Reviewed on 3DS, copy supplied by Nintendo.
Nintendo’s Miis have been popping up all over their consoles for over a decade now, appearing as stars in games such as Tomodachi Life, Miitomo, the 3DS Streetpass games and Wii Sports. I feel like the Miis themselves work best as elements of a game rather than being the main focus, but here we are with Miitopia.
Miitopia is a turn-based RPG with life simulation elements, set in a full-fledged world full of Mii characters. This means that every single character in the game has the face of a Mii. Miis can be created from scratch or imported from the console’s Mii Maker, online selection, previous games or a QR code.
Obviously the most fun comes from populating the world with Miis resembling and named after friends, family, public figures and fictional characters. My entire party consisted of my real life friends. At first I really did love the interaction of the Miis, so much so that I would record video or photos on my phone and send to my friends. While many of these interactions are surprisingly amusing, after five hours of playing the game, you start to see the same interactions over and over and the silliness starts to drag.
The story sees the Dark Lord (represented in my game by the late Kim-Jong-il), stealing all the faces of Miitopia. Your player Mii has to traverse the land to rescue as many faces as possible and to defeat the Dark Lord. The occasional NPC you meet in the towns will guide the player into the right direction
The game uses a map overworld system, so your party moves to different points on the maps to complete a “quest” and then unlock paths to the next spots on the map for more quests.
All quests follow the exact same structure, the party will move from left to right automatically until they reach an inn. On the way to the inn are random encounters with enemies, treasure chests, split paths and in-game events. The events are usually 10 second character interactions where a choice can be made (e.g. which lever to press, left or right?). When the inn at the end is reached, the players heal and have the opportunity to interact among themselves, as well as boost stats through food and buy weapons and armour. Then the player picks which members of their party they want (up to four) and then set off onto the next quest. That’s basically it, over and over.
I played Miitopia for about 28 hours, but I’m genuinely curious how much of that time was spent actually playing the game instead of merely watching it. The battles themselves are so basic and often times noninteractive, even by turn-based standards; and the same can be said for the “run from left to right” part of the game between battles.
You only control your own Mii in battle, with the rest of the party making their moves automatically. You have the choice to use a basic attack or a special attack that uses magic points, a HP/Magic Point replenishment item or just leg it. Once you make your turn, it’s time to have fun watching your party make decisions. You can tick the box that makes your own Mii’s decision automatically, so you can just watch the entire fight if that’s your thing.
You can also use the Sprinkles items, which can do different things, like healing your party, bringing a member back to life or shielding them. It doesn’t have to be your turn to do this. You can also move a party member into a safe zone if they need to recover health or to be quickly cured of a status ailment.
The game features a fast forward button, which indicates to me that Nintendo lacked confidence that the game could be engaging for a long period of time. That, and the fact that the game asks if you want to take a break roughly every 15 minutes (seriously). I am super glad they included the fast forward option, because – as I touched on before – I spent many hours watching the game rather than playing it. Often times it was me holding the speed-up button with auto fight on, and not really paying much attention to what was going on. And why would I need to pay attention? The game is so easy, with only the bosses presenting any real challenge.
20-30 hours is way too long for a game like this. The lack of interactivity is certainly good for a handheld but the lack of control is demotivating. Imagine if in Earthbound you could only control Ness and not the other three party members – the lack of control would not feel satisfying. And that Earthbound also had an auto fight option, but why would anyone use it in such a challenging game?
Don’t mistake the battle system as “too simplified”, but if they were trying to make a “My First RPG” for very young children I guess they succeeded. The Mario RPGs have simple mechanics, but they have depth and in battles you control each party member and you have to time their attacks carefully to increase damage. In Miitopia, there almost is no skill in these battles, and that’s the most disappointing part of it.
The class system is promising at first. You can give each party member a different class if you choose. They can be a mage, a warrior, a flower, a cook and some other creative ones. My personal favourite was the tank… basically your party member is dressed in a tank costume. Since you you don’t even control the other members of your party during battle, it doesn’t even matter what class you make them, and I didn’t even notice any difference during battle.
The game on two different occasions, essentially reboots your party. Your three party members disappear, and your level is brought back to one. At this point you pick a new class and meet three new members, and then it happens again. Near the end of the game you can pick one of the classes you’ve leveled up and reunite with past party members. It’s a nice way to experience different classes, but once again there’s not much difference.
The inns are also limited in options. You can’t go into the game shops and buy new things whenever you want until you’ve finished the game. The game basically decides when your party members want to buy anything, and then you fulfill their wishes by giving them the money to get it.
The visuals are nice, with plenty of colour and the character models always look believable even with someone else’s face attached. There are also great variety in the monster design, and even though many are them are just plain animals and objects with eyes and a mouth drawn on, they are amusing nonetheless.
The problem with the game is that it’s just not interactive enough, it’s repetitive, it’s way too long, and the jokes run out of steam. I think this is a game you’re better off renting or borrowing, because after a few hours there isn’t anything new. The RPG elements don’t have enough depth, and the life simulator stuff suffers from the same problems, so it’s a jack of all trades. And it if it wasn’t for the speed up option, I would have probably been bored to death for more than half of it.