As a game that’s been available in Japan since last year, a number of vocal fans had been hoping that Miitopia would eventually make its way to English-speaking audiences – at least, that was the case prior to the game’s North American reveal. As somewhat of a quasi-follow-up to the equally bizarre sim known as Tomodachi Life, this new title gives a more engaging purpose to the interactions of on-screen Miis and rolls it all into a role-playing title that does a lot to entertain but little to innovate.
The main appeal of Miitopia is to mix and match a horde of different Miis together, from recreations of beloved video game characters to real-world friends and celebrities. This is a game driven purely by the level of attachment that one has to their characters and the events that can take them away, and there’s something incredibly engaging about such a premise. Ample time being poured into Mii creation feels wasted when the villain of the game strips your allies of their faces, rendering them as cartoony husks – but that’s part of the appeal.
There’s a level of attachment that begins outside of the game and transitions into the final product as familiar faces join a player’s party and take on lives of their own. They each begin to establish their own likes and dislikes through dialogue that truly helps to flesh out the landscape of the game itself. From that perspective, this feels like a wonderful use of the moldable Mii avatars that have been prominently utilized throughout Nintendo’s titles since the launch of the Wii in 2006.
Still, the excitement found through the actual gameplay is brought on by the individual’s perspective on the roster of characters rather than what’s present in the finished product. Utilizing a series of random attacks through class-based mechanics, it quickly becomes clear that there really isn’t anything all too gripping found outside the wacky nature of the characters – especially since the battles more or less play themselves out. As a result, those that fail to engage with the Mii party members that they create won’t find the experience all that engrossing.
That’s not to say it’s dated, but it’s just not tactical or even present enough to truly stand out. There are variations in the class-types (referred to as “Jobs” in-game) that add some comedic value to the already absurd world, with Pop Star and Cat warriors making for some of the more head-scratching inclusions in Miitopia. These featured fighters are pretty par for the course for a title that focuses on absurdities rather than technicalities, and that’s where Nintendo opted to focus in order to generate appeal for the game.
That’s not to say that RPG aficionados won’t find something new to sink their teeth into, however, as the aforementioned and selectable personality traits play into the battle techniques of each and every combatant in their party. Those that express a lone wolf mentality won’t co-operate with allies very well, but they will take a tank-like approach and deal out some serious damage when provided with an opportunity to do so. Likewise, smarter Miis may take a more conservative approach with their abilities to pace themselves for a long battle with an enemy that has more HP.
Attack choices are wholly random outside of the main player character, which many may not care for, but it’s an interesting dynamic to see play out. It also emphasizes party management since party members don’t heed commands from the user, and this shifts the emphasis to strengthening the bonds between characters in order to survive any turn-based encounter. These bonds can be enhanced through sporadic in-game cutscenes, improvised teamwork during battles, or by pairing certain Miis together to bunk in the same room at the Inn that awaits users at the end of each level. It’s simple, but that’s a dual-edged sword.
Given the linear approach to battles, gamers may very well wish to opt into an autopilot option that’s offered before each and every fight. I often found myself doing this for the 30+ hours it takes to wrap up the narrative, as it allowed Miitopia to play itself and keep the story moving forward without requiring additional screen taps – although certain battles and branching paths required a constant presence. Therein lies one of the biggest problems this game faces, however, as it’s almost more rewarding to take in the world that’s present in the game than it is to actually play with it.
Miitopia is certainly unique in its execution, but the core RPG framework for the title is far from innovative. In that regard, it’s one of the more accessible turn-based role-playing games currently available on the Nintendo 3DS, and this is made even better by the often-bizarre blank canvas that users have at their disposal.