When Nintendo pitched us Tomodachi Life, they set it up almost like a second Animal Crossing; another portable life simulator this time getting a bit more personal involving your Miis and your own personal friends… Unfortunately, Nintendo once again played it too safe and ended up creating something more socially awkward then a game that’s suppose to teach how life is.
With Nintendo inviting the comparison; let’s compare Animal Crossing to Tomodachi life. In Animal Crossing you have a mortgage, you’re a mayor so you’re responsible for keeping the town clean and pass ordinances that will help you achieve economic goals, your approval rating depends on how often you help villagers, and you have an obligation to collect fish, insects and fossils for the town’s cultural enrichment.
In Tomodachi Life you’re a Demigod of relationships, food, and clothing. Your only responsibilities are to feed, clothe, and decide whether or not people could be in relationships or friendships. There is also no consequence for not fulfilling your responsibilities. In Animal Crossing if you don’t play the game weeds start to pop up everywhere roaches invade your home and citizens start to move away from your town, if you don’t pay your mortgage your home will soon become to small for all of your items, if you don’t sell or use certain items in a timely manner they may rot or lose value, and if you don’t buy anything the town will never improve in it’s selection making the items you can get stagnant.
There is no consequence for ignoring citizens; citizens rely on you for everything in their life they must ask permission to do anything, and despite having certain personality traits you decide at the beginning of their lives their likes and dislikes don’t matter and the final say is yours. Say a citizen doesn’t like a piece of clothing you give them; they’re forced to wear that as long as you tell them to and they can never leave the island. In terms of a life simulator, Tomodachi Life paints a strange life controlled by a tyrant who’s citizens have very little of their own initiative, where Animal Crossing is much more accurate and a much more positive influence for children.
When it comes to what you can do in the game there isn’t very much. You can make your Miis perform in concerts, feed them, watch their dreams, determine their relationships or play them in mini-games. The mini-games are very basic touch screen based games such as a sumo wrestling game where people are in football uniforms called football, matching tile games, islander trivia, to playing catch. None of these games are challenging and your only reward is money, an item you could only sell, or medicine in case your islander gets sick. The items you can actually use to increase happiness in your islanders aside from food and clothing are earned randomly, such as giving them permission to pursue a friendship and it works out.
In fact everything in this game is completely random, there is no way of really influencing on which islanders will ask you for permission to pursue a relationship or friendship with. It happens completely at random; I thought the rankings system would at least provide a probability of how things would turn out. However I have a married couple that only had a 10% compatibility rating and two people who are best friends despite a 1% compatibility rating. The only factor that isn’t random is that in order for them to achieve this life they must ask you first, they even must ask you if they want to stop being friends with someone. I must add also that just because they ask you doesn’t mean it will happen, rejections despite being rare can happen.
These factors lead the game to be quite repetitive and random, for example even determining what kind of food or clothes a Mii will like is trial and error, errors only consequence is a decrease in leveling which seems to be completely arbitrary since my Miis that are over level 12 seem to have few differences then my Miis at level 2. The game is suppose to determine life events based on how much you pamper the Miis but my Mii that was married was able to do at level 3, which aside from having a baby is one of the only major events in a Mii’s life. This caused me to lose interest in the game, there’s only so many times I can be amused by random news stories about my Miis or forcing them to sneeze. After 8 hours of gameplay I have done everything there is to do in the game multiple times, and with no goals I really don’t see a need to continue. At least in Animal crossing there are arbitrary goals of maintaining approval rating, collecting everything or building a big house. In Tomodachi Life everything that could be a goal is randomly decided and your only course of action is to approve it or not.
Despite other gaming media seeing this game’s lack of homosexual relationships being a very problematic social commentary, I say the game has much weirder and creepier social issues. Such as you shouldn’t do anything nice or feed people unless you profit off it, you know what’s best for other people, and other people must be told what to do. Besides thinking a game that’s so prude that it shies away from the term “Girlfriend” and “Boyfriend” and instead uses “Sweet hearts” and only allows people to live together or have kids if they’re married should give clues that this isn’t a very modern or realistic portrayal of relationships.
Overall Tomodachi Life is an amusing yet simplistic life simulator that you can do everything the game has to offer in a matter of hours. The game’s lack of detail on life paints a very strange and creepy attitude about society that almost feels as if it’s an alien’s portrayal of human interactions. The games lack of activities and repetition make it a very difficult sell at $35, I highly recommend renting it if you’re interested.