Perhaps it was at the point when I saw Chuck Norris doing yoga with Batman, the Joker, and Barack Obama or maybe it was when Princess Peach was rejected by Peter Griffin. At some point while playing Tomodachi Life, I realized how much the game activated my imagination. When I was little, I was never one to play with action figures or make up fake storylines for fictional characters to partake in, but with Tomodachi Life, I have never felt my imagination so stimulated. I feel like I am managing a virtual dollhouse of celebrities; that is okay, because I have never had so much fun planning the daily goings-on of my Miis.
At its very core, Tomodachi Life is a life simulator. Players begin by setting up and naming their very own island. Then, they can import characters they wish to play with using Mii Maker or QR codes. In my case, I just browsed the Internet, scanning QR codes of various famous Miis. Players then micromanage the daily lives of all the inhabitants of their island. A player may be required to feed their Miis when they get hungry, encourage their Miis to go on a date, or buy their Miis new clothes. All of these activities are encompassed in the player’s bin of responsibilities.
Although these various activities may sound like a chore, that is wherein all the fun lies. Watching characters interact with each other, experiment with new activities, or even play games with you never gets old. Perhaps playing with just normal run-of-the-mill Miis could grow to be tiresome after a while, but Tomodachi Life’s approach of encouraging the use of famous or well-known Miis makes the game infinitely more entertaining.
Although the game may seem very open-ended and nonlinear, Tomodachi Life still features a progression system that loosely guides players upon a set path. This encourages exploration on the part of the player, but also ensures that the player consistently finds something new to do every day. Characters, for example, have a “happiness level.” This RPG-like leveling system allows each character to increase or decrease their happiness based off of how you treat them. Give them a food they love? Introduce them to a new friend? In those cases, the characters will quickly level up. Encourage the character to go on a date where they are stood up? Well, let us just say that plenty of tears and down-levels are in their future. Instead of just making characters happy with no incentive, this RPG-like mechanic encourages players to continue coming back to level up their characters and their happiness levels.
Similarly, the game has a plethora of new shops and locations to unlock as the game progresses. At the beginning of the game, only one store is open; however, as players play more and more and as new Mii characters move into the island, new shops, recreational activities, and leaderboards open up for players to engage in. This allows players a constant motivation to continue checking back to their island, as there is always something new to mess with.
Yet another notable gameplay mechanic is the aspect of relationships. Each character has a different type of personality, so some characters may be compatible with others while at other times, characters may not stand one another. Once again, maybe the game would not be nearly as fun if two random Miis decided to become friends one day; however, I cannot help but laugh out loud when Chuck Norris and Hillary Clinton get married and have children of their own within my Tomodachi Life.
Unfortunately, given the handheld-driven nature of the gameplay, extended gameplay sessions will be nearly impossible. The game will work wonderfully for those with commutes or for those who only have time for handheld gaming in 20-30 minute bursts; however, for those seeking gameplay sessions longer than an hour, Tomodachi Life may struggle to keep you entertained. Although it is much better than Animal Crossing in regards to providing enough things to do each day, the game will eventually run out of things to do if players spend too long playing. Those picking up Tomodachi Life should definitely look at the game as more of a long-term investment, as it is one of those games that they will have to come back to daily.
The other complaint I had with the game was its lack of social features. Nintendo tried, no doubt, to incorporate some into the game. Players can, for example, take pictures at any time and upload them to social networks. StreetPass also allows for players to trade items with those they have StreetPassed with and can even send off travelers to visit the islands of other players. Unfortunately, social interaction ends there. With such large potential, it’s a shame that Nintendo failed to include any sort of online play other than the occasional SpotPass download or any further StreetPass implementation, such as for the ability to see the collection of Miis of other players.
In short, Tomodachi Life is an incredibly simple game, but just like with action figures, the amount of enjoyment the game can provide lies solely on the efforts of the players. Although the social features may be lacking and the game cannot be enjoyed in extended gameplay sessions, if you are looking for an entertaining, imaginative experience and do not mind the cutesy art style or the adorable Vocaloid voicing, I wholeheartedly recommend Tomodachi Life. For those looking for an action-based, story-driven experience, you may have to look elsewhere.