I’ve been playing Nintendo’s new life sim, “Tomodachi Life,” since a couple weeks after its release in June. To summarize, the game gives the player use of the Mii creation system—the same one used to make the avatars who populate Wii Sports—to create residents in an apartment complex on a resort island. The game encourages you to create your friends, your family, or your favorite celebrities. A handful have signed on to provide their likenesses; official Wayne Brady, Zendaya and Christina Aguilera Miis are easy to find online, and a commercial displays Shaq and Shaun White Miis tasting some of the food in the game.
Interaction is simple; the residents have needs, and by tapping the screen to navigate menus, you can visit their apartments to feed them (a major part of the game is giving them different food experiences to determine their favorites and help them level up, granting them new activities), give them advice on making friends or romantic partners, dress them in outfits ranging from pretty attractive dresses and tops to samurai armor and hamster suits and among a few other things, redecorate their apartments.
Most of the actual play of “Tomodachi Life” is in allowing the residents to perform on their own. The relationship system in “Tomodachi Life” is well developed; each Mii has a personality type (loosely linked to the Myers-Briggs types, although softened somewhat) and can have a noted sweetheart and best friend. The player mostly can’t control whom the residents develop feelings for or with whom they hang out, though occasionally the player can steer them. These established relationships can vary. Couples can get married and have kids, or break up (including married couples), best friends can get in fights and some residents keep friends they never really got along with at all.
The things the residents have to say to the player can be bizarre; a pretty decent speech synthesizer (barring the fact that they all sound a bit like chipmunks) gives a voice to the weird little people on your island. “Easygoing Dreamers” often say bland inspiring phrases; “Confident Trendsetters” tend to talk about their relationships with other confident residents, but can also talk about how “their phones are so last week.”
Other, more obscure personality types, might tell you about how they “don’t bother with frivolous things. Like showers. Who needs ‘em?,” or they’d “love to find a way to make money doing something related to their hobbies.” The game veers often into social commentary about how immature people tend to be or how easy it is to get along with somebody rather than harboring contempt. You wouldn’t know this from Nintendo’s denial of a social commentary stance when questioned about the game’s lack of same-sex relationships before its North American release, but the actual play experience offers up heaps of biting satirical writing.
Aside from the more serious elements, the game offers a lot of humor. Twice daily, “news broadcasts” focused around the absurd lead to interviews with residents who aren’t paying attention. Dream sequences include food items announcing their marriage to you, a Power Rangers style transformation into a robo-hero (who concludes the dream by entreating the kids in the audience to wash their hands after washing their hands or to not use shrimp paste as tooth paste), and a marching circle of residents chanting, “All hail the Virtual Boy!” The residents will perform one of eight “genres” of songs, to which you can rewrite the lyrics or have them perform in groups.
One more note; at launch, Amber Earnest (AKA @rare_basement, one of the few people who can claim to be a Twitter celebrity and one of my girlfriend’s “Tomodachi Life” residents) tweeted, “so is each individual person i know making kanye in tomodachi life or does he just like... come with the game,” indicating a universal truth; Yeezus makes a perfect “Tomodachi Life” resident. And yes, before you ask, he loves fish sticks.
From the beginning concerns from “Tomodachi Life” fans centered on jokes running dry, and repeating content draining interest in the game. I’ve not encountered this issue; the content that repeats is pretty short, and new things tend to be at most about five minutes away. Rather, if something has pulled me away from the game, it’s the tone; the emphasis on sarcasm is high. Even most of the food descriptions come with wordplay or references to how the sports drink is “definitely not just water,” and at this point, I just want my residents to be happy and wear cute clothes.
“Tomodachi Life” is available for the Nintendo 3DS at roughly $40 in stores, online, and in the Nintendo 3DS eShop.
Do you have your own stories from living the “Tomodachi Life”? Share them with Alex at firstname.lastname@example.org.