Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Ghost's Arcade: Tomodachi Life

Today's "Ghost's Arcade" was supposed to be all about examining the Legend of Zelda series in an attempt to figure out which game is the best of the best thus far.  It was supposed to feature two other people presenting their arguments about how their chosen game is the best in the series.  I keep saying the words "supposed to" because as you can clearly tell from the title that's not what happened.  Lots of shame, shenanigans, and forgetfulness was had so we are going to be talking about Tomodachi Life today instead.  Don't expect the Legend of Zelda thing anytime soon... it'll probably be next year.
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Ghost here, thanks for joining!

Since I didn't have an actual review for this week planned thanks to the before mentioned tomfoolery, I had to dig around for an idea and one just so happened to fall in my lap.  Actually truth be told it was more slapped across my face with the force of a train.  My Facebook was spammed by my friend and co-contributor to this blog, KoD with thousands of pictures from a game called Tomodachi Life.  He eventually convinced me to purchase this game and I figured... eh what the heck.  I'll do the review about this!

Oh Tomodachi Life, what can I say about you?  Seriously... what CAN I say about you?  Generally when I review a video game I analyze the good and bad points of the story.  I then talk about the gameplay and level of difficulty.  Once that is complete I pick out one or two positive and negative things about the game and move on.  Tomodachi Life however has no story line; there is no plot to drive what's going on.  I could talk about gameplay but it all boils down to tapping the touch screen with the stylus, finding the right time to tap the touch screen with the stylus... or if things are getting intense you may even have to slide the stylus across the touch screen.  Finding something to really discuss is going to be harder than normal.
Tomodachi Life, for all intents and purposes, is a very casual game.  I realize that in the past I have made my viewpoint of casual games and the increased focus on casual gaming by the industry (especially Nintendo) abundantly clear.  Although I'm generally against "casual" games I do realize there is a point to their existence and do not begrudge any company who produces these games so long as they are not the main focus.  With my fairly strong feeling on the matter, I should be indifferent to (or with worst case scenario have absolute hatred for) this game.  For some strange reason that's just not the case here.  I realize it's casual bait, but I seem to not care about that.  I quite enjoy this game.  Generally I don't start my intro with my personal feeling on the game as a whole but this one's going to be a bit weirder anyway so might as well open up differently as well.

What is Tomodachi Life?

Tomodachi Life is a Nintendo 3DS title that is an"alternate universe" life simulator of sorts.  I say of sorts because it's not as if you are playing out your daily life in a town such as with the Animal Crossing or Harvest Moon series.  Rather, you are watching the lives of other people as a sort of benevolent ruler or deity who grants them existence and trinkets.  It's more along the lines of the Sims though nowhere near as complex (or confusing) as those games tend to be.  Since it is a Nintendo handheld product and it is the first game to be produced under this title, the game definitely has the feel of "Junior's First Life Sim"  but not in a bad way and certainly not in a way to imply it's childish to the point of being for toddlers.  Let me explain.

Katie and Wes hanging out.
You are in charge of an island that you get to name and populate with the Miis of your choice.  They can be original creations made within the game, faces imported from your Mii collection on the 3DS, or creations from others which were added by scanning their QR Code.  Once these Miis move in to their apartment you are able to assist and dote upon them by providing them with food, clothing, gifts, money, apartment layouts, etc.  These can be done as you will or when a Mii is specifically asking for one of them.  Also throughout their lifetime they will ask for your assistance by playing trivia and quick time games, helping them make friends, helping them get a significant other, helping sort out problems between Miis, helping them propose to their sweetheart, and giving your permission for them to have a baby.

Katie and Tharja having a conversation on their own.
There are a lot of things you can do in this game, but there are also a lot of things you can't do.  As I said earlier you don't actually control any of the Miis.  You just interact with them and help them out when they are calling for assistance.  The Miis have a mind of their own and will like, dislike, or do almost anything they wish regardless of what you may hope will happen.  It's an interesting choice to have a game where you are effectively the parent or deity of these characters who do their own thing and have their own time schedule apart from you.  This is also why it's been harder for me to figure out what to say about this game.

Now that you understand what this game is, let's look at what it does well and what could use some improvements if the franchise is to continue production.

What Tomodachi Life Does Well

Population of My Island as of 9/21/15
The most easily apparent thing that this game does well is that it allows you to use any Mii you wish and place them into the game.  You don't get stuck with a random spattering of individuals that you may or may not enjoy like in Animal Crossing.  If there's a character you don't like then simply don't add them to your game.  Do yourself a favor and only add characters that you truly care about.  That's exactly what I did so that when my Miis want to play a game or are having a rough time in a relationship, I honestly care and want to see them work things out. I added people such as family, close friends, celebrities I actually care about (such as Stan Lee), internet personalities, video game characters, and TV show characters.  With all of the options to determine their personality and voice you can truly make it seem like those individuals you have brought in are there for the most part.

Did I just say voice?  You bet I did!  This game has done something that I haven't really seen in another game before; it has incorporated voice recognition of the text presented in the game.  Now I don't mean that the game is fully voice acted, many games are fully voice acted.  I mean that every bit of text in the game is read and interpreted by the game to be spoken sort of like when a GPS reads you the name of a road.  Yes it does sound very robotic at times and yes making them pronounce certain names (like Katara from Avatar The Last Airbender) is a chore but it's really neat to hear the game actively mention what you put into it.  This goes beyond just the names of characters.  You can assign catchphrases or things for them to say when they are happy, worried etc.  No matter what words you put in there, the game will do it's best to pronounce what you have put in there.

Lynn performing a Rock & Roll song
While we're on the topic of voices and the customization thereof, Tomodachi Life has included a concert hall for your miis to sing songs.  Yes, karaoke has entered the realm of possibilities.  Your Miis can be gifted the ability to sing up to eight different songs in the concert hall, each of a completely different genre of music.  There is a metal, pop, rock & roll, rap, ballad, opera, techno, or musical option.  If multiple Miis know the same genre they can form a group and sing together.  That's not the best part about the songs.  While each genre song comes with its own title and lyrics you can actively modify your lyrics and title to be whatever you wish.  The Miis will sing YOUR song.  To showcase this, I present you with the following video from none other than KoD who convinced me to purchase this game to begin with.  He had decided to put an alien invasion in his Tomodachi Life game.  This race of aliens were known as Tods.  Once multiple Tods all knew the Techno song, he wrote a song about how they were going to take over and assimilate the island.  This experiment resulted in the following.
OK yeah he's no lyrical genius, but this feature is pretty awesome provided you have the lyrical skill!

Angel, Looney, KoD, and TL showing off various fashions
I can honestly say that I was impressed by the sheer amount of items and gifts this game provides.  The clothing and hat options are enough to leave nobody wanting for much of anything.  It's not just normal clothes either; there are some very specific items such as a full leather suit, a hamster costume, a fez, and many other unique clothing options for your Miis.  The food you can give them is also quite varied beyond your normal cuisine to include items that I've never even heard of before.  There is a multitude of room themes for the Miis to decorate their apartment.  Some of these include a space galaxy, an arcade, a mansion, a cartoon room, a garden, and many more!  The gifts that you can provide to your Miis are a lot of fun as well.  Though there aren't as many of them when you peek in at your Miis from time to time you can see themselves enjoying their WiiU, reading a book, playing with their cat or dog, going skateboarding etc.  However in my opinion the greatest item they provided was the can of hair color.  The Mii Maker was always very limited when it comes to hair colors; leaving only natural colors to be selected and not all of them at that.  Well with the hair color spray now you can have practically any color hair you wish which makes things easier for fantasy characters etc.

Last but not least is the Quirky Questions.  When you unlock the use of the Tower you can find there is one event that happens 24/7; this event is Quirky Questions.  The game selects a random sampling of six Miis to stand together and answer questions provided by you.  The game gives you three options to choose from that all have a blank spot for you to fill in.  "Who's mother resembles ____" is just one such option.  At first this seems a bit silly in all honesty but if you have a creative (or disturbed) mind this can become quite hilarious in the process.  Below are just a few such examples of the weirdness that is in store.

What Tomodachi Life Needs To Consider

This section isn't necessarily things that the game does poorly.  It's only a few features that I think should be implemented though I'm not entirely sure how they could be used without fundamentally changing the game.  These are things that need to be considered at least.

Darion watches his real-life girlfriend dating another person.
The first change that should be considered is that of greater control of your Miis. You can give them a personality and teach them words to say but when it comes to their ultimate actions there are many things that you just simply can't control.  For example, I figured that I would have my wife and I be married in the game.  This was hindered by the fact that Katie's Mii rejected mine three times then decided to date and eventually marry someone else I know.  You can hope for real life couples to get together but there is little to no guarantee that will happen.  In fact, two friends of mine who would never be in a relationship ended up married while two friends of mine who love each other dated for one day then broke up with each other at the point of hatred.  I realize that this is part of the charm of the game.  There isn't any sort of predictability which adds to the playing and fun.  If you can control every single aspect of what's going on it becomes boring and planned out.  I'm not exactly sure how they could implement some sort of control or getting our wishes to come true in the game but it's something worth looking into.

This game may be able to benefit from some form of online interaction.  Now, you can make QR codes of your Miis and send them to people so that they can scan that person into their Mii Apartments but that's about the extent of it.  There's no online trading or acquiring of goods.  If you send over a Mii to someone else and they are wearing something you haven't seen yet in the shop you don't get that outfit unlocked or anything.  It's just a feature that so many games have that it feels weird to not have any online connectivity.  Though, since you are more observing and not really playing as your islanders I'm not 100% certain what online connectivity could actually do but it would be an interesting idea.

Now this next topic I really wasn't going to mention...however I'm guaranteed a flogging by a particular individual if I don't at least mention it.  The game actively discourages time travel.  If you go into the game and modify the time or date you are penalized for a single day.  If you change the 3DS' time or date rumor has it (I didn't bother looking up if it were true or not)  that you can be penalized up to five days!  What is this penalty?  Effectively time stops for the amount of days it has chosen in one form or another.  The shops, morning sale, and afternoon market do not change their items at all during this time.  What you had the day you changed it is what you are going to be stuck with till it's over.  If you have a couple who will be having a child, they will hold off having said child till time re-starts and then they will wait their couple of days.  I understand why this feature was put in there and for the normal person I don't really see why they would mess with time in the game but for those who do I can understand the frustration.  Animal Crossing doesn't really punish you for time traveling it just keeps going forward as if it hadn't happened.  I don't know... again I understand why this was put in place but at the same time I can't help but see that it's a bit of a harsh punishment for something so simple. 

Things That Need To Change

Traveler Campground Feature utilized only by Street Pass
STOP WITH THE STREET PASS NONSENSE!  This doesn't go for just Tomodachi Life, but Nintendo in general.  I understand and fully appreciate the theory behind street pass.  It's a neat little feature to include.  However when it comes down to a practical application, Street Pass falls flat on its rear end.  I'm not entirely sure if my experience is different from others in the United States but I simply can't find anyone to ever street pass with.  Now I realize I'm at a slight disadvantage being an adult but even when I was younger, the culture of my region shunned bringing your video games with you (and the culture is still that way at a majority.)  When I was a child there were only two kids who brought their gameboys to school; myself, and a kid 5 years younger than me who didn't even play the same games as me.  Now that I'm an adult I know several people with a 3DS.  This should give me several opportunities to street pass but... oh wait... of these people how many of them actually live within my immediate area?  Let's see... Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Florida.  All of those are a NOPE!  I did have four friends locally who had a 3DS but one of them got stolen, one moved 2 hours away, and the other two I don't see but once a month if I'm lucky.  Point is... street pass is not practical because you never have enough people to street pass for anything at least in my part of the country.   To have a game with entire features, items, and other things completely dependent upon street passing someone who also owns this game is ludicrous.  Again, I only have a small number of people who I can even street pass to begin with.  NONE of these individuals have Tomodachi Life, so I have no chance of seeing these Street Pass features.

A few of the quick time games are FAR too fast or arbitrary.  If you're looking for irritation look no further than the Quick Drop, Nose Tickle, or Marriage Proposal mini games.  Yeah some of the other games are really cheap like zooming in on the blank space in the curve of the banana for the Zoomed Items mini game so that you only see white background and pick the option for Milk instead of Banana, but those are kind of few and far between.   For the Quick Drop mini game, a Mii is standing on the top screen and drops an item for you to catch.  This should be simple enough but since it passes through the blank space between the screens and out of view for a few seconds it completely disorients you from when you should catch the item and you end up missing 99% of the time.  I just let the thing drop without trying anymore because it's that impossible.  Nose Tickling is arbitrary as can be.  A Mii will say that they need to sneeze and only if you tickle their nose with a feather will they sneeze.  You can perform the same exact action with every single Mii in your game and you will come about with a different result.  Sometimes you can barely tickle them and they sneeze, sometimes you keep the tickling sound going non-stop and nothing happens.  There is no rhyme or reason to it.  Lastly and the most frustrating of all is the Marriage Proposal mini game.  You have to tap the screen when the person's partner is thinking about them...however these Miis are the most scatterbrained idiots you can come across as many times the only time they are thinking about their sweetheart is a half second where it barely shows up for enough time for you to register that it has shown up.  By the time you can even react to that half second it's gone away when you tap it and you fail the mini game.  I've only been able to perform about 50% of the marriages I've been given the chance to help with because the thing just goes TOO fast. 

My Father-In-Law and his partner can't be in a
relationship in this game.
OK... now we've reached the big one.  If you had ever heard anything about Tomodachi Life before this review it was either because of the level in Super Smash Bros for 3DS, or because of this one issue right here.  This issue was so large that the internet collectively lost their minds and people such as Yahtzee and Jim Sterling have even covered the issue themselves.  Same Sex relationships cannot happen in Tomodachi Life.  That's right... If you happen to be homosexual you're in tough luck because you can't be in a relationship with the gender of your choice.  This is a baffling choice to be perfectly honest with you.  You would think that Nintendo who generally go out of their way to be as inclusive as humanly possible would have included this as an option to begin with, but apparently this wasn't even on the plate to begin with.  Now, obviously you can easily lie to the game because while you have to select a gender you can make them look and dress in whatever manner you wish so you can easily add, say, a gay man as a female while looking male and he could get into a relationship with another man.  I attempted this with my Father-In-Law and his partner.  However this is where the lack of control over the Miis comes into effect.  Just because I added my Father-in-Law and made his partner a Female while looking male there was absolutely no guarantee of the two of them getting together.  It could have been just as easy for the game to decide to pair any other male character with the "female" man.  I abandoned this idea as soon as I realized I had no control and couldn't really make the two be a couple.

It doesn't matter where you lie on the "gay debate" scale...

What you simply can't deny is the fact that gay and bisexual people do actually exist.  Friends of gay and bisexual people do actually exist.  These people play video games and would generally like to have the option to have themselves or their friends represented in a game which you personally choose who to add to your game.  Now in the spirit of all fairness, Nintendo has apologized directly for this oversight and has said they will look into the option of same sex relationships if any future Tomodachi Life titles are released.  The only question left would be why this wasn't automatically a feature to begin with.  It's as simple as an on/off switch on either individual Miis or the game as a whole.  They already have an on/off switch for baby functionality so this could be just as simple. 


There are hundreds of little things that happen in this game that I didn't cover for the simple fact that I didn't want to be here all day discussing every minute little detail.  It's the little things in this game that add together to make it such an interesting and wonderful experience.  The wacky news broadcasts, the dreams that the Miis have, finding out a Mii's Super All-Time Favorite Food which sends them blasting off into space, the photography studio, rap battles, world travels, weddings, raising babies, heated arguments etc; all of these can be witnessed if you play this game long enough.  Yeah it's basically on the same level of skill as many Flash Animation Games found for free online but all the personalization, customization, and weirdness that comes from this game make it worth while.  I never expected to enjoy this laid back experience as much as I have.  If the lack of same sex relationships isn't a problem for you then I'd suggest picking this title up for something low key to do in your spare time.  You won't regret it.

This is Ghost and I leave you with a montage of Tomodachi weirdness and awesomeness!
My island's address
Jeff acting weird
Maybe this is why Katie rejected my Mii

Crosby Vs Travis Rap Battle
Nick apparently spends a lot of time on the toilet.
Mary's Underwater Dream
The Doctor being a traditional superhero
Jasmine goes into orbit after eating Fish Sticks
Katie and TL on vacation in Africa
Mary's matchstick dream
The Doctor and Daman are concerned for Daman's weight
Well here's an unlikely combo of people... The Joker, Shaggy, and The Doctor
My Parents had a baby.  Clearly I had to name it Mini Mii
I go Super Saiyan with anger.
Stray WHAT??
Ugh... that's terrible!
Emma Watson and Crosby in space!
Miis celebrating Karina's birthday on her actual birthday
KoD reacts to the evil just born in his game
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If you want to see my other Video Game discussions and reviews, click here!

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