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Tomodachi Life

22:1922/09/2014Posted by Charles Etheridge-NunnOne Comment

Tomodachi Life is a ‘life simulator’ by Nintendo, one which has had a small level of controversy in its limited time in the West due to its attempt to ‘not make a message’ on gays actually making a message about them. Aside from that and the baffling ten minute Nintendo Direct video, not much was known about the game. The moment I saw the video I was intrigued, but there was no sign about what the gameplay entailed or what would happen other than Miis getting into hijinks.

Armed with so little information, I decided it would be an interesting concept to tinker with, especially as I am an unabashed fan of The Sims series of games. I had some interesting experiences with the game, the characters I made and the ultimate limitations of the concept.

Tomodachi Life is a game which follows the style of The Sims or Animal Crossing, but with some very specific differences. You start off with a fairly barren island which has a block of flats as its main feature. You’re prompted to put a Mii in, either created from scratch or imported from the 3DS’ Mii Maker. You tweak their height, weight, voice and personality traits. Then you dump them in the world and watch them live their life.

That, for the most part, is it.

Each day the island’s shops will get new or recycled shipments of clothes, hats, food and room decorations. These can be bought with money which you earn by fulfilling requests of your Mii. You can make the Miis happy by feeding them or helping them out when there’s a thought bubble above their heads, indicating a personal (grey), social (orange), romantic (pink) need or a (blue) state of depression. The needs are all fairly simple and there are only so many.

Once you’ve put your Mii in, the game will start to prompt you through certain actions. It wants more Miis on the island so they can interact and also live out “weird” lives. The flats are only so big, but it’ll expand a few times when you get closer and closer to filling it up. With a need to make a bunch of Miis and not liking the old Sims trick of just making your mates I decided to make my favourite superheroes, The X-Men.

So here’s my second warning, in explaining how Tomodachi Life is, this is going to get a bit fan-ficcy. This is okay and something which is pretty much encouraged by the game, given that Miis for Mario, Samus, the main real-life Nintendo personalities and even people like Shaq were distributed online for people to add to their collection. People have been making Mii Batman and Mii Jesus since the Miis first came out, so it’s expected you’ll either do this, create your friends or try to go down the obscene route. Something of everyone there, but I just went a bit X-Men based for this playthrough.

Each one had customised personalities which seemed to replicate the original characters. Cyclops would mope in his room alone. Gambit would wander around trying to chat up all of the women. Pixie ran around in circles like a plane, in her own world. Namor was just smug. A lot of the personalities are tweaked and assumed with gifts and phrases added to the pre-defined personality group each Mii ends up in after character creation. You can give them clothing, rooms, toys to play with and see which food they like or hate. Quicksilver is all about popcorn, so much that eating it made his body leave the Earth temporarily.

They dream. They work, occasionally, although that really does nothing but put one of them in the shops on the island when they’re not in their room. They might be seen gossiping in the café, flying a kite or having a barbecue. You can make bands and even customise songs. A Mii might ask for dating advice or the best way to introduce themselves to another Mii. None of that is controlled by the player, aside from the occasional arbitrary yes/no type final say on the random choice of a character. When Kitty Pryde asked if dating Sabretooth was a good idea, I gave a resounding ‘no’. Professor X and Jubilee still ended up together in a creepy teacher/student relationship despite attempts to interfere.

Cyclops and Emma Frost have a fairly loveless romance going on and as thrilled as I am that the random number generators behind Tomodachi Life decided this, it still all feels relatively arbitrary. Fulfilling a childhood dream, my Mii married Jean Grey and we’re far happier, although again, that was something out of my hands. We go on holidays around the world but after a few trips, each holiday is identical, barring the landmarks that the same scene plays out in front of.

The time of day changes the events going on in Tomodachi Life, but ultimately every single day has the same events again and again. All the awesome dream sequences will cycle through pretty quickly. The demands are only so limited and the time of year changes pretty much nothing. Seasonal items may appear through Spotpass but so fat that’s all I’ve seen change.
People can’t be evil, or annoying, or anything other than quirky. I know it’s supposed to be skewing fairly young but this makes the characters all pretty samey.

If you want more agency over your personal character and an addiction to the constant flow of change in a place, check out Animal Crossing New Leaf. If you want a bunch of characters made by you messing around in a town of your designing then play a Sims game.

Tomodachi Life is entertaining for a short amount of time and sadly lacking after that. My love of the X-Men made my experiences entertaining, but the shine wears off really quickly.

Reviewed on 3DS; game was purchased by the reviewer

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