When Nintendo introduced the Mii concept along with its Wii console back in 2006, it was something of a revelation — so much so that former bedfellow Rare was inspired to imitate the character creation system on Microsoft's Xbox 360 console with its similarly cute Avatars. A digital representation of the player which traded realism for charm, the humble Mii does an excellent job of getting you even more involved in the action; from those tentative early games on Wii Sports to the more recent track-based action in Mario Kart 8, your trusty Mii has been at your side for eight eventful years, turning your smiles, head shakes and disgruntled grimaces into digital reality.
However, your Mii has never been given the chance to really grow and mature during that time. Instead, it is a merely an empty vessel which — outward appearance aside — behaves identically to every other Mii on the planet. Until now, that is. The release of Tomodachi Life on the 3DS marks a radical turning point in the life of the Mii, because now your digital doppelganger is finally able to have a life of its own. Wishes, dreams, friendships and fall-outs, all are possible in this new life-sim — and much more besides.
Your Mii is essential to Tomodachi Life — in fact, you can't even begin the game without importing your Mii. However, while the outward appearance is retained, everything else about this virtual avatar is fresh and new. You can give your Mii a distinct voice and decide on their overall temperament, and from that point onwards they're a (largely) free spirit, liberated from the constraints of the Mii Maker and able to chart their own course in what can be a strangely moving digital life.
The Miis you bring to Tomodachi Life are still governed by your own guiding hand to a certain extent — they will ask you for advice before forming key friendships or romantic connections — but despite your ability to meddle in their personal affairs, they showcase a surprising degree of autonomy. Previously firm friendships can quickly descend into chaotic brawls, while love triangles can form when more than one Mii wishes to display their affections towards a potential life-partner. When true love does blossom, matrimony and children are rarely far away and these significant events are made even more poignant thanks to the fact that the Miis involved are the same ones you've been nurturing throughout the Wii, 3DS and Wii U generational shifts. You can push them in certain directions, but after playing the game for a few days it becomes glaringly apparent that these characters have their own minds, and you're not always pulling the strings as much as you think.
In some ways, it's surprising that it has taken Nintendo's western offices so long to bring such a game to the west. The original Tomodachi Collection on DS remained a Japanese exclusive, possibly because it was simply deemed too weird for a western audience. However, with fellow life-sim Animal Crossing: New Leaf proving to be a global smash hit, Nintendo has clearly decided that the time is right for this unique offering to leave its native Japan and spread its influence over other regions.
The time we've spent with the game has reminded us just how attached we've become to our Miis, and seeing your own character — the same one who has stood dutifully by your side through all manner of trials and tribulations over the past eight years — begin a new chapter in their existence is both heart-warming and strangely moving. Miis may have enough cute charm to ensure that they haven't outstayed their welcome over the years, but they were crying out for an additional dimension — Tomodachi Life gives them that, and so much more besides.