Pineapple shirts. A shark on the beach. Flared nostrils. Daily Markets. Escargot. Rent-A-Puppy coupons. Cloud. Ganondorf. Luke Triton. You. Mii.
If that all sounds like a bunch of random nonsensical musings to you, you’d be right. That’s the sort of pacing and tone Tomodachi Life consists of. It’s a game where “strange” is one of the best descriptors I could use to describe Nintendo’s most recent life simulator where you can create mii avatars of your friends and proceed to cause a degree of havoc with their lives. Havoc the Tomodachi Life way can take shape in many forms: whether by dressing them up in normal clothes while giving them bizarre headwear, looking in their heads at their request or if you’re feeling daring enough to do so on your own — altering their voices, personalities and movements to be as normal or quirky as you see fit, or by facilitating the formation of unlikely relationships.
Playing a Demi God to Exaggerated Personalities
It’s fun seeing your friends do and say things that are appropriate to their real life personalities. Your mii friend representations will sometimes get into hilarious conversations or slap you with quips about others, while making fun of their mii neighbours. I found that the personalities bordered on the extreme which made inside jokes with my friends that more hilarious. For instance, watching one particular friend of mine roll around on the floor of her apartment makes me chuckle due to an exaggerated personality in which, maybe if it were socially acceptable for an adult to exhibit such behaviour, my friend probably would engage in such things. Since I crafted my mii friends to be very near their own personalities, their direct or quirky personality traits and Nintendo’s handling of the writing pushed their mannerisms to personify them in the funniest, and strangest ways possible.
In the same breath, when my friends’ mii counterparts reject their favourite foods it leaves me scratching my head. Control over characters in Tomodachi Life is not completely left to you but instead, the miis will try to enlist your help in some way. They’ll want to become friends with other miis and while you cannot direct who they’ll pick to start friendships with, you can give them a little bit of a push and advice to form friendships based on their matches, and personalities. It may not always work but it leaves for some baffling scenarios. Did I find it hilarious that Cloud and Sephiroth are best friends, while Link and Ganondorf are best buds too? I sure did.
The lack of control over these aspects of their lives leaves for some interesting scenarios to occur.
As with those dark, direct or inadvertent things that come out of your mii friends’ mouths, there are scenarios that your Mii will find themselves in that are just terribly funny. Candid chats at your island’s cafe, watching them perform songs from various genres complete with backup dancers, and dream sequences are examples of Tomodachi Life’s humour at its best. I literally laughed out loud at a particular punch line when one of my mii friends had a scary dream where someone was peeking into their window. It was meta humor at its finest. Not everything is completely funny in this game but there are a lot of moments that will give you a chuckle.
From being able to customize your mii friends’ voices - tones, accents and pronunciations on how their names are said - to customizing their personalities to how directly they speak or how expressive they are; the game does a good job in that regard to create a wide range of personalities and then places them in group personality types such as the dreamer or charmer, to name a few which may put birds of a feather to flock together.
You can then go to a part of the island to test their compatibility and friendship forecasts - days when its best to make friends and such or who might be a good match for a friendship. I never found this made much sense when thinking about my own friendships where as per the game I have yet to make friends with one of my real life best friends. It’s there and can probably be useful but not knowing makes it even more clever while equally baffling. Maybe it’s just a silly joke as those compatibility testers are meant to be? I haven’t found much accuracy to them at times.
While the customizations on the mii level is probably the most in-depth, Nintendo has a way with stylizing your wardrobe. Clothes, hats and headpieces are wonderful to collect even if I found my miis requested a change of clothes infrequently, nor did I feel a need to dress them up. Of course, hand them a particular item, in this case a mirror, and you can watch them change outfits regularly and become fashionistas. Though, their likes also appeared arbitrary as did their food likes.
Food options are in abundance as well, and it’s fun to go to the store each day or visit the daily market to see what new options are available to guinea pig/feed your miis. What’s fun about that? Well the food options range from the fancy to pieces of candy and the mii reactions to certain foods are a reward in of itself. The unpredictability is a major fact in making the game enjoyable in that regard.
You can also give your miis particular songs to sing as well from various genres and the lyrics are also customizable. Not that the standard lyrics are not ridiculous and funny on their own but you could put your own spin on things as well while you belt out a ballad to a roaring crowd, or in a band you put together of your mii friends.
A Spot of Brilliance
Tomodachi Life is by no means a deep, thought provoking experience. Though I will say that I found one particular touching moment in all of this relationship building.
I made the mistake of letting two of my best friends fall in love when they had no business being together. I’ve been attempting to break them up which I have no idea is possible at this point. When Link the Mii expressed his love for one party of that aforementioned relationship, I sent him to do my dirty work, hoping he’d persuade my friend to date him instead. Link was unsuccessful and so began his day with his head hiding under a pouring rain cloud. I had no means by which to help cheer him up at that moment, so I left him and later went to the cafe.
An event was on and Link’s closest friends all went to eat and invited him too. As hard as they could, they tried to get him included in the conversation laying out their best jokes or gossip but Link remained depressed and uttered not a word. It was the only time I felt the game did something sort of cool that actually showed any sort definition of true ‘friendship’, despite the miis visiting each other or playing games in their apartments.
The mini games themselves range from the terrible to the not so bad. Generally they consist of mini puzzles such as extreme close up zoom games, quizzes about how well you know your islanders, match card games and guess the shadow games among others. These are the games that your islanders will occasionally ask you to play. There’s also a very simplistic JRPG simulator you can play at the island’s arcade. It makes for a fun romp but as with all the games, again, it’s terribly basic and intended as quick diversions. It’s the same as community mini games where you can play Frisbee in the park with your islanders, or answer questions on the roof. There’s nothing terribly engaging other than for a quick laugh.
The soundtrack is not remarkable. The most interesting pieces are the ones that convey mii sadness. Overall, the music can be described as non-offending - pleasant enough, easy on the ears and easygoing for the quick bite sessions of game play Tomodachi Life is meant for.
Well, there’s not much here and while it’s a life simulator where you play a limited role, you can make money by fulfilling your miis’ request or checking in on them and giving them presents. In return your miis will give you various items such as cold medicine or hairspray - all items any one of them will request at some point again in the future for when they decide they want their hair colour changed or need to get over a cold.
You will also get money depending on how much they like whatever outfit you give them, new interior design, or food. Daily collections occur at the fountain and in no time, I managed to build up sufficient funds to at least keep them happy to buy new types of food and clothes every day. I may not yet be able to freely spend on ridiculously pricey house interiors but the point is that it’s easy.
It’s easy to make money and easier still to pawn items you win from the mini games to rack up a bank account that’s large and in charge. The ease makes this game no real challenge - it really is not meant for that at all but it also suffers in that I really have not much to do to keep them happy. And therefore, I lose any incentive to keep coming back to check on them for their needs.
It doesn’t help that sometimes they could be starving and they’ll indicate they need something from me, only to ask me if they want to see a funny face they’ve been working on. Shouldn’t they be asking me to feed them? They do sometimes but sometimes, the game really just feels like I’m watching ants doing tricks at times.
As fun as the mini games can sometimes be, visiting the fountain for rap battles, or checking in to see what the new food items are for the day; the game is incredibly repetitive. As such it gets dull quickly even for a game that’s meant to be played in short bursts.
My goals right now are for me to find out what my miis like in terms of food and what they dislike because as mentioned before, seeing their reactions is comedic gold. Other goals for me may include wanting to see if Cloud and Yuffie will be a thing and if Tifa will throw a fit. However, I often feel as though the game’s major, end goal focus is getting married, which is sort of terrible and insulting in its own right to me. However, there’s another point to be made here and that is, once you experience anything the game throws at you, it quickly loses its charm because you’ve been there and done that and most likely will on multiple occasions.
Tomodachi Life as a life simulator is too basic in what it expects of you to be interesting for very long. Quirky humour has led to some amazing moments but overall, again, even that did not save the game from losing its novelty very quickly. Tomodachi Life is fun for the short time it lasts, which is sad because there are some ideas here that can be expanded upon for a deeper experiences. A future installment will hopefully see everything fans deserve, want and much more.