Friday morning, I woke up feeling productive. I went to work, decided to build my favorite resident a vacation home, and they asked me for a specific aesthetic and some furniture they would love in their house. It took me a few hours, but the finished design combined with their smile made it all worth it. It was rewarding and relaxing – probably because I was not actually designing someone’s vacation home in real life, but Animal Crossing: New Horizons’ Happy Home Paradise DLC allowed me to live out a life where I spent my time on a tropical paradise helping people build the vacation homes of their dreams.
New Horizon’s first (and final) paid DLC lets you visit a resort archipelago to work at Paradise Planning, a company where you help villagers buy their very own vacation homes. It’s a concept that will be very familiar to anyone who has played Happy Home Designer, an Animal Crossing spin-off released on the 3DS in 2015. You’re tasked with recruiting vacationers that are interested in purchasing a vacation home, picking out a plot of land, and then building a house based on specific themes and items the villager wants it to contain.
While the actual building and decorating is relatively straightforward, the simple instructions each villager gives you provide a lot of free reign and creativity, which I found to be overwhelming and has encouraged me to think outside the box when decorating in New Horizons. It’s fun to design something outside of your own home or island, tapping into my creativity in a way that New Horizons previously did not explore. You are given your pick of a handful of islands for where a villager’s vacation home will be built too – each has different features and sometimes different seasons that make the space stand out from others. Picking the plot of land you want to use on that island also allows you to customize the home’s exterior and interior with decorations. That much freedom could be a little overwhelming, but there is an option to see some relevant items that might help fit the vision of the client’s dream vacation home in case you’re craving a little more direction. Happy Home Paradise also provides you with an option later on where you can build a client’s house with no brief at all, choosing everything from its items to the name of their home.
After a bit of playing, you can also unlock roommates, where two clients share a vacation home. Pairing villagers as roommates can be very useful if you have clients that want vacation homes with similar themes. Instead of each having their own home, why not build one and let them cohabitate? This is great as well if you just really want an excuse to finally have those two villagers you pretend are dating to live together.
However, if you expect to have your entire furniture catalog available to you right away, you are going to be disappointed. Happy Home Paradise makes more furniture available to you as you progress, but it can be a slow burn. That means there’s a good chance most of the decorations and designs you want to use for your client’s homes will not be available at the time of the assignment. Fortunately, there is an option to remodel previous homes you’ve decorated, which encouraged me to revisit and improve my previous projects as I continued to expand my business.
The more clients Paradise Planning gains, the more stuff you unlock; outside of furniture, unlockables also include new customization features such as pillars, adding a second floor to a client’s house, plus soundscapes to add a constant ambient sound into a room. My personal favorite was your ability to resize a room, allowing you to set a room as big as 10×10 or as small as 4×4.
Outside of recruiting clients who are visiting the archipelago, you also eventually unlock the ability to call in specific villagers using Animal Crossing’s extensive collection of Amiibo cards. You can invite villagers from your own island too, though it requires a bit of bribery by giving them Souvenir Chocolates, which are exclusively sold at the Paradise Planning Office.
Speaking of buying stuff, you do get paid for your hard work with the Paradise Planning team. Instead of bells, the traditional currency used in Animal Crossing, Lottie pays you in Poki, which can only be spent on items you buy when visiting the archipelago. For example, you can buy food at the Cafe, clothes at the Apparel Shop, or you can use that Poki to expand your catalog by talking to Wardell, the reserved, yet kind Manatee running the Paradise Planning gift shop. Similar to Nook’s Cranny, five items will be on display with the items switched on a daily basis. While these items are obtainable in the base game, I found the newer items introduced in update 2.0 easier to obtain through Wardell. Even better? After spending a certain amount of Poki at the gift shop, Wardell will allow you to order any items used during your time designing homes for Paradise Planning, and it will ship to your house the following day — this includes all color variations. Making it a lot easier to catalog furniture in New Horizons.
As you complete more houses your Poki salary increases as well, but I found the starting Poki salary to be quite generous, allowing me to buy most of the stuff in Wardell’s gift shop pretty quickly. Once you begin opening up others facilities on the archipelago like the apparel shop, however, the salary increase balances out somewhat with the other facilities that accept the payment.
If you are really not a fan of Poki, the Paradise Planning office has a currency exchange allowing you to convert your Poki into Bells. Outside of the Souvenir Chocolates, it seems like the items sold on the archipelago are not exclusively available through Poki based on what I’ve seen being sold in Nook’s Cranny. It certainly makes it easier to catalog all the new items introduced as part of the new DLC and the base game’s 2.0 update, which added lots of options whether you buy the Happy Home Paradise expansion or not.
The other island facilities you can open up range from a school, a restaurant, and even a hospital, all of which are vacant buildings when you start the DLC. As you build up your clientele for Paradise Planning, Lottie, the head of the business, will tap you into customizing these facilities so that clients can visit. This includes naming each facility and hiring staff to work there. And just like Wardell’s gift shop, every facility accepts Poki as a form of payment.
The facilities are by far my favorite thing about happy Home Paradise. You only have but so much space to use on your actual island, and this feels like you suddenly have an entirely new map to call your own. If you enjoy making little skits or photographs on Harv’s Island, you will enjoy the community-like atmosphere that comes when you begin to open up these facilities and see characters using these spaces. It really brings a lot more interactivity and makes the space feel more active than your own island, which maxes out at 10 villagers with most of the NPCs relegated to specific spots.
While it is a similarly slow burn to unlock all of the facilities, yet this method of unlocking feels equally rewarding as you can physically see the growth Paradise Planning and the archipelago experience the more you design vacation homes. You start off at Paradise Planning as a small, unknown business that has a few stragglers coming by to vacation, and it’s fun to work your way up into a place that everyone wants to visit. It’s very much reminiscent of working hard to build my island up to 5-Stars in the base game. Though I wish you had the choice of where you placed facilities or the order in which you unlock them – I find it much more practical to open up a hospital or a cafe before the school, which is the first facility that you unlock.
All the new skills and tricks you learn in the archipelago extend to your main island as well. You can now offer to remodel your villager’s homes, and (with the exception of the room-size adjustment tool) can redecorate or give some of their furniture a nice shine. While it’s disappointing that you can’t use the room-size tool on the main island, the option to even remodel a villager’s home is a nice touch. Especially if you, like me, managed to get your favorite villager early, and instead of getting their actual house, they got a default house that varies based on their personality. In my case, Drago, one of my favorite villagers whose house normally has a lot of cool Imperial-themed decor, instead had the default Lazy villager house with a log-cabin like interior with dirt flooring. Being able to finally redecorate his home without having to kick him out and bringing him back by way of Amiibo saves a lot of headache on my end.