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Published June 26, 2014

Every morning when I wake up, one of the first things I absolutely have to do is ask my good friend if he has worked up the courage to ask his sweetheart to marry him, check with all the tenants of my apartment building to see if they need me to fetch them something from the supermarket, and whether or not Scarlett Johansson and Jerry Seinfeld have finally had their baby. If this sounds exhausting, pedantic, and bizarre, it is, but it’s also strangely rewarding. I’m glad it’s not reality though, rather these are my duties in the wonderfully silly world of Tomodachi Life on Nintendo 3DS. Tomodachi Life is Nintendo’s answer to The Sims. It’s a game where you design or import Miis to live on an island and watch them live and interact with one another. Your Miis form friendships, get into fights, work in the local shops, fall in love, and eventually even get married and have children. The scenarios they play out are really funny, and it’s fun watching which Mii is hanging out with which, and who is falling in love with whom, and what sort of bizarre dreams they’ve been having. The problem is, the game gets incredibly repetitive. Miis constantly have mundane problems, whether they’re sick, or want a new wardrobe, or simply want to show you a silly face, and I can only feed Miis so many times before I feel like hurling my 3DS out the window. Yet, I keep coming back. My friend still hasn’t asked his sweetheart to marry him, and there are still babies on the way. I’ve been trying to maneuver Samus Aran’s affections towards a friend of mine, and maybe today is the day. Tomodachi Life is basically a slightly more complex version of a Tamagotchi pet, and is just as addictive.

Part of the game’s charm is watching your friends and various celebrities and characters interact with one another. The 3DS makes it very easy to import user created Miis through the use of QR codes, and there’s no shortage of Mii databases on the web. As a result, Reggie from Nintendo and Hank Hill are residents of my island, and I’m happy to say that Reggie is very happily married to a good real-life friend of mine, though Hank Hill remains an obstinate bachelor. Daria (from the show of the same name) tried to set Hank up with Samus, but they didn’t hit it off. She’s married to Tyrion from Game of Thrones. Walter White married another good friend of mine, and I’m thankful that so far he hasn’t given her the Skylar treatment. Just another day on Neo Jeo island.

The Miis can all talk by using text-to-speech, and it’s pretty fun hearing your friends say the silly catchphrases you come up with for them. You can dress your Miis and change their room style, which has limited appeal, although I do enjoy seeing Reggie in his leatherdaddy outfit with a horse mask over his head. While the problems of the Miis are obnoxious, solving them increases their happiness which allows them to level up, and with every level you can offer your Mii a gift, such as a baseball bat or a 3DS, which you can see them using in their apartments or the various locales of your island, often alongside a friend who has the same item. This gives you the illusion that the Miis are independent, but at the end of the day if they want something, including becoming friends or sweethearts with another Mii, they’re going to approach you first. It seems a bit much to me that I can’t simply load a Mii’s fridge full of food to keep them fed, or give them license to make their own decisions. Helping a Mii get a sneeze out is simply a little too much micromanagement for my tastes.

Another potential gift choice you can also offer your Miis when they level up are one of eight types of songs, which allow them to perform in the island’s concert hall solo or with other Miis who know the same type of song. Lyrics of the song are editable, meaning you can create your own song which you can then potentially record with your phone and post to Youtube, if you were so inclined. All these things are fun at first, but get boring pretty fast. The Miis offer to play games with you to keep your attention, but they’re pretty lame ones such as “guess whose silhouette this is” and matching tiles. You get various items you can give your Miis, such as music boxes and swings, and while these raise their happiness and give you a variety of ways to interact with the Miis, the resulting scenes too become very repetitive. If this were all Tomodachi Life had to offer, I’d have stopped checking my island long ago. However, there are events that happen on your island to look forward to, even if they’re somewhat few and far between.

Events happen at different points of the day. Once in the morning and in the evening the game produces news reports broadcasted by one of your Miis, showcasing still images of your islanders engaging in funny situations, such as enjoying candy that looks like one of your Miis, or helping a beached whale out to sea that turns out to be a whale toy. Miis of the same gender often get together in the local cafe to have a gossip session, chatting about their hopes, ambitions, and the other islanders. The Miis’ dreams, which you can check in on while they’re sleeping, are definitely highlights, turning them into marionettes, or placing them awkwardly at a table with duchesses speaking around them, or transforming into superheroes shoujo-anime style. Miis have bbqs, hold magic shows, and have rap battles.

Once a day you can play a retro-style RPG game where your Miis, suitably transformed into pixelated sprites, wander through a simple dungeon and do battle with food items and objects from the game. As an RPG nut I had to make sure I gave this a mention, but while nostalgia inducing it is over-simplistic, as each character only has two types of attacks and the enemies similarly only have two. The various events in Tomodachi Life will keep you entertained for a while, but even they eventually run out and start repeating themselves with different Miis. However, as my images suggest, it is definitely fun seeing these events play out with different combinations of Miis, as the context completely changes based on which characters happen to be playing golf or having a pillow fight.

One of the smartest features of Tomodachi Life is the ability to take a screensnap of the top screen at any time by pressing X, and then using 3DS Image Share to post them to Facebook or Twitter. This means that you can capture that bizarre dream where your friend became a snail and send it to them along with Freudian commentary! There is no shortage of fun of taking pictures of your Miis in the Photo Studio, placing them in pairs or as a group using a variety of poses and backgrounds. This is where Tomodachi Life really shines, making it easy to share your island’s silliness with friends and other enthusiastic proponents of the game, creating a community around who can provide the wackiest character combinations and scenarios.

What really keeps me coming back, and this surprises even me, is the potential for romantic involvement between my Miis. A heart symbol appears in a Mii’s apartment when they want your advice about love, and I always get overly excited to see it. The scenes in the game involving love are the most interesting ones, and frankly, make me feel like I’m actually accomplishing something.

A Mii will develop romantic feelings for another Mii seemingly arbitrarily. A Mii interested in asking another Mii out will ask you where you think they should go on a date, and how they should act. Depending on what you choose and how they feel about one another, they’ll either become sweethearts or walk away as friends. Sometimes a Mii will also offer to set up two other Miis, observing them incognito as the two go out on their date, and this too can be hit or miss, but it’s pretty funny. As sweethearts you’ll see the pairs constantly hanging out with each other, and if their love becomes strong enough, one of them will decide (with your blessing) to propose to the other one. You’ll get to observe the proposal, helping out through a silly mini-game, and then see the wedding, in which many of your Miis appear as guests. Once they’ve settled down long enough, they’ll ask if you think it’s a good idea to have a baby. The babies are generally ugly as sin, but you can edit them. You then watch the baby grow up over a few days before becoming independent and either moving into an apartment on your island, or being set as a streetpass character who will show up on other people’s islands. The baby book you see when a baby Mii grows up is surprisingly touching.

The one issue I had with having the Miis fall in love is that, as a control freak, I was trying to dictate who fell in love with whom, and though you can try to stifle a Mii’s feelings for another Mii, there is no way for you to actively suggest which Mii who you think they ought to go for. This adds an element of surprise to the game, but left me feeling a bit defeated when I told a Mii over and over that her crush was a bad match, only to have her continually pine for him anyway.

I have a love-hate relationship with this game. I love it because I care about my Miis and all the shenanigans they (occasionally) get into, and I hate it because despite the fact that these Miis need you to hold their hand every second of the day, I still can’t stop checking in to see if something eventful is happening in their lives. Though I often open my 3DS with a groan seeing that my Miis are asking to have their same basic needs met, every so often I’m rewarded with something new and exciting. Tomodachi Life is a game to be savoured, taking your time between check-ups to ensure that there’s fresh material waiting for you and that you don’t get bored too quickly by the regular requests of your Miis. If you’re going to get this game, be aware that it’s a bit of a slow burn, but if you enjoy the idea of bringing together people both real and imagined from all walks of life, watching them go about their lives and getting into cheerfully absurd situations, then this is a game for you.

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