(3DS)

Game Review

Tomodachi Life Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Damien McFerran

The meaning of life

During the many hours you can potentially spend lost within Tomodachi Life, you'll find yourself wondering if this new 3DS outing can actually be called a game in the traditional sense. It's certainly addictive and almost universally appealing thanks to its savvy combination of humour, social sharing and Mii-related activities, but is it a game? Or, perhaps more importantly, does it really matter if it's a game when it presents such a compelling and enthralling experience?

Simply put, Tomodachi Life is a life simulation which allows you to imbue your previously dull Mii characters with a distinct sense of personality. Your first act in the game is to pick a Mii which closely represents yourself — whenever you are directly addressed in the game by another Mii, you are branded a "lookalike". The process of importing a character comes complete with a very small selection of attribute selections which ultimately determine what kind of temperament your Mii will have. You can also select the tone of their voice, as well as fill in other pertinent info - such as their date of birth, which is used later on in the game to determine suitability for pairing off with other Miis.

With your core character created, the sky is literally the limit — you can add a small selection of supporting Miis or go overboard and totally fill out the apartments on your island. It's a good idea to take things slowly at first, as every Mii you place into the game requires your attention if they are to flourish as planned. Just like real people, they have demands — such as the need for food, clothing and stimulation — as well as dreams and desires. They will often appeal to you for advice on how to proceed with a relationship, be it simple friendship or something more romantic. In this respect, you are pivotal in deciding how your little community develops and interacts; characters won't embark on any kind of alliance without your encouragement.

Each Mii has a happiness gauge, and when this fills completely they advance a level, allowing you to give them some kind of reward — such as a catchphrase, special item, song or new interior for their domicile. Filling the gauge is simple; almost every interaction with a Mii will increase it, and finding the item which provides the biggest boost for each Mii is all part of the challenge; for example, each character has different preferences when it comes to items of food. Some consumables will cause them to retch and offer no happiness boost, while at the other end of the scale there are foods which result in them flying into space (literally) in sheer, unbridled delight. Experimentation is the key here; there are food items to find — ranging across full meals, snacks, sweets and drinks — and additional ones are drip-fed as you spend more time with the game.

Occasionally, your acts of kindness will result in your Miis giving you gifts in return, which can then be used to placate other characters. For example, bath sets are handed out with impressive regularity, which is fortunate as one of the most common demands you'll hear is the desire to have a quick dip. You can also use reward items to send characters on holidays, morph them into children (and back again) and hypnotise them in order to experience various trippy dreams. All of these processes involve an often humorous cutscene, and while you'll see these several times over during your time with Tomodachi Life, they're so charming that they rarely threaten to outstay their welcome. Besides, you can skip them if you wish.

At other times, your role is that of a peacemaker. Miis will often clash with one another and become despondent as a result; you can calm them down by offering their preferred dish, and they will usually see the error of their ways and attempt to reconcile with the offended party. Whether or not the apology will be accepted is left to chance, lending the game a sense of unpredictability and realism.

Much of what exists in Tomodachi Life is geared towards helping you increase the happiness of your population. Clothing stores provide a change of style, while an interior showroom means you can give each character a change of scenery. These all come with a price tag, but money is thankfully in constant supply — as well as bolstering happiness, all of your actions earn you cash, and your growing population will gratefully contribute money each day during a special "donation" event which takes place in the middle of the island. You can also sell special items for cold, hard cash at the island's pawn shop.

As you add more Miis and fulfil various objectives, other areas of your island become available. These include a concert hall where your characters can perform songs, a funfair where various games and rides are available (including an turn-based Final Fantasy parody which has your Miis facing off against various inanimate objects, including a SNES Super Scope) and a cafe where gossip is exchanged that gives you a fascinating insight into the burgeoning relationships that exist between your denizens. Another location is regularly updated with various tests and reports which give you a better understanding of how things are progressing; one test shows how compatible characters are with one another — vital info when it comes to encouraging potential nuptials — while another shows who is the most popular Mii on the island, or which Mii you've spent the most cash on. There's also an image sharing location, which allows you to post screenshots to Tumblr, Twitter or Facebook. Capturing screens is easy — it's just a matter of tapping the X (top screen) or Y (bottom screen) button at any time during play.

One aspect of Tomodachi Life which is perhaps deserving of being a release in its own right is based around the various songs you can award to your characters. A selection of genres is available — including rock, pop, opera and rap — and while there's only one song per genre, you can edit the lyrics and craft your own unique chart-topping smash-hit. The dance routines that accompany these songs are downright hilarious, as is the result of you stopping the song mid-performance, Simon Cowell-style — all of the assembled Miis freeze in position, their eyes wide open while a deathly hush falls over the audience.

While Tomodachi Life offers a dazzling amount of content, humour is perhaps its biggest driving force. It's packed with amusing situations and superbly-penned dialogue, and much of the hilarity comes from putting familiar faces — family members, friends or celebrities — into funny situations. Although the Miis follow your direction in certain situations, there are many events which occur totally without your input, and it's these happenings which lend the experience a much-needed element of surprise. There's no getting around the fact that much of Tomodachi Life is based on repetition — characters need feeding, playing with, clothing and more — but all of these activities, while hardly irksome, can become overly-familiar over time. Of course, given the practically unlimited potential of Mii creation, you could conceivably keep adding new characters forever and watching as totally unique relationships grow and mature each time, but there is a limit to the number of situations and events which can occur; that ceiling may be a little too low for some players.

It's for this reason that Tomodachi Life is best experienced in small doses, rather than mammoth gaming sessions. As a portable release, this style of play is perfectly possible; with your 3DS on your person all day, it's quite easy to drop in and drop out of the game at will. In this regard, Tomodachi Life shares a lot in common with popular mobile titles like Tiny Tower and Pocket Planes — games which are designed for the long haul, but must be nibbled at rather than ravenously consumed in one sitting. In fact, this is perhaps the perfect "companion" title; it's the type of game which can be played alongside your current 3DS time-sink, allowing you to take a break and unwind with something a little different.

In some ways, you could argue that it would have made more sense for Nintendo to roll Tomodachi Life as a free update to all 3DS systems, as it really serves as a way of drastically augmenting your Miis and making them more lifelike and appealing; building this into each 3DS console would surely encourage even the most lapsed of owners to spend more time glued to those dual screens. However, that's perhaps unrealistic when you take into account the staggering amount of content on offer here.

Tomodachi Life is often compared to Nintendo's other surprise 3DS hit, Animal Crossing: New Leaf. It's a lazy contrast which undersells the uniqueness of both games; while they do indeed share some similarities, they are very different experiences when studied closely. However, it's easy to see this game appealing to the same people who played New Leaf for months on end; in fact, Tomodachi Life has the potential to be even more successful, thanks to its strong emphasis on social interactivity. There's a simple joy in turning your family and friends into virtual puppets and watching them get into amusing scrapes — and publishing those moments via the game's image sharing tool only serves to enhance that appeal.

Conclusion

The fact that it's almost impossible to cover every aspect of Tomodachi Life in a single review is perhaps testament to the vast scope of the game. There is so much going on here and so many months of potential enjoyment on offer that this would easily become your most-played 3DS title. But again, that thorny issue remains — is this really a game in the strictest sense? It's closer to being an expanded version of Bandai's famous '90s craze the Tamagotchi, with your main duty being the happiness of your Mii population, rather than any skill-based challenges. In fact, there's precious little skill involved at all — given enough time, you'll be able to see everything this has to offer regardless of how "good" you are at it. Of course, that doesn't make the process any less entertaining or rewarding, but it's worth keeping in mind if you prefer your games to be a little more demanding.

Despite concerns regarding its suitability for core gamers, Tomodachi Life is a title which has truly universal appeal; the barrier to entry which exists in many pieces of software — Animal Crossing: New Leaf included — is all but removed here, making this feel more like a casual mobile title. Some will see that as a negative, but under Nintendo's watchful eye, this cookie-cutter concept is expanded and improved almost beyond measure. Tomodachi Life is perhaps best described as the glorious culmination of the Mii concept that was heralded by the release of the Wii back in 2006, and at long last gives your virtual avatar a life of its own — as well as many humorous and entertaining escapades to enjoy.

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User Comments (105)

MixMasterMudkip

#2

MixMasterMudkip said:

I can't believe it's finally happening! STARTING TOMORROW I WILL FINALLY HAVE A LIFE..... A TOMODACHI LIFE!!!!!

OneBagTravel

#7

OneBagTravel said:

I didn't know it was developed by Nintendo. Hmm. What's their goal to have similar apps on one platform?

RobMondavi

#10

RobMondavi said:

Is there more than one save file for extra players in the house? Deciding if I should buy retail.

eleccross

#11

eleccross said:

I might buy it. I'm trying to wait until after E3 to spend money on games. Maybe if it was like $30-$35 I'd buy it.

Xiao_Pai

#14

Xiao_Pai said:

Man, I miss those little Tamagotchi games. xD
Might get this sometime, even though the voicing still scares me. lol

shigulicious

#15

shigulicious said:

I'm not intetested in this title but I know my son,12, and many of his friends are very eager to pick it up. I'm certain it will be a commercial success.

Nik-Davies

#16

Nik-Davies said:

Excited.
I say they should expand upon it and make it a free to play game for Wii U with online functionalities so you can hang out with friends. Kind of like PlayStation home, but with Nintendo's quality and quirkiness.

Link506

#17

Link506 said:

Already have AC, I don't need another life drainer, but I do admit, this looks good. Very slight chance I'll pick this one up. But it was smart of them to release it right before summer break.

mystman12

#21

mystman12 said:

I used to have a Tamagotchi! At least your Miis can't die in this game, it always scared me whenever I let my Tamagotchi die. I'm gonna download this at midnight! The Tomodotchi Life Direct was enough to make me buy the game but now I've got even more hype!

SuperMikey

#23

SuperMikey said:

This doesn't seem like it'll hold my attention for long and I already have a life simulator on 3DS (New Leaf) and even that one had a lot of repeating elements which turned me off from the game.
EDIT: Anyone who's looking for a more blow by blow of how the game actually plays should head on to youtube and check out gamexplain's Game&Watch videos.
Off Topic: Speaking of Animal Crossing, I felt Wild World to be better but it could just be because it was my first game... I felt like Wild World had more soul than New Leaf. I really feel like the characters were a bit blander in New Leaf in comparison to Wild World.

FritzFrapp

#24

FritzFrapp said:

Very good, informative review. Would love to get this, but will have to wait until work picks up. There's too much good stuff coming out! :(

NintyMan

#25

NintyMan said:

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that this review could only cover so much. Still, this game sounds perfect for me, because I've wanted my Miis to do more since their inception in 2006 and this easily appears to be their most ambitious game since then. I'll be getting it very soon.

unrandomsam

#26

unrandomsam said:

I wish there was a setting to disable everything mii related. (From both the Wii U and 3DS).

outburst

#27

outburst said:

Very nice review! I'm getting this for my friend's daughter in exchange for the Nintendo club codes she had given me. :D

Edit:
Offtopic:
Untitled

bizcuthammer

#28

bizcuthammer said:

Not really sure of this is my type of game, but i'm glad it's finally out for those who will really get into it! I may eventually get this for my wife, as it seems like the kind of thing she'd enjoy.

ariwl1

#29

ariwl1 said:

Thought this might be good as a download title to flip open when I want a break from whatever regular game card I had at the time. Looks like the review confirms that.

Action51

#33

Action51 said:

Certainly not my type of game, but I'm glad to see 3DS still getting high quality titles. I hope this sells pretty well, though I have a suspicion it will need some time to pick up a following like Animal Crossing.

Yai

#39

Yai said:

Sounds much better than the previews led me to believe, I want it more now!

Jray

#41

Jray said:

hmm not sure if i should go for the retail or eshop version...

rainy

#43

rainy said:

AAAAH I can't wait to get it!! ( I probably won't be able to get it until Sunday though cause I'm sick and my cousin's graduating on Saturday. ;__; )

Kaze_Memaryu

#45

Kaze_Memaryu said:

The nice thing about the retail version is that it has two demo download codes which you can give away to friends and relatives. I got my demo trough that, going to try it later!

HandheldGuru97

#46

HandheldGuru97 said:

Well I am going out of town on Saturday and could use a new 3DS game...looks like Tomodachi Life will be that game! Glad to see it got a good score!

netroz

#47

netroz said:

Hmmm not even close to my interest, still, quite a production for the console. It's good to see Nintendo giving such attention to the 3ds.

Still, I'm waiting for Fantasy Life... Hope it gets here anytime soon.

technotaylor98

#49

technotaylor98 said:

If anyone here buys the game, can you please e-mail me one of the demo codes you get? The game looks interesting, but i don't want to risk losing money if i don't like it.

DRLAdmin

#51

DRL said:

Great review, @Damo. You addressed all my curiosities. I'm not entirely convinced that I'm going to like it, but I'm gonna give it a chance anyway. :)

Tiefseemiez

#52

Tiefseemiez said:

I would be in for unneeded demo-codes aswell. If anyone won't mind it? Not quite sure if I'm gonna love it right now. Wasn't too interested in Animal Crossing, but did like Sims some time ago and love everything strange.
By the way: Does it matter which country the code comes from? [I'm from Germany.]

DadOfFour1972

#53

DadOfFour1972 said:

Well written review thank you. Certainly pushing me towards a pick up. £35 in the eshop seems a bit steep yet sounds like the perfect title to be a download rather than a cart....decisions

outburst

#54

outburst said:

@BlueStar101
Someone claimed on IGN comments section that it's the E3 booth/floor of Nintendo for this year. I don't know if it's true though. Mario Maker?

DBPirate

#55

DBPirate said:

Just got Mario Kart 8 but this is my "next-in-line" game. Been keeping busy with Kart and Wii Party U right now though. Can't wait to play this! My plaza's already booked with 100 Miis!

SeVok

#57

SeVok said:

I don't understand the "I already have a life sim with Animal Crossing" comments. So those people only have one game per genre?

Bliquid

#62

Bliquid said:

Great review, i understood a li'l better what this is about.
I love my time sinks, and the reference to Tiny Tower (proud owner of a all floors, all 3 stars tower) cleared it: this is not up my alley.
Fact is, i don't think my Aqua Blue 3DS is the right machine for time sinks due to the low battery life that negates how they should be played: all day quick bursts.
Anyway, due to the peculiar nature of Tomodachi Life, i think Ninty should have released a public demo, or even better, a F2P-to-premium similar to Steel Diver.
Which is a demo ( :P)

Peach64

#64

Peach64 said:

Eurogamer were unimpressed and gave it 5/10. And before anyone accuses them of bias, the last two Nintendo games they reviewed, MK8 and Kirby were both scored higher than NLife scored them.

MAB

#66

MAB said:

Just another one of those over-hyped lackluster 3DS titles aimed at kids ;)

Clara

#68

Clara said:

Defo want this now, I sunk a couple of years into AC Wild World but have struggled to get into new leaf,(still love my AC:NL xl though) I guess you can have too much of a good thing.
This however looks different enough for me to get into

SeVok

#69

SeVok said:

It was quite clear to me this title is going to be hit or miss, this goes for both the review press and the mortal player.

Dizzard

#70

Dizzard said:

I'm feeling really conflicted about this. €39.99 feels like a lot.....how does this game compare to New Leaf in terms of the amount of content?

Yet I'd love to play a game where the Miis actually have personality...

rjejr

#72

rjejr said:

@Nik-Davies - I dont know about free, but it does remind me of Home, only fun. Not thatI havent had fun in home, maybe I should say silly fun as oopposed to videogame fun. But yeah, wheres the Wii U sim game? Nintendo Land had potential but its really just a minigame collection not a sim. Maybe an NFC game like Disney Universe (not Infinity).

Froggievilleus

#73

Froggievilleus said:

I've been looking forward to this for a while and cannot wait to get started. The one thing that I am not happy about is that I have to use one of the demo codes to play the game to then transfer to the full game so that I can get the exclusive panda outfit. Way to make me take crazy steps Nintendo. And yay for me for being obsessive about collecting virtual stuff to do it. :)

Sakura

#74

Sakura said:

I love it! You can get away with doing slightly outrageous or rather quirky things and just laugh at how crazy it all is. Almost lets you experiment with ways of being that real life doesn't allow. What if I just...

Oaf7724

#77

Oaf7724 said:

Great review. I'm still not sure if I should pick this up yet, although using it as a nice break from a game I'm currently playing certainly sounds appealing. I did that with AC and it worked great.

sinalefa

#78

sinalefa said:

I just checked Metacritic, and it seems my suspicion of "embargo till release date because of mixed reviews" ended up being accurate.

I probably won't get it. Not a fan of Miis or "siim" games. But I will stay tuned for Days of our Tomodachi Lives, and competing for a week under the spotlight.

Kid_A

#79

Kid_A said:

The fact that there is still so much debate as to what a game "is" is proof that a numerical system for reviewing games is a terrible idea.

HamChop

#80

HamChop said:

11 year old son was up at the crack of dawn for this. He loves Animal Crossing and so far this Tomodachi thing.

Anybody with the game know anything about unlocking the shop where he can get his free item, the graduation cap? The spot pass option is greyed out in the game so far.

BertoFlyingFox

#81

BertoFlyingFox said:

I was looking forward to buying this game but it just doesnt seem like it has enough for me to do that would trump or differ from what I've done in New Leaf. Mini-game selections would've made a big difference for me.

Rusty's Real Deal should've been in this game. They could've put a baseball stadium in the town for all the mini-games. Even the submarine game could've had a part to play here. Nintendo sort of missed an opportunity here, but as long as it's an entertaining life-sim then it'll get its followers.

User1988

#87

User1988 said:

I just downloaded this a few hours ago and haven't been able to stop playing since. I've created Link, Zelda and Mario so far, along with human-versions of my pets... Strange how well the personality thing works!

I'll be playing this game for a very long time :D

JaxonH

#88

JaxonH said:

@OneBagTravel

It's not developed by Nintendo. It's published by Nintendo for the west, since the original publisher didn't want to take the risk localizing the game.

Nintendo does this quite often, actually. They step up and publish games for the west all the time when the original publishers are reluctant. Bravely Default, for example, is a Square Enix title, however, Nintendo published it in the west.

JaxonH

#89

JaxonH said:

@rjejr

Animal Crossing will come to Wii U at some point- it's a guarantee. So that'll cover the life SIM genre when it does come.

MasterWario

#90

MasterWario said:

Looks fun. Problem is, It's just not something I'd pay money for. I need to save my money for games with actual difficulty.

@outburst I'd buy that day one. Love me some level editors.

MightyKrypto

#93

MightyKrypto said:

i like this game,. PS: i anyone here's interested, i still have 2 download codes for the welcome version. Let me know ;)

Dpullam

#96

Dpullam said:

I might give this game a try someday since it looks pretty different from anything else out there, but right now I'm just too busy playing my new Wii U!

rjejr

#97

rjejr said:

@JaxonH - "Animal Crossing will come to Wii U at some point"

Oh, I'm sure it will, though I'ld rather have a Nintendo MMO w/ NFC toys. OK, maybe that would be Free Realms and not AC.

The question is - since AC on Wii was one of the few games to use voice chat (even had a soccer mom commercial) - Endless Ocean Blue World being another, maybe MHTri? - will ACU have video chat?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8YWZLbeleto

You game alot, how often do you use your Gamepad camera? I used it for Wii Fit U for a selfie, think that's it, but I don't play much online. And after getting destroyed in the NL tournament now I know why.

Quick Goggle search has Nintendo Land and Sing Party using it, but again only for off-line. I know Zen Pinball had 4 player video chat on the PS3 back in 2009.

JaxonH

#99

JaxonH said:

@rjejr

Eh, I never use it tbh. I think I used it in Nintendo Land and Game & Wario, and MAYBE Wii Fit U? And even then it was just out of curiosity really.

The truth is, if you want my honest opinion, I don't think they'll incorporate video chat. I know the Wii had the Wii Speak and all, but Idk, something just tells me they won't do it. Then again, maybe I'm wrong. But it seems to me getting voice chat from Nintendo is like pulling teeth from an alligator...

rjejr

#100

rjejr said:

@JaxonH - "But it seems to me getting voice chat from Nintendo is like pulling teeth from an alligator..."

Must be really hard just to find the alligators near you. :-)

I still think "Nintendo Game Land" w/ video chat is coming, how can it not? Not for real* games though.

*hardcore, AAA, non-casual whatever you want to call them. Just don't call them "adult" b/c "Nintendo Game Land" is for wine sipping adults. Maybe a "Trivial Pursuit" type game like "You Don't Know Jack"?

Nintendzoey

#102

Nintendzoey said:

I would rather have played Disney Magical World (also a life sim type of game) over this. Sadly, that game never made it into Australia. Totally bummed...

Kainier

#104

Kainier said:

@NintendoMark Hi! If you have an extra demo code I'd gladly take it off your hands (If it's for NA.) My email is majorasmask13@gmail.com I'm really tempted to buy this game, but I just want to try it for myself! Thanks in advance :)!

ryanator008

#105

ryanator008 said:

@grumblegrumble
I'd give you a 1/10 considering you're mysteriously absent from the group of people that realize that every vast minority cannot be recognized in every form of media.

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