Miitopia review: Swords With Friends

Miitopia is a new addition to Nintendo’s line of games featuring its Mii avatars. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who’s never made a Mii before, whether on their own console or playing Wii Sports on the family Wii over a decade ago (feel old yet?). Most recently on the 3DS, the Miis appeared in Tomodachi Life, which offered the opportunity to put the Miis of real and fictional people into hilarious and unexpected situations together; Miitopia follows on from this. Have you ever wondered what it’d be like to put four of your best friends together as characters in an RPG? Perhaps even your favourite cartoon characters, or maybe you’ve wondered what it’d be like to party up with celebrities to kill an evil overlord? If so, Miitopia could be right up your alley.

Miitopia begins with a basic fantasy plot with a bizarre twist. It’s your job to defeat the Dark Lord, who has been using magic to steal the facial features from citizens all over the land, putting them on dangerous monsters. As the hero of your story, you (or whichever Mii you decide to make the main character) must kill these monsters in turn-based RPG combat to restore the facial features to their rightful owners. In case you couldn’t already tell, the game itself is a fairly light-hearted take on the fantasy RPG genre, making it enjoyable for both younger players and older gamers looking for a fun — and frequently silly — experience.

The customisation of characters in Miitopia is where the game’s charm lies. Assigning a variety of Miis to roles, as if casting roles in a play, can lead to some hilarious and bizarre narrative implications. While you play, you could have the Great Sage Kanye West watching over you, working together to defeat the Dark Lord Michelin Man, provided you’re able to make the Miis for such an absurd situation. If you’re more creative, you could even use your own original characters, making the experience your own personal fantasy narrative. As you can imagine, the possibilities for a wacky RPG adventure are significant, which I thought was a pretty cool premise – after all, it’s rare to find a game that will let you do what Miitopia does.

In terms of gameplay, Miitopia is simple and straightforward. The map exploration itself reminded me very much of Streetpass Quest; in fact, if Streetpass Quest and Tomodachi Life had a child, this game is what would result. In the overworld, you can choose a section of the map to advance through, after which exploration starts. Your party moves through the map automatically, chat bubbles appearing over their heads to show you what they’re talking about; true to life, my own Mii wouldn’t stop talking about how hungry and tired she always was. If you’re not happy with the Miis in your game, or just want to add your own, don’t stress. You can change the Miis of townspeople and story characters in the menu at any time.

Eventually you’ll run into random encounters where you can control your Mii in simple turn-based combat. You learn new skills and abilities over time, though combat strategy is nowhere near as involved as larger turn-based RPGs such as the Final Fantasy series. Towards the end of maps, you can find inns, where you can rest up, feed your party food to increase their stats (as in Tomodachi Life, Miis have set likes and dislikes, which can prove frustrating when your cleric will only eat attack-boosting Goblin Ham). They can also rest to boost their relationships, causing them to perform better in combat together, and you can spend your hard-earned gold on new items and food. Afterwards, it’s back to adventuring.

After a while, combat and exploration can become somewhat repetitive; there’s nothing you can really control during map exploration until you hit a random encounter, and you can’t control party members during combat outside of your own character. Thankfully, the party AI isn’t bad, and it’s unlikely that your characters will pass out from your cleric or chef not doing their job, but it does remove a layer of complexity that would make combat skills more relevant. The auto battle feature is great for times when you want to play while doing something else, but also makes the game feel unchallenging; over the many hours I played, I didn’t lose a single auto-battle, making me feel like there wasn’t much point to even turning it off. Then again, it’s hard to lose when your only combat choices are to attack or use restoration items. The game’s lack of complexity is both a benefit and a drawback; though easy to get into and play, especially for a younger audience, it lacks gameplay depth that would help to prevent it from stagnating. Also, as a lot of the game’s novelty relies on having Miis you’ll find fun to play with, it’s easy to imagine Miitopia’s appeal being lost on those who haven’t opted in to the Mii phenomenon.

For what it is, Miitopia does a great job. If you’re looking for an expansive, grand RPG adventure that wants you to min-max stats and equipment, this might not be the game for you. If you’re looking for a cute, fun and lighthearted game with a lot of amusing, fourth-wall-breaking dialogue, you’ll find an enjoyable experience in Miitopia. I couldn’t stop smiling every time I picked it up to play for one reason or another, and my other friends who played it really enjoyed sharing their screenshots of some of the amusing situations our Miis ended up in. As long as you’re not expecting a grand adventure with considerable gameplay depth, Miitopia is a colourful addition to the 3DS lineup that’s worth checking out.