I’ve never really liked life simulation games, so I was a little surprised when I started to get interested in Tomodachi Life. I thought I was just curious about this unique, new game that Nintendo was releasing, but the more I found out about it, the more I wanted to get my own copy. I got one last month and so far I’ve managed to burn more than 60 hours on the game already.
Tomodachi Life is essentially Nintendo’s version of The Sims in that it’s also a life simulation game, but that’s as far as the similarity goes. It’s a little hard to find a description that completely captures the essence of the game, so I’ll just describe the things that you can do in Tomodachi Life.
In Tomodachi Life, you own an island. The first thing that you can do, and this is a very big part of Tomodachi Life, is to create islanders. Islanders are essentially Miis, and Miis are Nintendo’s standard avatar format. Creating islanders in Tomodachi Life involves using settings that are also found in Mii Maker, Nintendo’s Mii creation app. You can take a photo of the person that you’re creating a Mii for and the game will generate its approximation of that person’s facial features and allow you to tweak the appearance as needed.
However, you also have to put in that person’s birth date, favorite color, and your approximation of that person’s personality, which is done via five characteristics. These five characteristics involve: how fast the person moves, their manner of speaking (how polite/direct they are), their expressiveness, their attitude (how serious they are), and whether they’re normal or quirky. The combination of these characteristics would place your islander in one of sixteen personality types, which would dictate how that islander would behave in the game.
You can also get islanders by scanning QR codes or importing them from Mii Maker. There are a lot of islander QR codes available online, ranging from Miis of fellow Tomodachi Life players to Miis of famous people to Miis of fictional people. One of my friends who also has Tomodachi Life decided to populate his island with fictional characters, so he has folks like Naruto and Luffy from popular anime mixed in with Rosalina of Super Mario Galaxy, Ken and Ryu from the Street Fighter franchise, and even characters from A Game of Thrones. I took the other route, populating my island with Miis that represented people that I knew in real life.
One an islander has been created or imported into your game, they’ll move into an apartment on your island. Each islander has a stat sheet that has the following attributes: a Happiness bar and level, a Fullness meter, a list of their favorite and disliked food, and their closest friend and romantic partner. The second aspect of Tomodachi Life revolves around improving each islander’s Happiness level, and you do this mostly by giving your islanders different kinds of clothing, hats and hair accessories, food items, and even apartment interiors. You can buy these items at different stores located on your island.
Giving an islander items won’t automatically make them happy though – they have to like your gift. Sometimes, they’ll really love the item that you just gave which in turn will result in a big increase of the Happiness meter. Other times, they won’t like your gift at all (no increase to the Happiness meter) or even dislike it (causing the Happiness meter to go down). These items also cost money, and while the most affordable types of items are food items, you can’t keep giving your islanders food. They have a Fullness meter that shows how much they can eat at the time, so if they’re too full they won’t be able to accept any more food items. They’ll also decline if you give them the same food item twice in a row.
I mentioned money, but it usually isn’t a problem in Tomodachi Life, except if you want to buy those really expensive items (a Royal Crown cost me $1,000.00 of in-game money). Whenever you do something and the result is positive, you earn a little money. Every day, the islanders also make a donation which goes right into your pockets.
The third aspect of Tomodachi Life involves just observing the islanders as they go on with their daily routine. Sometimes, islanders will call out to you because they have “Problems”. These problems may involve a request for an item (new clothes, hats, food, apartment interiors). Sometimes, they’ll have relationship related problems and they want your advice. For example, they want to be friends with another islander – is it a good idea? What should they talk about? They may also fall in love with other islanders and you’ll need to advise them where to confess, and how to confess their feelings. Islanders may decide to want to get married, and they will ask you to help them with their proposal.
Other times, the islanders will call out to you to play games. These games are simple, one minute minigames that vary between different kinds of memory games and reflex games. Winning these games will get you a random treasure (which can be sold for more money at the pawn shop), while losing will get you either toilet paper or table napkins, which have no real use and can be sold at a measly $1 each.
The islanders, for the most part, will live out their lives as they wish. They’ll hang out with whoever they want to hang out with, wear whatever clothes they want from their collection, take a nap, or hang out at the park, the beach, or at the observation tower. Sometimes when an islander is asleep, they’ll have a dream, and you can take a look and see what these islanders are dreaming about.
There are other features of Tomodachi Life – there’s Quirky Questions where you get to ask six random islanders questions, which isn’t really my thing so I didn’t spend a lot of time with that feature. There’s a Romance compatibility checker which I also didn’t pay a lot of attention to. There’s a Photo Center that will allow you to take pictures of your islanders using different motifs and templates, which is nice especially if you’ve got real life people on your island. There’s Tomodachi Quest, which is a dungeon-crawler-ish minigame that you can play once every day. The feature that really got me excited about Tomodachi Life though is the Concert Hall.
You can teach your islanders how to sing in Tomodachi Life, and there are eight different song types that they can learn. Once they’ve learned a song, you can have them perform that song at the Concert Hall. What really got me interested though is that you can actually change the lyrics of each song for each islander, and you can even form groups of islanders and have them perform. Sadly, I haven’t had the chance to experiment and unleash my creative fury since purchasing the game, but I’m bound to come up with a silly, juvenile song or two soon.
What caught me by surprise is Tomodachi Life‘s Traveler Street Pass functionality. Basically, married islanders in the game can have babies (you can turn this function on or off) and raise them. Once they’re old enough, you’re given a choice to either make them a permanent resident of the island or a permanent traveler. Tomodachi Life uses Street Pass to exchange special export goods between islands, as well as to pass along these Travelers. Travelers then hop from island to island via Street Pass. Travelers behave similarly to islanders in that they have problems and that you can feed them and converse with them, but what makes them so interesting to me is their ability to send letters home and give information on which islands they’ve already visited.
However, when my avatar and my girlfriend’s avatar had their baby, I got a little attached to the kid and couldn’t send him off to be a traveler, so I ended up making him a permanent resident. Right now, I’m waiting for the other married couples to have kids – I’ll make their kids travelers and send them off to have their own adventures.
And I can’t believe I left this out, but when you start to have babies, you unlock a different set of minigames that are related to raising a baby. One minigame involves cradling the 3DS device and swinging it just as you would a crying baby. There’s a peekaboo minigame as well wherein you have to use a combination of peekaboo, patting the baby on the head and tickling the baby in order to make him/her stop crying (not as easy as it sounds).
So, what can I say about Tomodachi Life? It’s definitely not for everyone. There’s no clear objective to aim for, and there are no penalties for not playing the game regularly, so some people might not find enough reasons to keep playing this. Personally, I like playing the game because I’m interested in how closely the game simulates the personalities of the people I know in real life. I find it fascinating when the Miis behave in the same way as their real life counterparts behave, and it’s also fascinating whenever they deviate from reality.
I also enjoy seeing the random events and watching something that I never thought would be in the game such as people fighting and ending their friendships, or even a couple that just broke up. But after playing Tomodachi Life for close to seventy hours now, I can say that it’s become repetitive already. I rarely see any new dreams or events now, and I’m not sure if that’s really the case or if I need to further increase the level of my islanders before new things start happening again.
There are a few things that could have been done better in the game. I would’ve liked to see more songs per genre, more activities for the islanders to do (have them do a tennis match or something), and even just a few more Photo Center motifs. Tomodachi Quest could have been better, maybe allow players to choose their party members and have more than one location to explore.
But Tomodachi Life is such a stress-free game. You don’t need to worry about much when you’re playing this game, and you won’t be obligated to play this game daily. There’s no pressure to get your islanders to higher levels as fast as you can. You don’t need to compare your island with others and compete with them to have the best-looking or most prosperous island. Tomodachi Life is the first game in my collection that both my girlfriend and I enjoyed a lot. I even enjoy just watching her play it. Playing Tomodachi Life is like having an aquarium, but instead of watching different fish swim around, you watch Miis of different people go about their day. It’s also like a light soap opera but you get to choose which characters are in it. I’d say that I’m glad to have a game like this in my collection, but it’s not a must have for everyone.