Whenever the classic Nintendo formula for their first party games come up in discussion, there are always two camps that rise to do battle with each other — those who really like it and those who think that all that kiddie stuff is lame and should be burned to the ground. That ongoing conflict has never stopped Nintendo from doing what they do best, even though they’ve fallen on some hard times lately. They still release games like this, which is all about their philosophy of fun with friends above all else.
Tomodachi Life is a new game by Nintendo for their 3DS handheld platform, which is doing better than the Wii U these days. “Tomodachi” is friend in Japanese, so this game is all about playing with friends through your 3DS, like an on-the-go party game of sorts. It’s a new IP that showcases much of what Nintendo is known for, which is family friendly gaming made for fun and friendship with cutesie visuals and interesting gameplay mechanics. While not for everyone, it’s good to see that Nintendo is still striving to push forward with their vision, despite all the red in on their balance sheets lately.
If you’re into the Mii Plaza in the 3DS, then you should feel right at home with Tomodachi Life as it is all about mini-games with Mii personalities. There is no rigid structure to it, offering only a myriad of mini-games that serve as entertainment, but it does also let you observe and take care of the Miis in the game. These Miis are imported from your friends list via StreetPass. You can then add more or edit current ones to populate your in-game island. They could then talk in English like they’re real. Even though they sound monotonous and robotic, they’re unlike EA’s Sims that deliberately talk in gibberish.
The cool thing about the Miis in the game is that they would then form their own unique personalities, so you have a little communal ecosystem of sorts in your own 3DS, and they form relationships with each other, whether as friends or as sweethearts. They would then go into different places to look for new clothes and skins for them and their apartments. You then must attend to the needs of these Miis, performing different tasks to relieve their ailments or to do them various favors. It’s like having virtual pets (Tamagotchi) in the form of little people.
Its pace is a bit more easy-going than something like Animal Crossing, a game that draws comparison to this. The main difference though is that you don’t get pressured as much to do certain things, so the freedom to explore and engage in activities that take your fancy is intact. It eliminates the element of regret that is usually a big part of games and replaces it with steady streams of carefree amusement that’s neither too strong that it burns players out nor too weak that it loses your attention after a while. Also, having not played it for a long time does not get you punished, which is what happens when you do so with Animal Crossing.
You have the choice to find ways to make money in the game to purchase various items to make things more interesting, but you’re also not pressured to do so that you can skip that as you wish. You can concentrate on building relationships, which is central to Tomodachi Life’s efficacy as a game. The pacing is such though that this game is best played in short bursts, which is perfect for the 3DS, but it does mean that you may not stay amused for more than an hour or so.
This game did court some controversy with its lack of ability to have two Miis of the same sex marry each other, which got social justice warriors on the Internet screaming for Nintendo to either fix it or pay with their blood. Nintendo had responded that they had no desire to make sociopolitical statements through their games, which had detractors brandishing their virtual pitchforks in protest. That is just so unfortunate since this game’s main objective is to bring people closer through this fun interactive experience that neither tries too hard nor slack off too much.
It’s one of those games that doesn’t punish “losers”, which is a constant trait in Nintendo games of this type. Tomodachi Life serves as a fun distraction that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and neither should you. This is yet another game that gives the 3DS its power that helps it keep handheld gaming alive in the era of mobile smartphone gaming and free-to-play shovelware.
Tested in 3DS. Final Score: 8/10