Tomodachi Life (Nintendo 3DS) Review

By Jorge Ba-oh 05.06.2014 4

Review for Tomodachi Life on Nintendo 3DS

Nintendo has an unrelenting talent when it comes to forging experiences that have engaged with a player on a number of levels; from the deep and involving Pokémon franchise, to the more accessible Wii Sports series, there have been a number of games that draw attention through a unique Nintendo flavour.

Nintendo's latest addition to the ever-expanding number of 'evergreen' franchises under its belt comes in the form of a 3DS project that was originally penned for a Japanese audience only. Through a heap of localisation changes and cultural tweaks, the game has now ventured across to the West, inviting players to see what made the original 2013 release just so popular.

The game is a difficult one to classify as, whilst it does have its fair share of user-driven experiences, it also goes off and does its own thing; a pocket-living world of its own, as such. With that in mind, what exactly is Tomodachi Life? The easiest explanation would be to label it under the broad term of "life simulator," where characters are created and, with a nudge or two from players, live out their experiences on an island together. It sits, wedged firmly in-between Nintendo's already-popular Animal Crossing games and EA's equally successful The Sims line, with the usual jovial and never-tiring Nintendo charm.

Screenshot for Tomodachi Life on Nintendo 3DS

The initial setup takes a barren island and tasks the player with the opportunity to set up homes, shops, landmarks and entertainment venues across the landscape, inviting characters to pop round and live out their days, "chilling out, maxing, relaxing, acting all cool," to quote Will Smith. It all sounds fairly familiar to those who have already sprouted life in Animal Crossing, but the key difference with Tomodachi Life is that players act more as a guardian figure, with residents moving about and generally 'living' their own way. They will occasionally need some assistance, however, like a dollop of food, new clothes, interior designs and even to come to for advice on friendships and relationships.

Characters are spawned from: an existing Mii crop; from scratch; through QR codes; or even taking a snapshot on the 3DS camera. It would be fairly simple and a tad boring to generate any old generic character, so the real draw to the whole Tomodachi Life ecosystem is unleashing friends, families or celebrities onto the island. Each of these new residents also come with the ability to go beyond simple Mii aesthetics and truly evoke some personality and preferences - from energy to mood. Each of these characteristics comes with a sliding scale, so, for example, a character could be highly energetic, but serious, with a caring speech pattern. The results are fairly accurate, too, with each given a deeper purpose than simply eating and sleeping all day as characteristics form the basis for relationships, food preferences and more subtle aspects, like movement. These traits also seem to influence what these characters will say, as all the text in the game is fully voiced using a synthetic/digital sound, and each can be tweaked - from squeaky and childlike to James Earl Jones-esque, deep tones. It's certainly an interesting part of the game, and something that allows each character interaction and vocal snippet to come alive with that quintessential Nintendo quirkiness.

Screenshot for Tomodachi Life on Nintendo 3DS

Newfound folk will also come with a basic RPG-esque levelling-up system known as "happiness level" or "vitality ranking," which becomes more prominent as the days progress and characters begin to wander about the island of their own accord. It's at this point where tasks become more specific to a character, so by feeding them their preferred dish, more experience will be gained and the higher the financial reward. Doing the wrong thing, such as disliking their facial expressions or refusing to play a mini-game, will cause some money to be lost and levels of trust can be somewhat tainted. This aspect does become the central pillar for the Tomodachi Life setup and perhaps isn't for those who would like to blitz through from start to finish as quickly as possible. There really is no true finishing post and, like reality, it takes a little care and attention to form some understanding with people within the same figurative bubble.

After a few days of pampering new residents with gifts and playing love/friendship cupid between the different characters, they will start to engage with one another across the island - a stroll to the beach or taking part in a hilarious free-for-all survey game atop an overlooking tower. Some may not get along with others - a simple personality clash or just got off on the wrong foot - and these particular interactions are amusing to watch, especially if mapped out to friends or family in the real world. Beyond the casual merriment, the more serious moments do kick in eventually: love, marriage and even a baby carriage if cards are played right. The tone is still very much light-hearted, however, fortunately with no electricity bills or tax to shell out, just the key roles of trying to keep all the islanders content whilst letting them develop and form their own decisions. It is the unpredictability, and some of the more unrealistic situations, that help cement the game's unique appeal.

Screenshot for Tomodachi Life on Nintendo 3DS

Time also allows for more mini-games and interactive moments to sprout up across the island, from learning to hypnotise someone, to being the resident concert for the rest of the apartment block - with raps, opera, and a surprising long list of other musical genres! Fancy tweaking those lyrics to some crude or amusing vocals? It is certainly possible. That said, though, the mini-game experiences are shallow at best, falling closely in line with those in the WarioWare games in particular. Whether it's grabbing falling objects, guessing shapes or matching pairs, it is an area of the game that does lets the gamer break up the simulation flow and engage with their characters, but falls short on maintaining interest on the whole.

Graphically, Tomodachi Life isn't something that's woven with an intricate, realistic level of detail, and it doesn't need to be. By keeping the landscape bright, colourful, and with that usual dollop of Nintendo art direction, it keeps the general mood light-hearted; a chirpy take on the stresses and odd murkiness that real life brings. The actual graphical prowess comes through the sheer amount of different items and decorations available; a sizable chunk of items to gift, from the odd accessory to a fully-blown house, each put together with some neat flourishes. The animation, whether it is characters bopping around a stage to an operatic movement or waving their arms about in a fit of rage, does fit well with the theme, highlighting the often bizarre and sometimes truly out-there situations and abstract dream sequences. The same can be said for the musical compositions - they are laced with cutesy sugar appeal; sweet and bright - it's Nintendo through and through.

Screenshot for Tomodachi Life on Nintendo 3DS

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

It is difficult to give Tomodachi Life a direct score, but the game does have the unique Nintendo look, feel and charm. The setup does take some time to progress, and it would require a little effort to truly benefit from the amusing and sometimes surreal moments between friends, family and random celebrities. Having dinner with Shigeru Miyamoto? It is possible. Going out on a romantic beach stroll with Beyoncé? Bit of a "maybe," but still within the realms of 'feasible' in Tomodachi Life. The concept is more of an experience than a game and, as such, is not for everyone - but it is certainly worth a go.

Developer

Nintendo

Publisher

Nintendo

Genre

Simulation

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10 (6 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now    Also on Also on Nintendo eShop

Comments

I thought you said it would get a German for no out of ten? I'm disappointed.

Mush said:
I thought you said it would get a German for no out of ten? I'm disappointed.

Lol I knew you would mention it - reading over the review again and considering some of the limiting areas, I decided to knock it down just a notch. Stil, though, it is one to experience for sure.

Cubed3 Admin/Founder & Designer

Despite sounding intriguing, it all looks to be a bit too close to Animal Crossing/Sims style for me, which is a major turn off Smilie

However, at least it's finally getting a chance outside of Japan! The first game included the ability to talk into the microphone and have the game recognise your voice, which is why it didn't get localised because of dodgy British accents not being recognised Smilie

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]
Mere mere (guest) 17.08.2014#4

I love this game and I really got two copies so when I finish the first

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