Remember the Miis? First introduced with the Wii and carried across all Nintendo console since – albeit with reduced prevalence as of late – these are customisable characters meant to be custom creations based on yourself, your family/friends, or anything your mind can think of. What made these avatars special were that many first and third-party developers could bring these characters into the game world. We saw Miis invade titles such as Mario Kart Wii / Mario Kart 8, Wii Party, Super Smash Bros, Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games, Wii Fit and many more. They were even involved in Nintendo’s first foray into mobile gaming through a social service dubbed MiiTomo, although this shut down after a year.
Near the end of the 3DS’ lifecycle, we saw Nintendo publish a range of games that exclusively dabbled in Miis, giving them what could very well be their last hurrah before slowly drifting off into obscurity. These titles included Tomodachi Life and, the focus of this review, Miitopia. The original game was a good hybrid between full-on RPGs and quick, entertaining experiences that one might find in a mobile game. But while the concepts behind it were adequate, being neither saw the game quickly become dull and was ultimately a forgettable gaming experience.
Many 3DS games deserve to be pulled from the brink of extinction, and Miitopia wouldn’t have been anywhere near my top pick. But here we are with something between a remake and a remaster on the Nintendo Switch. Does Miitopia stand out from its roots, or is it just the same, another forgettable experience?
Wanna Be the Star? The Villain?
The big idea behind Miitopia is that you are in control of the story. No, there is mostly a linear narrative that you have very little influencer over. Instead, the main gimmick is that virtually every in-game character can take the form of a Mii – either a personal creation, characters created by friends, or those crafted by the community. Do you see yourself as a dashing young hero, who seeks to take on the Dark Lord (Eg. Your Former Work Boss, that family member who just gets on your nerves etc) with the assistance of your friends and family? Wish to take on a meme-riddled adventure with some of the outrageous community creations available? You have the freedom to do just that!
The game has dozens of characters you can cast, from one of the ten playable protagonists to an innocent townsfolk who may only have a couple of lines in the game. There is an air of novelty around just how much freedom you have in Miitopia – and a lot of the fun is making up narratives mentally for why each person ended up as they did. For example… why did Waluigi suddenly become the Dark Lord? Are Mario and Peach at the end of their wits after retiring to a desert town and becoming a bickering married couple?
Outside of what takes place in your head, the story is forgettable. You take on the role of your Mii, who finds themselves as Miitopia’s last hope against the threat of the Dark Lord, who is stealing the faces of Mii’s to bring life to monsters. Along with three other Mii’s of different classes (which are switched in and out over the first four chapters), they must travel from the west-most coast of the land to the Dark Lord’s hideout to put an end to their oppressive ways. The story feels primarily used to give players a sense of progression and is average at best. Furthermore, there is no significant expansion of the game’s main storyline outside of added scenes.
Most of the game’s charm comes from the banter between characters, with “outing tickets” and newly introduced dialogue giving players an overwhelming amount of entertaining segments between characters.
Look! My Mii Is Lookin’ Pretty on the Screen
Miitopia truly shines this time in the audiovisual department – notably, the visual side. While the Nintendo 3DS’ biggest gimmick was visual related, against other portable gaming consoles at the time, such as the PlayStation Vita, its graphics were lacking. Therefore while there was evidently effort made into making Miitopia look good, it did look like just another average 3DS game. But transitioning to full HD visuals, the game’s almost anime-like aesthetic truly shines through.
Although not 100% integrated into every facet of Miitopia, this is the first and potentially only game to feature an upgraded Mii Creator. While players need to create their Miis using the standard tools built into the console, you can then take your creations and place them in an awe-dropping makeup editor or wig editor. In tandem, it would not surprise me if you could create almost any character that comes to mind – living, dead or fictional. My only, very minor, complaint is that the wig editor could have gone even more all-out with the options – making already amazing looking Miis even more fantastic.
The music continues to be a high-point of the game, with a varied soundtrack suiting any mood, environment or setting the game throws at it. There is also a good variety of tracks, with my having received an in-game medal for listening to 100 songs in the middle of Chapter 4.
A Battle System With Varying Degrees of Persona 3-esque Auto-Battle
In Miitopia, you control a party of four Mii’s at any one time, each of whom you assign a class when you first meet them. The classes are a mix of your standard RPG options such as fighter, mage and cleric – to more unique, specialist options such as Cat, Flower and Tank. And yes, not tank as in your traditional shield-wielding tank, but a Mii who wears an actual tank costume. As you are initially locked out of changing classes until much later in the game, technically, there are no bad options of what to go with – although not having a balance will require grinding or prolonged battles. There is enough spread across damage dealing, healing and utility that a player would need to purposefully go out of their way to make a bad party. Even if you do have two of the same class in your party (Which I would not recommend), they can be further diversified through different personality types, each with their own pros and cons associated with them.
Battles take the form of a turn-based RPG system, where based on their speed attribute, the protagonists, any guest characters, and monsters take turns to fight. What may come as a big shock, and where my previous comment about Miitopia being like a mobile game, is that you only ever take control of your playable character. All other party members are handled by an AI that can often make questionable decisions but does feel moderately better than on the 3DS. Alternatively, you can also set your controllable character to autoplay, meaning you can sit back and watch the game essentially play its relatively short battles by itself.
Character customisation comes in four forms – weapons, armour, stat-boosting food and “social links”. Players are not able to just pop to their local shop and divvy up their money however they see fit. Instead, every time players stop at an inn at the end of literally every area (regardless of how perilous the location), each Mii may or may not demand the funds to purchase something. It is clever in the way of maintaining a consistent difficulty progression, ensuring a character doesn’t get too powerful. Each class has its own specific gear, meaning you get a lot of variety in terms of outfits worn and weapons used by each Mii – which is pleasant for the eyes! While jobs and equipment are the most significant driver in the power of each Mii, you can further tailor your character by feeding them food which regularly drops, giving a small boost to one or multiple stats, or forming relationships between characters through newly introduced “Outings” which unlock special abilities based on how attracted Miis are to one another.
Because of these elements, how the game progresses in the earlier chapters helps you prepare for the late game. While it is a controversial element of the game, after each chapter, you are reset back to Level 1, forced to take on a new class, and are joined by three additional Miis. Eventually, your party of 10 unite for the latter chapters, but there are pros and cons to this. The major con is that you are essentially forced to play through the initial levelling process three times, which can get repetitive and frustrating very quickly. Miitopia, because of this, is best enjoyed in terse bursts. On the other hand, playing the game with 10 Miis adds a bit more variety to the shenanigans and can get overwhelming very quickly when managing classes, a limited gold budget and determining who gets priority over another.
Ultimately though, the cons do weigh quite heavily. The simple battle system with auto-play elements continuously shifts players between frustrating AI decisions and being mind-numbingly simple to complete, and ultimately gets very repetitive very fast. Miitopia, even in this enhanced port, feels like a game designed for short bursts of gameplay suited for portable systems rather than Nintendo’s flagship home video game console. Making battles more complex through controlling all four characters and adding more strategy to completing them would have gone some way of enriching the experience.
Has Its Charm, But Repetitive
Despite having played the Nintendo 3DS version many years back and believing there were many other amazing games on the console deserving of a port to the Nintendo Switch… something compelled me into purchasing and revisiting Miitopia a second time around. I think the novelty of the game’s narrative, mainly that the entire game from casting characters to many random activities, gives the impression the events are taking place on a theatre stage. As a theatre buff, that is appealing to me.
But the eccentric nature of the game’s narrative and creative ideas only go so far. What you are left with is an average-at-best RPG that could have been an amazingly creative game but instead is best enjoyed in short bursts lest the simple repetitiveness quickly overtakes a lot of what shines. There is fun to be had, a lot of it even, but finding those nuggets of enjoyment can get harder and harder to find as the game goes on.
Miitopia is now available to purchase physically and digitally on the Nintendo Switch. The 2017 Nintendo 3DS version is also available on the market, although lacks some features covered in this review.