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'Tomodachi Life' - Nintendo's attempt at life simulation deteriorates quickly

'Tomodachi Life' - Screenshots-slide0
Photo courtesy of Nintendo, used with permission.

'Tomodachi Life'


At its core, Tomodachi Life is only fun when played as a dating simulator, and that's a problem.

Some of your Miis may partake in a rap battle.
Photo courtesy of Nintendo, used with permission.

An amalgamation of Animal Crossing and The Sims, the first Tomodachi title released outside of Japan will surely strike well with its intended audience, but outside of that it stands as an experience which is sometimes just as shallow as some games found on Facebook.

You're tasked with management of an island, first inhabited by your own Mii. From that point on you can do as you wish, filling up the remaining 23 rooms in the apartments. The majority of your time will be spent taking care of them - from helping them sneeze to feeding them and buying them new clothes to giving them relationship advice.

Due to the real time nature of the title (based on the 3DS's clock) waiting for one of the Miis to raise their concern is an oftentimes arduous task. It doesn't help that by nine o'clock most of the inhabitants have already started to go to bed, leaving you with absolutely nothing to do until morning. At least in New Leaf you could take care of the town's land or head to the island raise some money for the morning, but with islanders being the primary focus of Tomodachi Life, unless they're actively demanding something from you, there's absolutely nothing to do.

The shops on your island that sell food, hats, clothing, and new apartment styles restock each day and much like Animal Crossing, once you've bought one, it's forever stocked in the store. However, there's very little reason to actually buy anything unless someone is demanding it. Most of your time is spent looking at the front of the apartment building, waiting for a window to display that someone needs help, therefore what lies inside rarely matters. Sure it can be nice to have the physical appearance of someone change over time, but ultimately it's hard to grow attached when taking care of them quickly becomes labor.

Every time you fulfill one of these tasks, your Mii's happiness will increase or decrease their respective rank. Upon leveling up you are given the choice to gift them various rewards such as a catchphrase, money, or items that they can interact with in their apartment. These appear meaningful at first but it doesn't take long for this facade to disappear. Interaction with items doesn't actually affect anything, songs can only be sung when you make the Mii do so, and money just serves as a long term goal for them to take a trip to outer space.

Oftentimes your Miis will demand to play games with you. Sadly these are probably the most interesting part of Tomodachi Life outside of the relationships that form between them. These are frequently quick and shallow minigames that task you with answering trivia, discerning a pixelated item, or testing your reaction time. There are also events at various locations around the island. Included among them are social gatherings where you can listen in on conversations, special market sales, and Tomodachi Quest - a mixture between Pokemon and Final Fantasy - that tasks four of your Miis with taking down physical items that have learned to fight back.

As we said before, outside of the relationships that form between the islanders, and chances are you'll only care if you base them off of their real world equivalents, this is about as deep as Tomodachi Life goes. For the first couple of days we found ourselves wanting to play more, but time dictated that we needed to wait until the next morning. Very quickly however, the menial chores that you're tasked with quickly become boring and repetitive. There's only so many times you can go through the process of buying an item and giving it to the Mii before it becomes an annoyance.

Other structures around the island provide miscellaneous benefits. A Mii News tower brings you silly news updates twice a day. The Observation Tower allows you to ask everyone predefined questions. The Beach gives you the ability to have everyone choose between two options. All of these are nice little perks that come with the game but they really fail to leave an impression. Perhaps the most fun to play with is the Rankings Board where various statistics can be viewed. How popular a Mii is, how pampered they are, who they're most likely to fall in love with. Unfortunately this again is a passive experience that is only updated once per day.

While we're yet to discover every type of leaderboard, the game continues to be controversial. There was quite the backlash against Nintendo when the studio initially announced that it would not support homosexual relationships in Tomodachi. It has since retracted that statement, saying future titles will support this, but it appears as if there is a leaderboard for "Girl Charm Ranking" another way of saying who the most desirable women are. There is no leaderboard for men.

Through the Port you can spotpass and streetpass other player's travelers and obtain items from them. We didn't get to extensively test this feature set but the title does well to explain exactly what would happen when this occurs.

Tomodachi Life sports a relatively shallow feature set for a title that sets you back forty dollars. Ultimately that's the title's biggest downfall. Had this been cheaper, it'd be an experience that you could return to occasionally if only to keep things changing. However, for its price we want to be able to dig deep into the title for at least the first couple of days. That said, Nintendo doesn't allow us enough freedom. Within the first week you'll easily find yourself repeating the same task upwards of 30 times. There just isn't enough variety to sustain long term gameplay. Regretfully we have to accept that Tomodachi's first venture into the West leaves more to be desired.

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