If you were expecting a life sim in the vein of Animal Crossing: New Leaf and hours and hours of fun, then Tomodachi Life is not the game for you.
This life sim from Nintendo puts you in charge of an island that you have to populate with miis. Gameplay revolves around mii creation and care; you have to feed, clothe, furnish, and teach these miis, and even engineer their relationships.
Satisfying them levels them up, and this in turn unlocks mii-related options like gifts and new apartment interiors. As you spend time with these miis, they’ll also share problems with you, or ask you to play mini games with them.
Tomodachi Life’s island paradise has a ton of shops and features for the player. Apart from browsing new headgear and clothes, you can also hang out at the coffeeshop, partake in one-stall markets, and even play the retro Tomodachi Quest video game once a day. These shops and features unlock as you progress through the game, but you’ll quickly have access to all of them within the same day you get Tomodachi Life.
That is the main problem with the game. Tomodachi Life has little challenge, and even less of an aim. There’s just nothing to do in it. You simply meander through your (real-time) days in the game, solving your miis’ problems, attending to their trivial requests, or fooling with their appearances.
And once you unlock everything on the island, there’s little you can do in-game except to wait for one mii or another to grumble about a new request or beckon you to join them in a simple mini-game.
One could argue that Tomodachi Life is more like The Sims, in that the point is to imply live life out day-to-day, and to enjoy the process. But Tomodachi Life lacks the depth of The Sims. For one, these miis have minds of their own, so you can’t control them. There’s a lot of milling about and waiting for someone to want something.
And you can’t anticipate their needs either, since the only meter on a Tomodachi Life mii is its stomach, and miis don’t complain the minute they’re hungry anyway. Most problems your mii throws at you are random requests, and make you feel more like a mother or a maid than an omnipresent player.
To Nintendo’s credit, a lot of love has gone into creating Tomodachi Life’s exact level of quirk. You can fool around with absurd items and witness the craziest dreams from some miis, like a neighbour’s giant head bobbing up and down in the ocean. I liked best what each mii would do in its apartment while idling. Some of them would be running around pretending to be an airplane, others would roll on the floor. Still others would be partaking of the gifts I gave them. But mii-watching alone can’t save a game.
This highly-hyped life sim might be a best-seller in Japan and might be lauded in other game reviews, but life sims are meant for long-term play, and Tomodachi Life just doesn’t have the pacing or longevity needed for that.