Life-simulation games aren’t a new thing. For years we’ve had games like The Sims and Animal Crossing, and heck, there’s even The Game of Life for those who have played that through until the end. What’s to say that Tomodachi Life isn’t just another ho-hum life simulation game only with Miis? That’s what I set out to discover, so join me and some other Miis as we share an apartment on an island in Tomodachi Life. Sounds like the start to a brand new sitcom, doesn’t it?
Simply put, Tomodachi Life is a life-simulation game, but not quite like The Sims. You create your cast of Miis either from scratch, taking pictures of people, or importing them from the Mii Maker on the 3DS, and you all live in the same apartment on the same island (which you name by the way). When creating your Miis you can also give them personalities by altering certain traits such as how they act and talk which helps determine how they interact with other Miis. From there it’s simply checking in on your residents from time to time to see what’s going on and just basically keeping tabs on them. You might notice that they’re mad or having some sort of issue, maybe they want to play a game, or quite possibly even just get to know one of their neighbors better.
The main goal of the game is to help keep the residents happy. This is mainly done through helping them solve some sort of issue notated by a thought bubble with some squiggly lines in it. Issues can range anywhere from being hungry to wanting a new look for themselves to even wanting to have a relationship with another resident. As you solve their issues and help them maintain their happiness you earn money to spend on food and other items for your residents, plus that resident’s happiness meter increases. After it fills up they gain a level and you can give them a free item which can range from a new look for their apartment, a new song to sing at the concert hall, a random item they can carry around and use, or even a new phrase to say depending on their mood.
One thing you’ll notice a little ways into the game is that if you only have one person on the island, there’s not much to do. Besides, one person can get lonely by himself, so you make him a friend, perhaps one of the opposite gender in the hopes of starting a relationship (more on that in a bit). Now all of a sudden more options appear on your map and are introduced in detail by a news flash (by the way, apparently every Mii on the island works at the news station for some reason). These places include stores to buy new clothes, a park, an amusement park, a coffee shop, and more. However, each place has a requirement for unlocking it such as a certain number and/or gender of Miis on the island or solving a certain number of problems.
When it comes to relationships, you may go to check on the apartment and notice that one resident has a heart over their head. This indicates that they like someone enough to ask them out. After giving them advice on how best to go about it (be romantic, cute, sing a song, etc.) and where to meet them, the two Miis will meet, one will ask the other out, and the other will either accept or reject. Upon a rejection the Mii who initiated the exchange will begin to feel depressed, but if the other resident accepts then they’ll be in a relationship and could even get married. Unfortunately, while I have two of my residents in a relationship, they haven’t gotten married yet as of the time of this review. I know that babies will come into the picture, but I haven’t had the chance to experience that as of yet.
That’s basically the gist of the game; you make Miis and see what all they do. While you can give them stuff like new clothes, furniture sets for their apartment, and food, as well as do some basic interactions with them and solve their issues, you have no direct control over their actions. I’ll get to that in a few moments as we get into what I like about Tomodachi Life and what bothered me about it.
What Bothered Me:
There are a few small things that bother me about Tomodachi Life but they can all be summed up by something I just stated above: you really have no direct control over the actions of the island residents. Sure you can give them things like food and new clothes and influence their decisions a bit (such as should they talk to another resident to attempt a friendship/relationship), in terms of making decisions for them, you have no control over that. In a way this makes sense as you are basically a character yourself. You’re the overseer of the island and its residents, so in that sense you really have no control over their actions. This is both a good thing and a bad thing.
Take relationships for example. As stated earlier you can give them advice on asking the other person out, but after that it’s pretty much up to chance as to if the other person accepts or rejects. To give an example of that from my island, one of my female residents asked out a male resident. They’re best friends in the game and the female is the most desired female on the island (yes, the game somehow ranks that)…and yet she got rejected. Now the female is kind of depressed and her happiness meter has been temporarily replaced with a sadness meter. I can give her stuff to try to make her happy again, but I can’t do anything about trying to get them together as a couple. From the game’s perspective as I mentioned earlier it makes sense, but I still wish there was more control over it, such as talking to the male and convince him to give her a chance.
Outside of that, there doesn’t seem to be much to the game. Several areas do have scheduled events such as a rap battle that ought to be interesting to witness, and the amusement park has an RPG-style mini-game to play, but it’s not that great. It’s essentially a Dragon Warrior-style game that puts you in fights with food enemies before a final showdown with a rogue pot roast (sounds like Burger Time on steroids). You only have two options though: attack and heal. It basically just comes down to hitting attack over and over again and occasionally healing. Other than these events (which may include selling items not found in stores) you can catch up on the residents chatting in a coffee shop or just lying in the park, but again you really don’t have any control over who does what, when, and where.
What I Liked:
That said though, there is still some fun to be had here. Tomodachi Life is definitely more interactive than games like The Sims. I remember with The Sims I could get things going and then leave for a while to go do stuff, come back a couple of hours later and I’d likely not miss much aside from maybe getting killed by a swarm of bees, but the required interaction to progress the game wasn’t needed all the time. With Tomodachi Life there is a lot of interaction you can do, even if you can’t directly control the actions of the residents. It’s also not as easy as solving a problem for everyone and you’re done for the day. You can put down the game for a few minutes and come back to two more issues to fix…from the same residents you just helped. While fixing the issues can get monotonous after a while, it is interesting to see how some things work out.
I also like the digitized speech…for the most part. Whenever you create a Mii you can hear how the Mii’s name is spoken in the game and can even change how it’s pronounced if it doesn’t sound right. For instance, when I imported my Mii the game kept pronouncing my last name as “Ar-key” (the – is to better understand how the game pronounces my name). However, after going into the editor and changing the pronunciation to “Ar chee”, it now says my name correctly. You basically just put each syllable as its own word and it should sound just how you want it to.
There is one part though where the speech can get iffy…and surprisingly it’s not the singing (yes, the Miis can actually sing those songs you teach them…AND you can change the lyrics). It can get kind of grating when listening to the Miis talk and the way they say something isn’t quite how you pictured. It’s hard to explain without hearing it in person, but believe me when I say that sometimes the Miis say something in a way you wouldn’t think it would sound. Nothing bad or anything, but just weird. You can also hear the speech kind of blur at times, but it’s nothing major.
Tomodachi Life isn’t a bad game by any means, but it’s not for everyone. Fans of other life-simulation games would be more likely to enjoy this game, but that doesn’t mean that others won’t. It can be fun to check in on your residents, solve their problems, keep them happy, and see where life takes them, but unless you have a near full apartment of over twenty residents it can get monotonous kind of quickly. That said I do enjoy the game and will go back to it now and then, especially to unlock the other areas on the map (what I have left are mainly wedding and streetpass related). There are streepass and spotpass options, the former allowing you to send items and residents to other islands and to get imported items to your island as well as visitors from other islands. Sadly I didn’t get the chance to check this out, but maybe in a couple of months after I go to GenCon I can do a write-up if I get some visitors and explain how that went. I’m also hoping to provide an update on my thoughts about how weddings and babies impact the game once they happen. With that said, Tomodachi Life may not be for everyone, but it can be enjoyable in short bursts.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.