Review: Tomodachi Life (Nintendo 3DS)

Tomodachi LifeTomodachi Life
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo
Genre: Simulation
Release Date: 06/06/2014

Ever since its announcement during the associated incredibly weird Nintendo Direct, people have been talking about Tomodachi Life, a new life simulation game focused on the zany antics of Miis. The game came across as incredibly quirky, and many people I knew were in love with the idea of putting a bunch of Miis together to see what hijinks would ensue. After all, these Miis could be anyone: friends, family, celebrities, even fictional characters. Who wouldn’t want to confess their love to Samus?

Tomodachi LifeSetting your island up is fairly simple. You’ll create Miis and unlock various aspects of the island as you play. Nintendo offers the ability to make and use QR codes to help in Mii creation (and the sharing of those creations) as well, and Nintendo has even offered up QR codes on their website for Christina Aguilera, Shaquille O’Neal, Shaun White, Debby Ryan, and Zendaya. You can also import Mii information from a friend, but it appears your friend has to have the game as well if you want all of their information to transfer, so if that’s the case, you’re better of just making them yourself.

Tomodachi LifeYou’ll be able to feed and clothe your Mii, find out what their likes and dislikes are, as well as help them decorate their apartments, teach them phrases, play games with them, and teach them songs. If you’d like, you can also help them save up for a trip into space. They’ll run on the beach, dye their hair, take baths, cook, get transformed into children and adults, get hypnotized, participate in rap battles, put on concerts (you can even change the lyrics in the songs), and many other activities. As they do these activities, you’ll be able to take screenshots by pressing X or Y. Your Miis will interact with one another, forming friendships, fighting and making up, and even falling in love, getting married, and having children.

There was some controversy surrounding the fact there was no same-sex marriage in the game, though gamers quickly found a workaround by making one character technically male and another one technically female and designing them the same way they would have otherwise. So, say you wanted Loras and Renly to get married, you would make one of them female but still make them look like their Game of Thrones counterparts. Other than the fact that other Miis would refer to that character with the appropriate in-game pronouns and not the pronouns that person would have preferred (for example, if you made Loras female, people would of course refer to Loras as “she”), it was a possible fix should someone really want a same-sex couple. Nintendo did respond to the controversy and apologize, saying they would look for ways to include same-sex relationships in future games.

Tomodachi LifeDon’t be misled by the number of hours you may put into the game initially. There’s quite the variety in this game, though it is more of a “check up on this game once or twice a day” game than it is a “play for eight hours straight” game. I recommend making a few Miis at a time, and when you start to feel like the game has hit a lull, make a few more. Up to 24 Miis can be stored in the apartments initially, with an expansion to 48 Miis once you get close to the limit. What’s a little weird to me is that even a pair of Miis get married and move to their own house, they retain their separate apartments. It would have been nice (and would have made more sense) to have those Miis move to the house and either consolidate into one apartment or to free up those apartments completely.

The music is very enjoyable and the graphics are decent for what the game is, if not a bit outmoded. I think a lot of people will have mixed feelings on the synthesized voices, however. On the one hand, they’re pretty good and more customizable than I thought they’d be. On the other hand, punctuation (other than the end of a sentence) is largely ignored, which is fairly odd and sometimes detracts from the emotion that Mii is trying to express to you. You can use that to your advantage when teaching them phrases, of course, but otherwise, it feels a bit flat sometimes.

Tomodachi LifeSince so much time was spent on creating a variety of clothes, food, and apartment themes, for example, it seems odd that there’s so little variety in other places, like the mini-games. There are only a few (maybe five or so) that you’ll be asked to play with your Miis, and they can get old really quickly. It’s also strange that with the apartment decorations, you pick a theme and you get the one variation of it. I would have liked to either have several layouts of a specific theme (say, variations of the Secret Base theme) or the ability to place furniture myself, kind of like what you can do in Animal Crossing. It also seems odd that the game isn’t more engaging in other aspects, like allowing you to interact with Miis in various settings. For example, there are sometimes magic shows in the amusement park, but it seems to be the same magic trick every time, and if you check up on Miis who are there while there is no magic show going on, you can’t do anything with those Miis other than watch them. It seems a little weird that, in a game that focuses so much on interaction, you’re left out of those interactions a lot of the time. That said, watching the Miis interact, especially within their own apartments, can be highly entertaining.

Tomodachi LifeTomodachi Life is quirky and enjoyable. I’m sure at some point the game will become boring, as most simulators do, but so far I’m still surprised by some of the stuff that happens in game, and I still laugh at the silly things my Miis do. Despite all the things you can see in game (the game, unfortunately, is largely watching rather than doing things), Nintendo manages to keep the game fairly simple and easily accessible for younger audiences while still being fairly engaging for adults. All in all, I think the game will only be as fun as what you can put into it, and those with more creativity will get bored with this a lot later than those who are lacking in the creativity department. In the end, I think that while Tomodachi Life could have taken a few notes out of the books of simulation games that have come before it, this title is still a good addition to any 3DS owner’s collection, provided they enjoy the genre.

Short Attention Span Summary

 Tomodachi Life has its flaws, namely some issues with customization, the lack of engagement in some areas of the game, and the repetitive nature of the mini games and a few other events, but the game is genuinely amusing and a good game to pick up once or twice a day. While you can make Miis of anyone you want, including celebrities and fictional characters, you’ll probably get the most enjoyment out of it if you use people you know, as the randomness of the events and interactions between Miis can be comedy gold.

 

4 Comments
      • Mark B.

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