What is Tomodachi Life?
It’s a question Nintendo asked when it had that zany Nintendo Direct for the game some months ago. It’s a question that I’m still trying to answer even after having the game for several weeks. Tomodachi Life isn’t like any one game so most comparisons are moot.
Nintendo being the Japanese company it is has some pretty crazy characters. There’s characters that are inherently crazy and then there’s the ones who, through lack of cultural understanding, appear crazy. In Tomodachi Life, the characters are your Mii, the personification of them at least. The game stresses that the Mii you play is isn’t you, but instead your look alike. So while they may be similar in personality they’re not meant to be you. But you’ve never seen or heard your Mii like this before.
Tomodachi Life begins on an island whose name is of your own choosing, your Mii takes residence in a big empty apartment and there’s a few stores open and things to do. Mii are imported from the Mii Maker but you can import any Mii via QR Code or even make one from scratch. In the game the Mii personalization goes further with sliders adjusting how slow or fast someone moves, how polite they are, how expressive they are and more. Then it’s time to give your Mii a voice, well a quirky mechanic voice at least.
There’s no overarching story in Tomodachi Life. Things just happen and you don’t really have that much control over what happens and when. Your Mii will request your attention, giving you ideas and hints to prod you into the right direction but it’s all randomly chosen when these events will occur. You do have to look after your Mii, however, keeping them fed and supplied with clothes and other commodities to keep them happy. The happier they are, the more money you hae and the more you can purchase for them in the form of gifts.
Friendships and relationships occur naturally in the game and things are pretty tame. Any Mii can form a friendship with any other Mii, relationships are male and female only – something Nintendo says they’ll look at fixing to be more inclusive next time around. Eventually the Mii partnerships will move in together and live in an apartment or a couples house, they might even have childen. These children may grow up and stay on the island or they could move over with StreetPass to another game. Seeing how your Mii interact with each other are funny, they can get into some crazy situations. Adding Nintendo staff and celebrities to the game adds another layer of bizarre.
Most of the time you play is spent in the apartment complex. Mii will sleep, play, run around and roll around on the floor all during the day. They’ll ask you to play a simple games with them, show you their bizarre dreams at night. There is customization of apartments but its limited to inserting different ‘scenes’ and styles, you can’t move furniture, apply wallpaper or anything to that extent. This lack of control is apparent in the games menu, you can’t walk around the island exploring, each location is just a simple if not slightly boring tap away instead.
At the start of the game, when your options are endless, you’ll get a New Bulletin-esque presentation announcing a new event or activity. After the bulk of them have been unlocked, the News Bulletins change and are updated daily at the local TV station so that it doesn’t interrupt gameplay and you can even watch previously unlocked bulletins too.
There are a variety of events and activities to do around the island, some of which only run at certain times of the day. There’s two main type of events and activities, the first is the more hands off where you simply just watch what happens. The second gets you more involved. The simpler activities including watching your Mii dig on the beach, looking out of the observation deck at the top of the tower or seeing your Miis converse in a cafe to catch up on gossip. All of these are as riveting as they sound, once.
The interactive activities are far better. Putting on a rock show is mostly automated, songs are gifted to your Mii as an option when leveling up. The lyrics of these songs can be changed into whatever you like. Seeing your Mii and his or her friends dressed up like a 50s greaser is hilarious. Elsewhere, there’s a quiz show for the Mii community to participate in and even a Mii RPG. This RPG is ‘styled’ like an 8bit game and plays like a classic turn based strategy game, it can drag on a little long if it’s not your thing though. If the game does have a point at all it’s that keeping your Miis happy gives them a better life and you a better rating. There’s even a ranking board to check out how much your Male Mii appeals to the female ones or who has the most vitality. Of course, I was at the top last time I checked.
Two awesome things to note is that the game comes with two codes for ‘Tomodachi Life: Welcome Version’. This short demo allows two of your friend and family to play the game for free in a limited capacity on their own system. If they like the game they can take their island and Mii to the full version. Tomodachi Life also allows you to take screenshots (of either screen) at any time with the X and Y buttons. These can be uploaded to Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr from within the Nintendo 3DS browsers quickly and easily. You can also get the images off your SD card if you prefer. All of the images in this review are from my own island.
Tomodachi Life is meant to be played slowly over many days. Something you check into every so often and see what is the word on the street. Something like Animal Crossing rewards you for playing often and there’s at least a year of content laid out for you. We’ve had the game for a couple of weeks now and the check-ins have become less frequent. There feels like there’s a ton of things to see in the game, lots of dialogue and crazy situations for your Mii to get into but you have to do some mundane things to get there. Forever pointless the game may seem at times it is shockingly crazy, weird and even cute at times. There are some genuinely funny things to watch along the way, it’s good old-fashioned fun and completely random.
Tomodachi Life is an interesting experience ultimately let down by a lack of depth and meaningful things to do. The game only provides a small amount of enjoyment each day and trying to force more out of it will tire you on the whole thing quicker. There’s no doubt a younger audience will get a kick of it, with the type of random and off the wall humour appealing more to them. Tomodachi Life is going to be a cult Nintendo game in the future, but that doesn’t mean its for everyone or its a great game.
Embargo restrictions from Nintendo mean we’re unable to give a score to Tomodachi Life before June 7th. We’ll add a score after this date.