Nintendo’s endlessly endearing Mii characters have been one of the most enduring creations of the Wii era; from their earliest days as Wii Sports athletes and player avatars, they’ve gone on to star in StreetPass and Nintendo Land, soar through the air in Pilotwings Resort, race in Mario Kart 8, and even battle it out in Super Smash Bros. 2014’s Tomodachi Life was perhaps the first game to put the full focus on the Miis themselves, but now thanks to Miitopia it won’t be the last. An RPG-lite starring Miis of your choosing, Miitopia channels the charm and quirk of Tomodachi Life into a more traditional gameplay template to wonderful results, making for one of the more unique and enjoyable experiences on the 3DS.

When the curtain rises on Miitopia, it’s another normal day in the peaceful, titular kingdom — Miis are happily living their lives, adorable faces fully intact, without a care in the world. Unfortunately, the Dark Lord has other plans, and has begun stealing Miis’ faces and lending them to horrifying monsters which now threaten the land. It’s a downright disturbing concept presented in a typically family-friendly fashion, and it’s also the perfect set-up for an adventure, in which you — your Mii and several companions — set off to save the world one face at a time.

By far the biggest draw of Miitopia is that it’s an RPG that can star you and your friends — or pretty much any other group of people and/or characters you can come up with — and right from the start it makes it very easy to put that into practice. You’ll start by choosing a Mii for your main character, and then for new party members, allies, antagonists, and other major players in the story as they come up. You can make Miis within the game, as well as import them directly from Mii Maker, Tomodachi Life, or your 3DS’ Friends List, scan them in from QR codes (including those generated by Miitomo), or search through or grab them at random from an online database of user-generated Miis. It’s also a simple matter to recast any roles in the story, and daily SpotPass questionnaires help tailor the Miis that trickle down into your game to your tastes. It’s made to be as easy as possible, and it was a cinch to cast our story — deciding which friends to put in which roles took forever, but the interface makes it a snap.

Once you have your starting Mii you can set off in earnest on Miitopia’s journey: a simplified RPG that sees you traveling across a Super Mario World-style world map filled with discrete, explorable areas. When you choose an area to journey through, that exploration is mostly automatic; your party moves through the side-scrolling level at a steady clip, encountering random battles, items, treasure chests and events along the way, before ending up at an Inn that marks the end of each area. There are branching paths in most areas, and even though the movement is automated, it never feels boring or pointless — your Miis quip and keep up banter as they go, the random events provide cute moments between your party members and, of course, they offer up plenty of battles — where Miitopia’s charm really starts to shine through.

These turn-based battles pit your party against multiple (very cute) monsters, in the style of Dragon Quest and other classic RPGs. Like the exploration, it’s also largely on rails; you’ll control your main character’s actions directly — attack, use a skill, or use a recovery item — but the rest of your team will act on their own each turn. If that was all there was to it, it wouldn’t make for very interesting combat, but your party’s decisions are based on three interlocking systems — classes, personalities, and relationships — which combined carry a massive amount of Miitopia’s quirky charm. 

Classes, which you’ll set when a Mii first joins your party, act like the job systems in Bravely Default or Dragon Quest VII — they determine a character’s stats, strengths, and what skills they’ll learn as they level up. Miitopia has several standard fantasy selections to choose from — like the melee-minded Warrior, magic-loving Mage, fleet-footed Thief, and healing Cleric —  but also plenty of more creative classes, like the Pop Star — a singing support class — or the Chef, who can whip up healing items as well as flambé your foes. It only gets better as you go, too; later in the game you’ll unlock classes like Cat, Imp, Flower (!) and Tank, the last of which turns your Mii into a literal cannon capable of firing your teammates into the fray. As with everything in Miitopia, they’re full of fun and personality — we loved watching our party learn new skills and try them out, and abilities are doled out at a nice pace.

A Mii’s class will determine some of what they choose to do in battle, with Clerics and Pop Stars more likely to play a supporting role than attack each turn, but each Mii’s personality also plays a part. You’ll set personalities when creating a Mii, but can change them at any time — characters can be Kind, Laid-back, Energetic, Stubborn, Cool, Air-headed or Cautious, and each of these traits will lead to different calls on the battlefield.

We set our main character as Air-headed, for instance, and every once in a while he’d ‘forget’ which enemy he was targeting, leading - happily - to a powered-up sucker punch on an enemy that wasn’t expecting it. Our Stubborn mage would sometimes turn down healing, but she’d also attack twice from time to time, or refuse to take full damage (very handy!). And as the party’s Kindest member, our Cleric leapt in front of fatal attacks for her teammates too many times to count — but also spent plenty of time trying to reason with enemy monsters instead of attacking them, usually costing us a turn. Whether helpful or harmful, these ‘personality actions’ are always fun to watch, because they really do fit with the characters, and make their individual temperaments feel like as much a part of the battles as their class.

That’s true in their interactions as well; “friendship is power” is a common theme in JRPGs, but nowhere is that sentiment as literal as in Miitopia. Each character on your team has a distinct relationship with every other party member, with substantial pair-up powers unlocked as they grow closer. One character might want to show off for another, for instance, and deal extra damage as a result — or if they’re even closer, they might follow a fellow party member into the fray, for twice the hits on a single turn. We watched our Miis compliment each other for stat boosts, check up on each others’ injuries mid-fight, or help teammates dodge an attack. We’ve also seen them bicker and get annoyed with each other — once our pragmatic Chef had had enough of our Cleric giving away turns trying to pardon low-level foes, he refused to cook her any healing food until they’d made up. It’s all decidedly silly and fun, and seeing your Miis’ friendships bloom and grow on the battlefield is a huge part of what makes combat so enjoyable.

Your Miis’ relationships will grow deeper as they adventure together and help each other in battle, but the best way to level up their links is at the Inns at the end of each field area. Here, you can pair off your party into different rooms, and Miis that share a room will see their bond increase, with lighthearted skits to mark the occasion.

Inns are also where you’ll keep your Miis fed — with stat-boosting delicacies that play to their likes and dislikes — earn prizes and money in roulette and rock-paper-scissors mini-games, and procure new equipment, including armor, weapons, and items. Like the exploration and battle, buying equipment is more hands-off in Miitopia than in most RPGs, but it’s full of personality. When they’re in their lodgings you’ll have the option to give your Miis some money to do with as they please — they’ll have thought balloons above their heads that show what they’re thinking of purchasing, and if you give them the funds there’s a good chance they’ll come back with it. Of course, sometimes they might come back with a banana instead, but more often than not they’ll be responsible shoppers.

The costumes themselves are as goofy and over the top as you’d expect from Mii fashion, and seeing what new threads our Miis wanted to grab was always a highlight; from lollipop staves and donut frying pans to chicken suits and full plate armor, there’s always something interesting to equip. Amiibo support opens up a lot of Nintendo cosplay possibilities, as well, so Yoshi bodysuits and Isabelle hats are an option if you have the figures at hand. Even better, Miitopia lets you use the appearance of any outfit or weapon while maintaining the stats of your best purchase — so, for example, your chef can continue to rock her stylish fluffy muffin hat while getting the defense benefits of the comparatively drab sous-chef cap.

That sense of fun continues into the graphical presentation; Miitopia is punchy and colourful, with an arts-and-crafts style interface and trimmings that give the feel of a pop-up book come to life. Scenes really do pop thanks to the excellent stereoscopic 3D effect, too, and while the Miis look much the same as they usually do, the enemies are especially nicely done — they reminded us of foes from Dragon Quest VIII and The Denpa Men in terms of both tone and modeling. The music is equally enjoyable, carrying on the signature Wii series style of quirky synth melodies, with lots of of subtle references to Mii Maker and Mii Channel themes — an excellent touch. 

Those musical callbacks seem especially appropriate, because Miitopia really does feel like a culmination of the Mii concept. The personalities that come through, the offbeat dialogue, the silly situations — all of it makes for a game that is so much fun with the right group of Miis plugged into it. Your friends, classmates, colleagues; historical or literary figures; characters from a favourite movie or TV show; Nintendo Life staff; if there’s a group of people that you’re excited about putting in Miitopia, you’re going to have a great time playing it. 

The RPG-lite gameplay is perfect for this, and while we admit at first battles and exploration both felt more ‘on rails’ than we would have liked, that reservation fell by the wayside after a few hours of play. Once your party starts to deepen their bonds, learn more pair skills, and develop the crushes and grudges and unlikely friendships that drive the best of Miitopia’s interaction, it’s an absolute blast, and the simplified gameplay is in service of that dynamic — it’s engaging without getting in the way, and lets those interactions shine through. It also keeps Miitopia accessible, which we appreciate — along with an intelligent auto-battle option and frequent Inn stops, that means younger players and players with no prior RPG experience should have no trouble enjoying the adventure. 

Miitopia also seems to recognize how important the social metagame is to the experience, and there are a lot of smart design decisions that make it easy to share the fun. Screenshots are a simple matter of hitting the ‘Y’ button (plus ‘Up’ or ‘Down’ on the D-Pad depending on which screen you want to capture), for instance, and after every battle you’ll have the option to replay the encounter in its entirety, so that you can focus on gameplay during the fight but still get pictures of memorable moments afterwards. This is a game we couldn’t stop telling people about while we were playing — especially the friends we’d cast in the story! — so having these options for photographic evidence is a real plus.

We had a wonderful time in Miitopia, but it’s not a perfect kingdom, and a few interface issues especially can frustrate. Holding down ’B’ will accelerate the game — StreetPass Plaza style — for instance, but you’ll still need to press ‘A’ to advance dialogue after every line. That’s nice in that you won’t accidentally miss anything, but the mapping is unfortunate — it requires you to keep your thumb uncomfortably half on ‘B’ and half over ‘A’ (or use two fingers, tiniest-of-arcade-sticks-style) to play everything at the increased speed without juggling buttons; if the fast-forward were mapped to ‘L’ or ‘R’ (as in StreetPass Plaza), it wouldn’t be an issue. There are also a few menu routines that take longer than we’d like, or seem unnecessary — it would be great to have an option to stick with a certain outfit cosmetically rather than have to switch the head and body appearances back individually after each new equipment upgrade, for instance.

And while Miitopia’s accessibility is a boon for many, its simplified gameplay is also a potential downfall for more experienced RPG players; if the idea of not being able to explore freely or control your entire party directly is a deal breaker, Miitopia might not be for you. Likewise, Miitopia’s mechanics are at their best when they bring out the unexpected in the Miis you’ve cast — especially in relation to their real-world counterparts — and how fun that is depends hugely on how meaningful those Miis are for you. While random Miis served us perfectly well for peripheral characters, having specific people (or characters) in mind for your party Miis is a must to get the most out of Miitopia.

Conclusion

Miitopia is a special game, marrying the quirky style and interactions of Tomodachi Life with fun, addictive RPG-style gameplay and progression. It’s a fitting celebration of the Mii concept, perfect for short bursts of play, and an absolute riot with the right group of Miis — if you’ve ever wanted to take your friends on a grand adventure, complete with silly cosplay and relationship drama, this is a perfect way to do it. Its streamlined take on the genre won’t be for everyone, but for players willing to relinquish some control and trust in their Miis, Miitopia is a wonderful ride.