How to play quirky questions on tomodachi life

How do I describe Tomodachi Life? I'll start with the name. "Tomodachi" (友達) is the Japanese word for "Friend," so the title of Nintendo's new 3DS sim game translates literally to "friend life."

That's a bumbling phrase. But it helps illustrate why I've had such a hard time explaining the game's appeal to friends and colleagues, even the ones who are more seasoned gamers than myself. Imagine trying to sum up what the word "friend" in an essay. Or trying to review "life." There's no hyperbole here; Tomodachi Life is, on some basic level, a game about the lives of a group of friends.

But that's not good enough. Here are some of the ways I've tried to describe the game to real-world friends as I've played it for 20-odd hours over the past three weeks:

  • It's the most tedious game I've played in a long time.
  • This is the best game I've played this year.
  • No, wait. It's not really a game at all. It's a virtual ant farm you can carry around with you inside your 3DS. Only instead of ants, Tomodachi Life is filled with a bunch of quirky Twitter bots that can actually speak.
  • Actually, it's a parenting simulator. In the truest sense of that term.
  • Tomodachi Life is the RuPaul of video games.
  • Tomodachi Life is the Eminem of video games.

These all come from scattered gchat messages. Whenever I typed one of them to a friend, they usually responded with something like, "lol" or, "um. what?"

I know they don't make much sense on their own. But Tomodachi Life doesn't either at first. So let me try and attack each of them in turn.

It's the most tedious game I've played in a long time.

Kirby and the Forgotten Land

Go mouthful mode
Along with swallowing his enemies whole to take their powers, Kirby can now wrap his giant gob around inanimate objects to control them.

Tomodachi Life has often been described as Nintendo's take on The Sims, a series that's had a seemingly inexplicable and meteoric rise to the level of a pop culture phenomenon since it first debuted 14 years ago. Its success was inexplicable because, at face value, the game sounded like it was jettisoning all the ideas and features that people love about video games. Instead of performing superhuman feats like mowing down hordes of Nazis or bouncing on top of giant magical mushrooms, The Sims let you create a number of characters who could indulge in all the boring shit you already do in real life: get a job, buy a house, pick out outfits, go on dates, get married and (eventually) have kids.

Tomodachi Life is similar to The Sims in this regard. At the outset of the game, you're assigned an island and implored to start peopling it with Miis, the quirky little humanoid avatars who have usually been consigned to the menus of Nintendo's consoles. You give your islanders everything they have: food, clothing, shelter. They all start the game housed in a single apartment complex:

Before you get to this point, you have to actually make all these Miis. There are a few options to import ones from other people's games, but relying on that too heavily would be missing out. When you build these Miis, these virtual citizens of your island, you give them names, faces, personalities, even the voices with which they can speak to one another:

Again like The Sims, this kind of gameplay might strike gamers who only love shooters or platformers as boring.

But there's one part of Tomodachi Life that seemed incredibly tedious even by those standards. Once I got settled into Yanville Island with my first batch of Miis, I started seeing a little green icon pop up on their windows from time to time. When I'd slide over to one with the console's stylus, I'd get a peek inside their window. The Mii would usually be grinning ecstatically, bouncing up and down and flapping their arms so intensely I thought they were trying to fly.

"Please play with me!" he or she would would chirp, beaming up at me expectantly. Here's an example of what would happen next, using my Mii named Chuck as a guinea pig:

This quiz that Chuck gave me is one of the most exciting games the Miis ask you to play.

That's saying something. There are a few other quizzes, which challenge me to do things like guess what an item is when the camera is zoomed in on it so closely it only shows a cluster of pixels, or determine which character is being shown on the screen based on their silhouette.

There are a handful other games that are equally bizarre for their mundane normalcy. What they all have in common is they're either maddeningly easy or annoyingly difficult in a way that's difficult to actually learn from or improve upon. One asks me to match different sets of tiles based on the images displayed on them, for instance, while another pits me against my Mii in a tabletop competition where we both pound on the table until one of us knocks over the other's action figure.

And then there's one that immediately became my favorite just because of how odd it was. I start with a single playing card, a two. My Mii has another two and a Joker card. We both hide the cards from one another, and have to pick one from the other in turn until one of us ends up with both of the twos. It usually lasts about five or ten seconds.

The first time I played cards with one of my Miis, I wondered: what the hell is this game? And why am I even playing it?

Tomodachi Life started with a short video hinting that, in time, my Miis would get start dating and get married. One day, they'd even have children. I guess that's the endgame I have yet to reach? But is this—playing the most boring game of cards imaginable—what I need to do to get there?

This is the best game I've played this year.

When I first started playing Tomodachi Life, nothing about the game made sense. I had to remind myself: Nintendo made a deliberate decision to bring this game to its American audience a full year after it launched in Japan. People in the U.S. love The Sims, and Tomodachi Life sold 1.83 million copies in its first nine months on the market in the company's home country. Was I missing something that all these other gamers could already see?

I was. Tomodachi Life is amazing. But I still haven't told you why. Doing so is hard. Let me try again.

It's a virtual ant farm filled with crazy talking Twitter bots.

Once I brought my Miis into their world, they quickly began to assume lives of their own. The window-pane format of the two screens on the 3DS exaggerates this phenomenon with a brilliant effect. The longer I played Tomodachi Life, the more I started to feel like I was an outsider, peering into some bizarre, alternate universe where everybody had giant heads and spoke in ghostly robotic warbles.

Putting all of these Miis together in the melting pot of my 3DS and seeing what happens is where Tomodachi Life's charm begins to shine. Whenever I stop in at the Yanville apartment complex, I see a number of windows lit up and marked with little orange faces or thought bubbles, showing that the Miis want to talk.

How to play quirky questions on tomodachi life

How exactly do you describe a game as quirky and unique as Nintendo 3DS title Tomodachi Life?

Perhaps best summed up as The Sims and Animal Crossing‘s eccentric uncle, Tomodachi Life is a game that throws a bunch of people together on an island to see what happens.

Before the craziness begins, however, players must fill their island with Miis, giving them amusing synthesised voices, personalities, nicknames and more.

How to play quirky questions on tomodachi life

It’s a time-consuming process – even when importing ready-made Miis – and we would have liked a random generator. But it’s worth adding as many Miis as possible in order to unlock new island attractions and potential relationships.

With a fully populated island, players must solve problems, matchmake and offer advice to island residents, which is when things start to get weird.

It’s not so much the requirements and objectives that are strange, mind you, but more the way in which they play out.

The residents of your island desire food, entertainment, companionship and even love, but they desire things while dreaming about giant hats, participating in rap battles and wearing dinosaur heads.

It’s the game’s odd sense of humour that really sets it apart from other life sims and ensures that there’s never a dull moment, even when things start to repeat.

The majority of the early game will be spent visiting Miis in their apartment and solving problems.

Some want food, others a new outfit or apartment interior and a few might just want to play.

Mini-games largely involve identifying blurred or zoomed-in objects, matching pairs of cards, or table wrestling with toy models.

Fun at first, the same mini-games tend to crop up time and time again, making playtime a tad repetitive, albeit a good place to earn gifts that can be used to help level up.

Levelled up characters can learn songs, unlock free apartment interiors and objects to play with, although our favourite bonus is the option to learn phrases.

The deadpan delivery of catchphrases in those strange voices is especially funny when you’ve created celebrity Miis or movie characters.

Island news reports involving cornflake aerobics and courgette cottages are equally amusing and well worth a watch whenever you find the time.

Relationships form a big part of the game, so many early encounters also involve introducing Miis to other characters and offering tips on what to talk about.

Bonds will start to form, best friends will be seen hanging out at the beach or gossiping in the cafe, while some Miis will start to date and potentially get married.

Controversially, same-sex relationships aren’t included, and while it’s hard to stay mad at a game like Tomodachi Life for too long, it’s a shame it isn’t better representative of the wider community.

Unfortunately, once you’ve seen Miis fall in love, played the mini-games and attended special time-based events like the daily word association tournament, Tomodachi Life starts to get a little repetitive.

It’s a title that’s always amusing, but one that’s limited as a gaming experience.

While you do have a certain amount of control over your island residents from an aesthetic point of view, you’ll spend more time viewing rather than playing.

The inability to properly walk around and explore the island means that while Miis feel alive and brimming with personality, the island itself doesn’t.

Even when you tap on an icon to enter an attraction, you’ll often have very little control over what happens, save for a retro role-playing game at the amusement park, or a series of “quirky questions” at the tower.

You might see a Mii running on the beach or sitting quietly by the fountain, but you can’t actually interact with them or have a chat.

The game does a good job of drip-feeding content – even after a few weeks of play I’m still discovering new things now – and there are plenty of time-based events, but it feels less and less substantial as the weeks go by.

A bonkers life-sim with bags of personality and lots of charm, the entertaining Tomodachi Life is let down only by its limitations as a gaming experience.

One of the lessons I hope to remember from this pandemic is to make the time to interact with others. I fancy myself a loner and have become accustomed to doing most everything without a friend or partner at my side. I go to the movies alone, go hiking alone (which is admittedly dangerous), ride my bike alone, and, for the most part, game alone. Oh, I’ll play online with others, but outside of certain review necessities, I don’t do couch co-op that much anymore.

But the ghost of gaming past has been making frequent visits to my dreams as of late, reminding me of how social a person I used to be. Back in the days of the Wii, I couldn’t wait to have friends and family over for a night of gaming. It started with Wii Sports, but over the years, we’d come together to enjoy Wii Play, Super Mario Sluggers, Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games, Fortune Street, and so many other titles that had us waggling our Wii remotes. While all of these games were different, they had one thing in common: Miis.

I amassed quite the collection of Miis featuring the faces of my friends and families on my Wii, as well as the many special characters I created over the years using guides online. Darth Vader, Zoidberg, Reggie Fils-Amié, Daria Morgendorffer, you name it, I created it. Nothing brought a smile to my face faster than beating the crap out of Conan O’Brien in a few rounds of boxing. After so many years of playing casual games with poor character models or unsightly create-a-characters, it was great to have this system of simple but appealing created characters that could be used across a variety of games.

And what an amazing set of games we got with Miis. Wii Sports is an all-time great, but Wii Sports Resort, We Ski & Snowboard, Wii Play Motion, and yes, even Wii Music made good use of Nintendo’s avatar system. The breadth of creativity found in these Mii-centric titles was enormous. On the Wii, and Wii U with NintendoLand, the Mii games encouraged Nintendo and other developers to showcase everything possible with each console’s unique control scheme.

In the years that followed, Miis would find their way into more conventional gaming experiences. They became the first create-a-character options for the Super Smash Bros. franchise on Wii U and 3DS. In Dillon’s Dead-Heat Breakers, they transformed into your furry allies. Pilotwings Resort put them in control of a small selection of flying aircraft. In New Super Mario Bros. U, you could conquer each level as your favorite Mii.

As they found their way into more Nintendo titles, Miis also became yet another way Nintendo fans could express themselves. Tomodachi Life, arguably the most eccentric game Nintendo has released outside of Japan, allowed you to make your own island of Miis where you could live with anyone you wanted. If you wanted to dress your Mii as a stack of pancakes and have them live in a space station apartment, you could. You could also help them become best friends with Nicholas Cage if you really wanted. Miitopia followed a few years later, letting players go on a mighty RPG quest with their favorite Miis. In between those games, Nintendo branched out to mobile with the short-lived — and much-missed — Miitomo.

How to play quirky questions on tomodachi life

It’s strange to see how quickly Nintendo dropped its focus from the Miis, but it basically did it in one fell swoop when it launched the Switch. Sure, there are still Miis in some games (mostly holdovers from the Wii U), you can make your Mii for your account avatar, and an updated version of the Mii software was used in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but gone are the titles built around the use of Miis.

There is nothing like Wii Play Motion or Wii Sports Resort for Switch. The best Nintendo has mustered so far on the console is 1-2-Switch, a game I doubt will be looked back on with as much reverence as any of the Wii series of titles. Games similar to Tomodachi Life or any of the StreetPass Mii Plaza titles don’t seem to be in the works at all. As a core gamer, I do appreciate Nintendo’s focus this generation. I just wish it didn’t have to come at the expense of all those experiences I enjoyed on its past consoles. Even if the best we got was a quick and dirty port of Wii Sports Club, I’d buy it in a heartbeat just to play more bowling.

Seeing a Mii of me is a surefire way to put a smile on my face. I adore my Switch and all the exciting adventures I’ve had with it, but I do miss the jovial feeling I’d get logging into a game as a cartoon version of myself to go wakeboarding or fly in a jetpack around Wuhu Island. I’d really like to see Nintendo revisit those concepts on the Switch or whatever it has planned next, but if that doesn’t happen, at least I still have all those memories of my Mii and Dame Judi Dench going at it in a freestyle rap battle.

How to play quirky questions on tomodachi life

It is one of the strangest video games that you will ever play. And no, that’s not a bad thing.

Tomodachi Life is not your typical video game. The Nintendo 3DS exclusive is a distinctly Japanese title, but one unlike most of the titles that make it to the United States. It’s a game with no beginning or end, a title with only half a purpose, a title that builds on what Animal Crossing once did and makes it just a little bit more obsessive.

And yes, it can be fun.

Tomodachi Life isn’t about what you must do; it’s about what you can do. You start the game by creating a series of Miis, but these are more than Miis. You’ll give them attributes and personalities, as if building Sims. The game hopes that you’ll populate its island world with your own Mii and Miis of your friends, or Miis of celebrities, opening the door for unique hilarity to ensue.

These Miis are then placed on an island, and you’re left to care for them. And this is the heart of the game. Unlike The Sims, you wield no direct control over these characters, but you will feed and dress them, and, as they evolve, you will give them advice, especially when it comes to relationship matters.

The object of the game? It’s largely to have fun. The island is filled with things to do. You’ll head to various shops to buy new clothes and different foods for your Miis, then head to different spots to watch our Miis partake in a bevy of events.

Silly and quirky is the name of these events, something you’ll realize the moment you play through an absolutely ridiculous rap battle (yes, rap battle). Most of these events aren’t exactly worth playing repeatedly, but they’re fun a few times here and there.

Meanwhile, the clothing and eating habits of your characters are meant to be more than diversions. Your Miis have certain tastes, and if you feed them the wrong food or dress them too ridiculously, they grow unhappy. And, much like the Sims, you want to keep your Miis happy.

There’s a reason for that, too. Happy Miis can develop more fruitful relationships with others, and if Tomodachi Life does have any purpose, it is relationships. Your Miis can have meaningful relationships in Tomodachi Life, eventually getting married. It’s here that Tomodachi Life truly separates itself from The Sims and Animal Crossing. This game very much wants you obsessing over character relationships

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And it’s here that you’ll likely spend most of your time, influencing them to pursue this Mii or that one, and checking leaderboards (yes, leaderboards) to see who the most desirable males and females are on your island.

The gaming of Tomodachi Life caters to all this in that it’s easy and bite-sized. If you tote your 3DS all over town, you can easily pull it out for five minutes and feed a Mii, or have a conversation with another Mii, or go engage in a nutty rap battle for 10 minutes, then shut the unit and go about your day.

It’s a pleasant experience all-around, even if it’s up to you to provide it with purpose. In the wrong hands, Tomodachi Life is a complete waste, a game that will be over in 10 minutes. But in the right hands, in the hands of somebody who loved the Sims or Animal Crossing, you’ll find hours of enjoyment.