With Tomodachi Life, the comparison to Animal Crossing is inevitable. They do seem remarkably similar to one another at first glance, both games being town life simulations. But I’m pleased to say that Tomodachi Life manages to shine on its own merits.
When you start Nintendo’s life simulation game, you’re asked to create a Mii character that will be your very first islander and an avatar that’s based on you, with everyone else calling you their look alike. You’re able to create a personality and even give your Mii their very own unique voice, adjusting their pitch, tone, and even how fast or slowly they speak to your liking. When populating the island with more Miis, you have the choice of creating them from scratch, importing them from Miimaker, or snapping a photo of someone’s Mii-generated QR code. Special Miis that visit through Spotpass can be added to the island by saving the Mii to Miimaker and they’ll retain their shiny gold pants. And yes, it is possible to have an island completely populated by Shaquille O’Neal, if that’s your sort of thing.
The real meat of the game is interacting with the islanders themselves. They’ll get hungry and ask you to for food, decide they’d like a new outfit or hat, and even ask you to play a game with them. Sometimes they’ll have a little cloud raining on them when they’re feeling sick or if they’re feeling down about something. Solving their problems and winning their games will have your islanders giving you gifts that can be passed on to other islanders that will allow you to dye their hair or travel to China. They’ll also hand out gifts that you can sell to the pawn shop so you can continue to feed and clothe your islanders. In addition, giving them gifts that they like will level up their happiness, unlocking items they can use around the island like skateboards and hula-dancing manuals, or even teach them a customized song or catchphrase.
Your islanders can fall in love, marry, and have children, but they can also get rejected and fall into a depressive funk. It’s up to you try to decide if you want to help or simply wait for them to snap out of it. As an added feature to Mii relationships, their offspring can either stay on the island or travel to other people’s games. Miis ask you to help them reach out and befriend their neighbors and for advice on whether or not they should romantically pursue a Mii. It’s definitely possible to create a love triangle between Miis, leading to a love confession dramatically interrupted by a third party and for someone to pick between the two suitors.
Of course, there’s a major flaw: there’s really not much to the game aside from playing with your Miis and solving their problems. When they’re perfectly happy, there’s nothing you can do aside from shop and wait for someone to decide that they’re going to propose to their boyfriend or girlfriend. Tomodachi Life is one of those games that are better off being played in small daily doses. The game can also be painfully boring late at night when your Miis start going to bed, although one or two may decide to stay up all night. While you can still interact with sleeping Miis – peeking into their surreal dreams and drawing on their sleeping faces – it’s just not as interesting as watching them go about their lives.
That said, Tomodachi Life is a quirky life simulation game that has plenty of character and humor, and definitely worth checking out if you’re a fan of Animal Crossing or similar games. It definitely could be improved in some areas, but Tomodachi Life is a solid game that’s worth playing and I hope we’ll be seeing more in the future.
Final Score: 4/5