Since its announcement for release in the West, many commentators within the video games industry have drawn comparisons between the quirky upcoming Tomodachi Life and the beloved Animal Crossing series. In many ways it's an obvious link to make, as both titles put you in charge of a small island, your only task being to improve the overall welfare of its inhabitants, with no overarching story to guide your day-to-day affairs. Yet, despite these broad similarities, Tomodachi Life is in many ways a completely different breed of animal altogether, and we're going to briefly summarize why.
First things first, who exactly are these islanders which populate your shores? In Tomodachi Life you possess complete control over who lives in your island, down to sculpting each wrinkle and overly large nose with the Mii Maker or simply scanning in a QR code if you have a few suitable Miis on standby. This means you can fill your island’s apartment up with a menagerie of characters, from Mii iterations of yourself and your family, to video game heroes, pop stars and movie icons – making it’s completely normal for your apartment to be filled with Link, Britney Spears and the cast of Game of Thrones. Before moving your chosen Mii into their new living space you can also alter their personality and give them a strange voice to match. Animal Crossing on the other hand does not provide you with creative control over your own character’s looks (that is unless you learn the question/answer combinations), and instead populates your town with an array of critters who come and go at their own leisure.
While Animal Crossing townsfolk might gossip about who Joey the duck’s latest crush is, Tomodachi Life actually brings these odd romances to reality, with Miis going on dates with their ‘special someone’ and eventually getting married. Your Miis in Tomodachi Life can even have children. Affections for other Miis form for the most part on their own, as the player you can approve (or disapprove) of certain relationships and steer Miis towards or away from one another. However, with love always comes jealousy, as it’s completely normal for two Miis to fancy another, causing an awkward love-triangle on your island. You can comfort your Mii and tell them it was never meant to be, but that still won't stop them from sulking in their room for a day or two. Arguments are another common occurrence in Tomodachi Life, as Miis aren't as forgiving as your animal townsfolk who still smile sweetly at you even after you bash them repeatedly with a shovel. It’s up to you whether you order your Miis to make amends or simply fuel the fire, but whatever you do it’s going to make for an interesting viewing.
As any long-serving Animal Crossing fans will know, running and expanding a town is all about routine, hard work and bells. Lots and lots of bells. When you're not selling fruit like it’s going out of fashion, you'll probably be scouring the shoreline for prize-winning fish and netting those wonderful golden stag-beetles on Tortimer’s island. Money is equally important in Tomodachi Life, as soon after moving in your host of apartment-dwellers start demanding new outfits, special items and German delicacies for dinner. However, island life in Nintendo’s latest title isn't quite such hard work as your weed-infested animal town, with nearly every menu action in Tomodachi Life earning you cash. For example, if one of your Miis asks for fish and chips and you give it to them, this will earn you money, as will completing other small tasks.
Expect the Unexpected
As you might have gathered, Tomodachi Life is a rather strange game – and that’s in comparison to one in which a greedy raccoon steals all your money and a dog works as your office assistant. Tomodachi Life is all about random and unexpected occurrences and thrives on the free-will of its characters. Entering a Mii’s apartment can trigger odd mini-games such as tickling a Mii’s nose with a feather to make them sneeze or playing a quick game of snap. Some events in Tomodachi Life are slightly more scripted akin to Animal Crossing’s event and competition calendar, with markets taking place in the park at a certain time each day and rap battles occurring routinely by the wishing well. Like Animal Crossing you can also visit your neighbours in Tomodachi Life, so long as they're in and not busy frolicking down the beach. Tapping on their window and peering through will give you a glimpse of what your Miis get up to when they think no-one is watching – and it’s usually rather odd stuff. We once spotted Iwata rolling like a log around his room and pretending to be an airplane.
One of Animal Crossing’s greatest features was its ability to let you visit your friends’ towns, steal all their fruit, run through their glorious flower beds and generally go on a rampage. Or, you know, just call on them politely. As Tomodachi Life’s island is constructed by an overview maps and various menus, it’s not possible for other players to simply pop into your town to eat some sauerkraut. Instead, Tomodachi Life uses the Nintendo 3DS’ StreetPass functionality to let random bypassers camp on your island and trade special island-exclusive import/export goods with you. Once the first travelers set foot on your island a new store will open which only sells and displays clothing gained via StreetPass, so make sure to check here regularly to get the latest ‘exotic’ designs.
Tomodachi Life launches on the Nintendo 3DS tomorrow in the US, UK and EU.