This game is undoubtedly the hardest thing to write about because it’s just so off-the-wall bonkers. A majority of the content and scenarios in this life simulator are so out there and bizarre that half the time I’m left pondering just what’s occurring, and yet it’s all strangely entertaining. Nintendo could be onto something with Tomodachi Life, but that potential isn’t fully realized within the confines of this game.
First and foremost, the elephant in the room needs to immediately be addressed. As many people have become well aware of, Tomodachi Life has been at the center of controversy because it doesn’t allow Miis (Nintendo’s cutesy avatars) to become romantically involved with members of the same sex. This was a conscious decision by the developers behind the game and it’s a very silly thing to exclude because it immediately turns a cold shoulder to a number of longtime fans and consumers.
It takes away from the freedom that any life simulator (be it this zany or not) should strive to offer players, and while it may not immediately affect some, it’s a mark against what is otherwise a very light-hearted and entertaining game. Nintendo has apologized for this oversight and has promised to rectify this issue in future entries — provided there are more — so gamers may be inclined to wait for future iterations.
Controversial subject matter aside, Tomodachi Life banks on continuous play in a similar manner to other games like The Sims or Animal Crossing. Players will have to interact with those that reside on their island in an attempt to address random problems or situations that pop up. Some islanders will want help introducing themselves to other inhabitants, some will want to pursue a romantic relationship with the player’s insight, and others will want to have children with their significant other. Every day poses a new challenge, as well as reward.
Booting up the game every 24 hours will grant users access to new items in the shops, events to accomplish, and money which can be used to buy islanders new clothes, food, or apartment layouts. Once an item has been purchased, it can be repurchased again at any point, which is sure to encourage some gamers’ inner completionists to keep coming back. There are also daily events that unfold at certain times of the day, and they’ll award users with collectibles that can then be sold for additional funds.
One of the most engaging aspects of interacting with Miis is the ability to level them up. By giving these island inhabitants their favorite types of foods, solving their randomly generated problems, and helping them interact with one another will award them experience points to level up. Leveling a character up allows players to give their Miis exclusive items ranging from Nintendo-themed goodies like a 3DS XL or Wii U to more traditional items like a laptop or golf clubs. These are cosmetic more than anything, and the Miis can only be seen using them for those glance through each avatar’s apartment window, but it’s a fun way to add a little more character to those the occupants — albeit largely not impactful.
The major appeal however, is in creating the characters that will live within Tomodachi Life. Gamers will be prompted to create themselves, and they can do that by either importing their existing Mii or creating a brand new one. After that’s been done, players are tasked with adding additional residents to their island. Friends, celebrities, fictional characters, Nintendo encourages anyone playing to add anyone or anything their heart desires into the mix. The end result can make the game even more outlandish with certain scenarios (my father became best friends with Stone Cold Steve Austin, for example), but it doesn’t always work out as well as Nintendo had likely hoped.
As a result of tasking users to create their own Miis, a majority of the game feels like the Mii Maker that comes pre-installed on both the Wii U and 3DS. Unless gamers have a wide array of readily accessible Miis pre-made on their hard-drives, it’s just not all that enjoyable to create new ones. Admittedly, it can be a little less tedious if the person being recreated is next to the player and the ability to download popular Miis from online is also a solid option, but for the most part the entire process becomes a little tiresome. It’s also necessary to keep adding inhabitants to unlock different areas and features, so there’s really no way of getting around it.
Tomodachi Life takes a basic approach to sim games and gives it an adorable spin that Nintendo fans will enjoy, but overall there’s just a lack of things to do and the game can become repetitive quickly. There’s definitely potential for the series to grow and there are some genuinely entertaining moments to be had, but the charm of this title runs out pretty quickly. The allure is suppose to come in the form of collecting every item and treasure in the game by continuously booting it up, but after a while there’s just not enough incentive to keep doing so. Still, there’s an odd appeal that comes with Miis rap battling each other decked out in dinosaur and astronaut outfits.
Tomodachi Life is available now at retailers and on the Nintendo eShop exclusively for the Nintendo 3DS.
Follow Riley on Twitter @TheRileyLittle.