It only takes 10 minutes to realise just how quirky Tomodachi Life is. Sit yourself down and watch the short Nintendo Direct presentation that accompanied news of the game’s surprise localisation, and you may have already been swayed as to whether such frivolous mirth will entertain you or not.
We’ve spent years mucking around with Miis since they were introduced on Wii, customisable caricatures that are intended to be an in-game extension of the player. While they’ve taken to the tennis court in Wii Sports and raced their way to glory in Mario Kart Wii, they are now cast in an entirely different light. Injected with a healthy dose of energised personality, determined by a test that has 16 outcomes, and synthesised voices, your Miis come alive, and you will soon appreciate that Tomodachi Life presents the best use of them that we have seen yet.
You inhabit your own tiny island, housed in a granite apartment block. It’ll be lonely at first, but Tomodachi Life comes into its own when you’ve imported as many Mii characters as you can get yours hands on. These can be created from scratch, generated from a photo, plucked from Mii Maker or transferred across from your Wii U, while QR codes allow you to share and receive created Miis with other players. Whether such creations be family, friends or Miis styled on Nintendo execs and celebrities is entirely your choice, as you concoct your own wacky paradise that will soon feel like you’re witnessing a melodramatic soap opera.
Tomodachi, which means “friend” in Japanese, is the spirit of what Nintendo have tried to achieve here. As your island becomes increasingly populated you’ll tend to the needs of your Miis: buying food from the supermarket to keep them from starving, decorating their rooms, and lending advice on how they can become best friends with their neighbours. There’s a personable nature to the experience, with players building a relationship with their Miis as they look to help them thrive in their new habitat.
As you may already know Tomodachi Life isn’t entirely bound by normality. For each meal that you chuck in your Miis direction and birthday you celebrate, you will find obscure moments intended to bring random hilarity to the mix. Tickling their nose with a feather to help them sneeze, pulling a crab that’s randomly crawling up their shoulder, or humouring them by playing card games. At night, when your Miis are sleeping, you can even investigate what they’re dreaming about, hilarious instances that present some of the game’s funniest occurrences – your Miis turned into hermit crabs, being stalked by ninjas, or being mass-manufactured into toys. Most are nightmares that startle them from their sleep, but these are humorous moments even if fairly haunting.
Nearly every interaction you make will result in some reward, and that’s usually an item that you can pass back to any Mii to witness bizarre consequences. These can see your 3DS turned into a kaleidoscope, can see your Mii cook a meal if you hand them a frying pan, or play a sliding puzzle mini-game together. Your Miis, for whatever reason, gain experience as you continually interact with them, eventually levelling up at which point you can give them a song, hand them a gift (Wii U and 3DS XL included!), switch their room decor, or teach them a phrase to say whenever they’re feeling certain moods.
You’ll have to meet certain criteria to unlock the island’s attractions, requiring certain numbers of Miis, successful StreetPass usage, and relying on your Miis to fall in love, among others. This will largely see a number of stores pop-up that let you buy food, outfits, interiors or sell items that you don’t want. Meanwhile, event spaces see your Miis let loose, the Concert Hall handing them a microphone so that they can sing customisable songs with choreographed backing dancers, or, when love blossoms, celebrate with a wedding ceremony. However, once you’ve done everything once there is little to reel you back in.
Tomodachi Life offers hilarity and fun while it lasts, but without any purpose or clear direction behind what you’re doing it meanders far too often. The game’s strength lies in witnessing the unexpected and sharing such moments through the 3DS Image Share service with friends. Outside of this, your interest is at risk of waning all too quickly, and it is a shame that it won’t take long for those that persevere to see all that this eccentric arrival has to offer.