While not unhappy with my purchase, I find it difficult to come out and say “Yes, make Tomodachi Life yours.” The whole experience reminds me of the spat of films released in the late 90s that originated from 5-minute Saturday Night Live sketches. There, much like with Tomodachi Life, these great ideas were stretched and pulled to form something larger. What was once novel becomes repetitive as that original flash of brilliance is recycled over and over.
Playing the role of an overseer, I’m charged with the care of dozens of Miis. Being the nerd I am, I named this place “Video Game Island”, a home away from home for Japan’s video game royalty. Here, the likes of Hideki Kamiya and Tomonobu Itagaki can eat all the junk food they want, all without the pressures of development weighing over them. Is that Iwata pounding sand? Why yes it is, and Hideo Kojima is jogging right beside him. It’s these kind of jovial happenings that sold me on the game. I don’t believe I’ve played a funnier game than Tomodachi Life. It’s bizarre and off kilter, but there are moments of love and respect that shine through as well. Your Miis speak with such a blissful ignorance, passing on awful advice and so unsure of how to approach the other inhabitants. It can work your way into your heart, which only makes the repetition all the worse.
Despite a well developed text-to-speech system that’s capable of so much, I was disapointed by the frequency at which dialogue would repeat. The game packs in plenty of unique scenarios, but when interfacing with the Miis inside the apartment building that houses them, the dialog can and will repeat itself. In a game so chock full of personality, the illusion becomes apparent when phrases are heard over and again. Same goes for events; I’ve tickled more noses than I can count, and have mastered the “Guess the Object” game. Outside the home, characters will appear at the beach and theme park, but sometimes even these have no unique qualities. While some trips to the coffee shop result in terrific dialog, other times you’re privy to a performance of mimes, and there’s no distinction made as to which you’ll witness.
Regardless, it’s impossible to deny the joy that comes from watching relationships form. Witnessing a love between my “look alike” and my real life wife’s was super cute, especially my botched proposal. Kamiya and Kojima’s friendship points to a confirmation of Metal Gear Rising 2, and Bill Trinen’s bond with Shigeru Miyamoto remains as strong as ever. Much like everything else, you’re just an observer, but these relationships always result in the most laughs.
While Tomodachi Life encourages sharing these moments through Twitter, the game itself functions as a social media platform of its own. As the player, you can form a community of your choosing, pay attention to the conversations you enjoy, and bait these individuals into various acts with gifts and treats. You’re very much a godlike power, except stripped of any influence. There’s no world to shape, you’re strictly on the outside looking in. Sure, there’s customization in the form of your Miis and the clothes they wear, but that’s as far as it goes. Once again we arrive at the point of there being no real reason to come back to Tomodachi Life. Miss a week and it’s as if nothing changed. Everyone’s a little hungry, but life goes on at Video Game Island.
Tomodachi Life isn’t bad, not in the slightest. Instead it lacks the hooks to keep me coming back. The time I spend on Video Game Island is fun, and full of hilarity. But while the idea of personalized Miis running amok is properly realized, the lack of any meaningful interaction dulls the experience.