Miitopia review: Dank miimes

Credit: Nintendo
Credit: Nintendo /

Never have I wanted Miiverse to be a living, useful thing as badly as I have for Miitopia. Unfortunately, my interest in the game wanes where the memes end.

Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: July 28, 2017

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if you and all your closest friends were in polyamorous relationships while traveling a fantasy countryside, slaying monsters with giant faces on them, taking on ridiculous new jobs, and singing songs about tomatoes? Me neither, but that’s what you do in Miitopia, and it’s fun for about two or three hours.

All joking aside, I’ve been struggling to come up with an adequate way to explain exactly what Miitopia is. Technically, it’s an RPG, but it contains so few of the basic functions I enjoy in RPGs that I don’t really want to classify it as that. There are some sim elements, but they’re highly randomized and difficult to control. The entire game plays out like some bizarre stage show with a different cast in each iteration. It’s perfect fodder for a lot of bizarre Internet jokes, but in terms of actually being fun to play, I couldn’t wait to be done with Miitopia once the awkward conversations about eating bananas had played themselves out.

Credit: Nintendo /

Every character in Miitopia is a Mii, and every game’s roster of heroes, villains, and NPCs will be different. Most important roles will be cast by the player using a pleasantly robust variety of options from creating a Mii on the spot, drawing an existing one from the system or a QR code, pulling from a friend’s list, or allowing the player to choose from a variety of existing Miis. A handful of low-importance NPC roles will be selected at random from the existing pool without player input to flesh out the towns of Miitopia, and the player will be prompted each day to help further the selection process by choosing especially “well-designed” Miis, or Miis that fit a certain profile from a small pool in exchange for in-game rewards.

The result is an upside down universe where King Zoidberg is guarded by Dr. Mario and Donald Trump, Princess Birdo is madly in love with Nigel Thornberry while Prince Magikarp looks on in jealousy, and the entire App Trigger staff plays a cast of heroes in various job classes ranging from the standard Warrior/Mage/Rogue roles to out-there skill sets like Pop Star, Cat, Flower, and Princess. That was my playthrough, but I can guarantee that your enjoyment of much of the game’s strange plot and dialogue will derive from how you handle your casting options.

Credit: Nintendo /

For example, I quickly learned that making my party members into my coworkers resulted in a strange mix of hilarity and pure awkwardness. As you travel the world in your quest to stop the Dark Lord, your characters will bond with one another by sleeping in the same Inn rooms and sharing experiences both in and out of battle. As their affection for one another grows, so too will their likelihood of doing power sit-ups in their rooms together or encouraging one another during battle.

I do not believe there is a combination of wack-a-doo Mii characters that can make several hours worth of trudging through same-ish areas worth the hilarity.

With multiple relationships running at once within your ever-growing team of heroes, you’ll end up with all sorts of love triangles, quadrilaterals, and all manner of polygons fraught with jealousy and anger. These conflicts can force party switch-ups at key moments, just to avoid characters deliberately tripping one another mid-fight.

Sounds fun, right? I’ll admit, the relationship system’s premise intrigues for about the first two-three hours of the game. I took countless pictures of my friends’ goofy antics as we set out to stop the Dark Lord from stealing the faces of every Mii in Miitopia. I reveled in every stupid question they asked one another, every kitten they found in a bush, every suggestive remark they made about HP Bananas. But all too quickly, the conversations begin to repeat themselves or ring too familiar, and I was left with the gameplay of Miitopia to sustain me for the remainder of my adventure–and sustain it did not.

Credit: Nintendo /

This is where I hesitate to call Miitopia an RPG: because despite having a fairly interesting system of job classes that you can, after a point, swap freely between at will, and despite having a turn-based battle system with stats and equipment and all the trappings you’d expect from the genre, the entire process is so heavily automated and randomized that I barely feel I’m playing a video game. Characters explore maps in an entirely linear fashion, with set locations for set enemy encounters each time. In battle, you only control your own character and cannot use your allies and their jobs, though you can use some menu tactics to throw healing spells around as needed. If you like, you can automate battles entirely, and then hold down B or the touch screen to speed everything up.

The result is a gameplay loop that becomes positively tedious by the third area: 1. Enter a new area. 2. Hold down B and auto battle until you reach the other end. 3. Get new equipment for your characters (which may or may not be available, and which they may or may not actually buy with the money you give them), feed them, reassemble the party, and leave. 4. Repeat. Don’t mistake the difficulty, though, as bosses can prove insanely tough due to their hard-hitting attacks. You may even need to grind some levels to progress, or at least venture down every “branching” path you encounter. But that’s more time spent in the loop of Explore/Battle/Repeat, meaning more time asleep with your finger on the B button.

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I do not believe there is a combination of wack-a-doo Mii characters that can make several hours worth of trudging through same-ish areas worth the hilarity. I have tried, and I was not amused. Even several decent late-game twists did not make up for the hours spent doing the same thing and watching the same relationship cutscenes over and over again. Almost anything could have been done to remedy this, from adding actual area exploration to actually giving us more control over our party members. But the quirky intelligence of allowing us to essentially customize the casting of an entire goofy RPG can’t carry that RPG alone without at least passable gameplay to buoy it up. And that, unfortunately, leaves Miitopia as yet another distinctly “Nintendo” idea that couldn’t realize its own potential.

No amount of bizarre mash-ups and almost-inappropriate jokes can save Miitopia’s repetitive gameplay loop from itself. The early hours of the game are worth the laughs, but laughter quickly turns to tedium and frustration as the game wears on. Despite the enormous potential of the ideas behind its job and relationship systems, Miitopia falls short in almost every department except quirkiness. At least the screenshots will be a good laugh.. Nintendo. . Miitopia. 5.5

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.