If there’s one game that was a sleeper hit in Nintendo’s ever growing arsenal, it was 2014’s Tomodachi Life. With its simple social mechanics, addictive “play every day” style, and speech engine (which ranged from amusing to creepy), Tomodachi Life remains a surprise success that should get a sequel. While Nintendo has been late to the mobile party, the company has finally released its first exclusive smartphone application (excluding the mobile port of Pokémon Shuffle in 2015) entitled Miimoto, a quirky little social messaging app that connects various social media with the company’s new My Nintendo program and unified Nintendo Account system. Fiddling with the application for a couple of hours, I can proudly say that this mini Mii maker has a shot at being a serious social competitor in the mobile market.
You may have noticed that I didn’t use the word “game” once in my description of Miimoto, because, at its heart, the application is more of a messaging hub than it is a game. First time players can opt to connect their social media accounts (Facebook and Twitter are currently supported) as well as their Nintendo Accounts; doing the latter will allow players to earn platinum coins whilst playing (which will be explained later.) Account setup is fairly easy, and only requires a permission login to share posts with others.
After this is where the fun begins; players will then select a Mii from scratch, either by making one manually or choosing one from taking a picture. The facial recognition in this app is leaps and bounds superior to the 3DS Mii Maker, and it gave me burst shots of potential faces instantly. One word of warning however; be sure you’re in good lighting, otherwise the camera may take incorrect pictures. After slight adjustments to physical attributes, players will then get to choose their nickname, voice, and personality. Returning from Tomodachi Life, the speech engine is really something; while the range of voices are overall unnatural, it’s no doubt entertaining to have full voice acting, even if the voices sound a tad robotic.
The player’s Mii is then plopped into a room where the rest of the simulation takes place; answering questions and adding friends add coins to the player’s total, which can be used to purchase in-game accessories or, in one of the only games so far, a shot a pachinko-like game where accessories may be won; think Nintendo Badge Arcade, but as less of a transparent cash grab. In-app purchases are reasonable (though there is a $75 option, which at time of release is pretty useless,) but they’re not necessary to fully enjoy Miitomo. Players may either visit friends or listen to responses, where their Miis will interact with one another in a sort of instant chat scenario. Furthermore, players can take pictures with their Miis and share their favorite ones to different networks or save to local storage.
Overall, the application is a bit light on features at the moment; you’ll discover all there is to do within an hour, but it’s what you do with it that’s pretty neat. Through constant interaction and continued use, players can earn platinum coins, which are one of the two currencies supported by the new My Nintendo rewards program. While gold coins are only acquired through real life purchases, platinum points are earned through missions such as daily logins or getting friends to comment on your posts. It’s that interaction that makes me coming back for more, much like how Neko Atsume is deceptively addictive for a game about idling cats. The thought of getting Warioware: Touched or a Mario 3DS theme just for playing is tantalizing indeed.
While I imagine not spending too much time compared to my initial playthrough, I could see myself opening up the app daily for a few minutes to talk with my friends about what I love about cats or my favorite food. I have a couple of gripes with the system, but they’re due to Nintendo’s safety measures; you can only add friends physically nearby or through Facebook and Twitter only (though Instagram is supported for sharing photos you’ve taken with your Miis,) so you’re out of luck if you have neither of those networks or if you don’t have a lot of friends who have downloaded the application yet. Amusingly, the speech engine does allow for profanities, and while this is an all-ages title, I could imagine this being abused. As long as this doesn’t develop into Tay 2.0, we should be fine. Finally, you can add pictures from local storage as a comment or photo background, much like instant chat features on messaging apps, which again, could be abused, but I’m optimistic that with Nintendo’s current safety measures, it would be limited.
While it’s only been the first day since the North American release, I can see that Nintendo’s really pushing to be in the mobile market these days. Hopefully with future content updates and increased social interaction, Miitomo will become the mobile smash that Nintendo wants it to be.
Miitomo is free-to-play and is available now on the App Store and Google Play.