special amiibo cards including Rosie, Goldie, and Stiches. These are all special items that can't be purchased outside of the bundle, although plenty of other Animal Crossing amiibos will be sold separately: Tom Nook, Lottie, K.K. Slider (so adorable!), Mabel, Reese, and Sable. (Blathers, Resetti, Kicks, and Celeste will be available in Japan on December 17, so you can expect these to be added in the American lineup after that.)

The main mode of amiibo Festival features a board game with spaces spread out in a grid-like pattern across a open field. Before heading into the game with up to four players (there's unfortunately no online multiplayer), you must a choose what month to play, which cosmetically changes the background and leads to different holiday events that Animal Crossing fans will be familiar with.

Each round of turns amounts to a day, and as players roll a die and move around the board, the general objective is to earn Happy Points and bells (1,000 bells amounts to 1 Happy Point) by landing on positive pink spaces instead of negative purple ones. And if just to teach children about material wealth even more, having a negative amounts bells will make your character sad and continually lose Happy Points until they can climb out of the hole. Being poor does that, apparently.

It's certainly a more delightful interpretation of Mario Party without all of those mini-games that can end friendships. It's still competitive and tactical, though. Every once in a while, special characters like Dr. Shrunk, Redd, and Katrina will appear and landing on their spaces can award you cards where you can move a specific number of spaces. Every Sunday that passes in the game, Joan will come rushing toward you with her bundle of turnips, and depending on what space you land on, you can trade in all your turnips for heaps of bells. You can pass on trading in turnips if you don't like the selling price, but be warned that, come next Sunday, you will be forced to get rid of all your turnips no matter what you land on.

But the star of the show is Desert Island Escape, a turn-based strategy game where a group of Animal Crossing characters must move around an island made up of hexagonal spaces to collect resources, so that can assemble a raft and get the hell out of there. It's sort of like Lost meets Settlers of Catan in the most adorable way possible. Playing on one of the Beginner maps (there are 30 maps in total evenly split between Beginner, Intermediate, and Expert), I cycled between three characters, a faun, dog, and rabbit in that order. Each round of turns, you can move these characters a certain number of spaces, hopefully revealing question marks on them that are either resources or food items that you need to keep your party fed when they rest at camp.

This race against time relies on luck as well. Most question-marked events, like trying to collect honey from a beehive or escaping from a pitfall, ask you to spin a wheel to avoid dangers and landing on the wrong space can force you to miss turns. Gathering resources can help you build items like a slingshot which will aid in keeping away attackers, but if lady luck just isn't on your side, you might not make it off the island in time or before your party starves.

Last but not least is the Quiz Show, a question-and-answer game show that poses extremely difficult questions about the Animal Crossing universe. Ringing in is difficult enough, since you need to tag your character in when a spotlight is on your character, but many questions ask you to know the different sizes of fish and bugs in the lore. Once per game, you can phone-a-friend by swiping an Animal Crossing amiibo across the Wii U reader which tends to eliminate one of the multiple-choice answers off the table. If you don't know know the answer, though, this lifeline won't help. It's the place to prove you're the most diehard Animal Crossing fan of all.

Animal Crossing: amiibo Festival releases November 13, 2015 for Wii U.