*Please note that this review reveals several in-game spoilers. Please do not read further if you do not wish to know them!
Miitopia released in Japan on 8 December 2016 described as a JRPG and said to fuse the social interactive environment of the Tomodachi Collection (Tomodachi Life) games with the RPG adventure and exploration modes of the likes of StreetPass Quest (Find Mii) and StreetPass Explorers (Mii Trek). Both sets of examples ring true to some degree although both only tell half the story as the rest of this review will hope to uncover why Miitopia is totally unlike every other videogame of 2016.
You begin your adventure by selecting your Mii (either from scratch, from your 3DS, from Miitomo or from the popular Miis pre-loaded) and choose between one of six initial classes (Warrior, Witch, Bishop, Thief, Idol or Chef) and decide upon name, catchphrase and temperament (there are seven to choose from with each affecting how the Miis interact within battle). You can also change the Mii of every NPC in-game (from villagers, team-mates, King, Princess to Satan). Outfits are also determined by which class you choose although these are upgradeable (more on this later) and you can change its colour (from eight!) at any time.
The game’s premise is pretty simple: the Great Demon Lord has been stealing faces from NPC’s with the aim of the game being to kill, maim and destroy your opponents before taking down the evil one himself (or herself if you choose a female Mii!). Only then do you restore peace (and body parts!) to Miitopia (basically it’s like an expansion of Tomodachi Island). After chatting to several faceless characters, you then begin your adventure. The game’s areas are explored by visiting a series of dotted locations similar to how the Super Mario Bros. series introduced from the third main entry on the Famicom and as is common-place today.
You don’t technically control your Mii/team in each area (other than B to speed up or D-Pad to choose a path when a fork appears) with the walking stopping for either a NPC appearing, a treasure chest, cut scene with your Miis or for battle. Battle commands are really simple: Attack, Magic or Item. The first is obvious, the second varies depending on your chosen Mii and you learn more skills as you level-up with item being either Banana to recover HP or Sweet to recover MP. Shortly into the game you have other Miis join your team (again you choose Mii, class, colour and temperament etc) with up to four Miis in battle at anyone time .
After you complete an area you return to the Inn with whatever items you have accrued. There are several functions to the Inn. Firstly your Miis sleep and completely recover their HP and MP overnight. There are five bedrooms at the Inn with each room sleeping up to two. Sleeping two Miis in a room raises their love level (yes, two same sex Miis can sleep together) with this love level helping you inside battle (your loved up Miis can take the hit for their loved one, push them out of the way of danger or double-team the enemy together). Miis also occasionally have speech bubbles above their head indicating which Mii they wish to interact with.
Feeding the Mii in Miitopia is as necessary as it is in Tomodachi Collection with food either being liked or loathed by the Miis. Certain foods raise attributes of the Mii such as HP, MP or quickness that can obviously benefit in battle. Gold can be spent on upgrading clothing or weapon for your Mii (whichever class you choose determines which type of clothing/weapon although tapping an amiibo at certain points in the game gives you the relevant costume although this isn’t always more powerful) which boost his/her statistics (your Miis also level-up after each battle), and to buy further Bananas and Sweets. The final part of the Inn is the Game Corner.
The Game Corner hosts two games: Roulette and Janken (Rock, Paper, Scissors) which are played via tickets also accrued on your journey and/or in battle. The former is a spin-the-wheel make-the-deal type where you can win anything from clothing, weapons, HP, MP, food to a trip to the Isle of Fernando’s where you choose another Mii, and there’s a (non-sexual!) cut-scene on the island where love levels are again raised! The latter game should be self explanatory with the prize being 500G at first with a double or quits on each victory The winnings are raised later in the game to when 500G becomes as worthless as the post Brexit pound.
All the above may explain the basic elements of Miitopia but it falls short of revealing the actual gameplay. This is because (SPOILER ALERT) there is very little traditional gameplay! In battles you only control your own Mii’s actions with the rest of the team responsible for his/her actions. This isn’t necessarily as short-sighted as it can be initially perceived as you are responsible for the classes, temperament and love levels of your Miis and in battle you (as in you and not your Mii) can interrupt the action between commands to shake one of five pepper pots containing a Yellow substance (HP), Green (MP), Red (revive), Purple (flakka) and Blue (force field).
In the second of the major spoilers in this review (and what may spoil the game for some): the horned one captures your teammates one evening and you must choose both another class (fortunately three more appear – Neko, Devil and Scientist) for you and whenever you find three new teammates (it doesn’t take too long). This then happens AGAIN (three more teammates must be found and three more classes -Tank, Princess and Flower- appear) and then AGAIN (your Mii keeps his/her third chosen class and you then aim to reunite with your nine captured teammates) for the last time before the game’s final challenge presents itself.
Miitopia’s great strengths don’t lie in its (lack of) fundamental gaming mechanics but in its absolute quirkiness. The game is TOTALLY out there: from noses that sneeze at you, Mii eating burgers, the Tank class firing another Mii out of his/her turret and then the ‘weapon’ falling out with their teammate, Miis missing a turn by laughing in battle and just so much more that I’ll let you discover for yourself. Both the graphics (there’s stereoscopic 3D!) and soundtrack are absolutely superb and both compliment the game’s amazing humour. Miitopia -like Tomodachi Collection- really sees Nintendo take their comedic escapades to a whole new level.
However, where-as this less traditional form of ‘gameplay’ may lend itself well to a social interactive game such as the Tomodachi Collection series; it is arguable whether it works as well within the JRPG genre. With that being said; Miitopia really feels like an adventure that your Tomodachi team go onto have after living on the Tomodachi Island together, and while the game may not be for everyone and the review score below is certainly one of subjectivity; Miitopia objectively is one of the most unique, charming and humorous gaming experiences of 2016 and another example of Nintendo absolutely not following videogame convention.