Tomodachi Life

Video Game Review

Tomodachi Life 1

Me and Tomodachi Life spent quite a bit of time together last week. While I was suffering through what could quite possibly have been the hardest and most tedious assignment I have ever written (Including a second 3,000 word rewrite), it was refreshing to be able to spend a few minutes every hour or two, checking into the island and seeing what each of my Mii’s were getting up to. But procrastination can make even the most mediocre of tasks seem appealing, and when sitting down to critically play the game yesterday I struggled to find much excitement at all.

The concept behind Tomodachi Life is pretty simple but devoid of any particular goal or main storyline. Essentially you, as the player in front of the screen, are left to create and move up to 100 different Mii’s into a small island town and then let them play out their merry lives. During their stay on the island they will interact with each other, become friends, marry and then potentially have children together. Despite being able to enjoy all stages of a relationship, they still struggle to carry out the mundane tasks by themselves such as popping down to the shops they are a part-timer at to pick up some food, choose what clothes to wear or decide if they want to walk five steps out their apartment door to become friends with and subsequently marry Reggie Fils-Aime. Despite the game limiting free-will in that sense, it was a welcome decision as otherwise the game would pretty much come down to watching the Mii’s performing the same handful of actions with each other while you peer through their apartment window.

You quickly become accustomed to the same daily loop of feeding, clothing and guiding the Mii’s with each and every major decision in their life. Occasionally this changes with either a collection objective (Although at the start of Tomodachi Life, they like asking for items that are not always possible to acquire) and a handful of mini-games, but they both become dull very quickly. These actions generally reward you with either an interactive or pawnable item, in addition to a small sum of money and experience points. The experience “rewards” system provides that particular Mii with access to either a new song, special phrase or item of your choice among other things. In my opinion, it would be best to allow at least seven Mii’s to unlock all eight song options – for reasons that will be discussed a little later on.

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While there are a number of interesting apartment interior designs for you to choose from, unlike Animal Crossing there is no option of collecting furniture and making each room unique. This also highlights a particular issue with Tomodachi Life… that you only get a very slim portion of items to purchase from the store each day. The same concept has been used in other life simulation games on Nintendo platforms, but this time they decided to crack down on time jumpers by not refreshing the items in any of the stores unless a full 24 hour cycle has been carried out without changing the in-game time or 3DS console time. In this regard, making the up to 100 Mii’s on your island look unique may take an awfully long time to carry out – and as their advertising campaigns seem to be targeted towards younger audiences, potentially well past a young gamers attention span. This is a shame because the range of interiors, clothing, accessories and food items are really quite good.

One of the unique aspects about Tomodachi Life is that it contains a fully functional text-to-voice speech synthesizer, meaning that your Mii’s can carry out proper conversations without needing to use pre-recorded dialogue. This does mean that Mii’s generally end up sounding robotic, but it is much better than just reading text from the screen and after a while becomes unnoticeable. A Mii’s voice can be edited at creation based on a pre-set age/gender or several factors including pitch, speed and tone. Dialogue is in part based on one of sixteen different personality types which can be assigned to a Mii, ranging from the eccentric extrovert to the sheltered introvert. It was a clever idea, however after a few hours you might find that some of the dialogue comes down to the same pattern of “(Text) _______ (Text)”. However some of the dialogue can prove extremely quirky, weird or disturbing… and there is enough to warrant a few laughs.

Other attempts to deliver some of the better moments in the game come through two systems. The first is the news broadcasts which go live at 7 AM / PM every day which highlight some of the quirkier happenings in the town. Was your best friend almost “mugged” by a crow? Did a relative become a toilet squatter? These are the hard-hitting news stories you will be informed of! Tomodachi Life will also grant you a special look into the dreams of Mii’s. While they offer several dozen potential dreams for you to peek into, they seem to unlock at a very slow rate of 1-2 per night, with frequent repeats.

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Perhaps the best component of Tomodachi Life is the concert hall, where up to seven Mii’s can put on a musical performance in one of eight genres including Heavy Metal, Pop and “Musical”. While the game includes only a single tune for each of the genres, it is possible to edit lyrics to a song by filling in lines of text and then having the voice synthesizer replicate them in time to the music. While the songs produced wouldn’t match the standard of Vocaloid songs by any means, it is a much more approachable system to those of any age and the end product can be absolutely hilarious to watch. My guidelines were to get into the song editor and write random crap up, and it worked pretty well in the end. With a broader range of tunes and instruments, Nintendo might just have been able to market this system as an individual downloadable game, as a potentially stronger successor to Wii Music.

Ultimately, Tomodachi Life offered several enjoyable moments and comes with a handful of creative ideas and concepts. However this does little to detract from the fact that after a few hours you will begin seeing the same events take place over and over again, with any new events such as dreams spaced out over days if not weeks. For those looking for a life simulation on the Nintendo 3DS, I would recommend Animal Crossing: New Leaf which is now available in stores at a lower price and offers in my opinion, much more for your buck. While I must thank Tomodachi Life for helping keep my sanity over the last week, unfortunately it only walks away with a barely passing grade.

Sam
Sam
Founder of The Otaku's Study. I have been exploring this labyrinth of fandom these last fifteen years, and still nowhere close to the exit yet. Probably searching for a long time to come.

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