Hey, you all like Miis, right? Y’know, those peculiar little homunculi with blank faces floating above Rayman-esque limbless bodies? You can try to give them your face or maybe create some of your favourite characters or celebrities, but regardless of what you do with them, they’re one of the weirder things to have survived from the Wii era. Survive is the appropriate word too, because after the various hit or miss games designed around them, here they come yet again in Miitopia. On the surface, this looked to me like a bloated version of the StreetPass Quest game you receive as standard on any 3DS, but after a few hours, I discovered there was a whole lot more to it than that. Interestingly, I also found I was having fun, which was even more surprising. My expectations, in this case, were all wrong. Let me tell you why.
Something you’re going to notice me dancing around in this review will be how Miitopia does so much by doing very little. The best comparison I could draw for that example would be something like Mario Maker. All the tools are available right at the start, but what you do with them is entirely up to you. Miitopia is essentially the same. From any perspective, this game is an RPG, but its similarities to other games in that genre end there. Where most other games of this type will offer you an intricate narrative filled with a variety of characters and things to do, Miitopia eschews that in favour of almost entirely player directed content.
“Yes and to do that, I’ll become your apprentice and we need to steal the Declaration of Independence. Do you hear bees?”
This content is where the Miis come in. They are your actors, and you are the director of their adventure. In any other game, the story you play through in Miitopia would be criminally boring and very disappointing in its simplicity, but in Miitopia, that simplicity is necessary to not overshadow your choices. Your choices of Miis to fill various roles determines the kind of adventure you’ll end up having. With just the tiniest bit of imagination or some random picks from an ever growing roster of community created faces, your main character, your companions, the villain and any number of other people throughout the world will form one of the craziest casts you’ll probably ever see in a game.
Right out the gate, after loading in my Mii of me, I was instructed to pick the residents of the first town I encounter, a cheekily named little place called Greenhorne. I chose not to, instead opting to let the game fill them for me because I wanted to see how it would handle the task. I was not disappointed. The computer assigned the roles of a lovey-dovey couple to Dracula and Barack Obama, the big ugly mug of Wario ended up on a cute little rascal child, Dr Eggman ran the local store, and Joffrey from Game of Thrones was the mayor. To say I laughed when I saw all these random picks interacting with each other is an understatement. The best part of this game mechanic is that with whatever characters you choose or create, your adventure will be entirely different than mine, and that is awesome. The replayability of Miitopia is off the charts if only just to witness the humour that develops from all the different combinations.
“The unbelievable true story of the Game Grumps, coming soon to a 3DS near you.”
When the next round of choices came up, I decided to dig into some of those combinations, picking community characters made of Arin and Danny from the Game Grumps to play the evil Dark Lord and the Wise Sage, respectively. As I progressed through the first few levels, I recruited Nicholas Cage as my first companion, and by the time I reached the castle of King Mr Bean and Princess Birdo, Temmie from Undertale and Midna from Twilight Princess had joined me too. Without going too much into it, my choices got crazier and crazier as I went on, as you can see by these screenshots. My team now includes the likes of Robocop, Bayonetta and Morgan Freeman amongst others, while my world features hilarious appearances from many, many more. I hope you’re starting to get an idea of how bonkers this game can be.
All these whacky and questionable casting decisions aside, there are some pretty solid and entertaining combat and social aspects to play around with here. Much like Tomodachi Life before it, the Miis you populate your game with come complete with unique personalities, likes and dislikes. Some of these you can control, while others seem to be randomly applied, like for example, which foods they might enjoy. The majority of these choices and outcomes don’t seem to impact very much just on their own, drawing on that simplicity formula again, but, when they’re all combined, they make for a well rounded and deceptively deep system of play. It’s fascinating to see L from Death Note in the combat class of Chef, serving up a rejuvenating meal to the G-Man from Half Life, while skipping over my injured Mii, because I accidentally hit them in my last volley and they haven’t forgiven me yet. That’s just one example, and there are lots more. Dynamic team work based on ongoing and ever developing friendships and rivalries? That’s not something I was expecting when I first loaded up this game. As much as Miitopia just put it in without drawing that much attention to it, now that I’ve got it, I want to see it in all RPGs as well as it’s been shown off here.
“Not pictured, the Twerkey that had the Mii face of Miley Cyrus.”
Another thing Miitopia does well is its art and world design. While the concept of a dark magical nemesis stealing faces from people across the land was initially rather unsettling, seeing those very same faces on monsters all over the place became oddly funny and often ridiculous. I kid you not there is an enemy called a Twerkey, which as you might suspect is a twerking turkey, so… brace yourself… you end up fighting a giant bird with eyeballs on its butt. There was one I fought that, because of the design of the Miis stolen face had a very poorly placed mouth which made it look like… well, you get the idea. The creatures on display are fun, creative and usually themed or altered to suit their environment, which helps to minimise the occasional repetitiveness of the combat. The environments themselves are your fairly standard arrangement, with grassy plains, sun bleached deserts, caves here and there, tropical beaches, some creepy swamps and a spooky castle being just a few that come to mind. They’re all very nice to look at, but once again going with the simplistic style, your characters run on a set path through them, offering alternate routes now and then, encountering monsters or treasure chests and ending up at an inn to rest.
Speaking of the inns, that’s probably one of the weirder decisions in this already weird game. Every world path ends with an inn, and I mean every one. Deep inside a creepy, dark cave well off the beaten track, there’s an inn. A magical land in the sky, there are multiple inns. Even inside the Dark Lords towering fortress of pain and damnation, there are inns everywhere. When I was running around the starting grass lands, I didn’t dwell too much on it, but now that I’m well into the post-game, finding them on an island that supposedly no-one has even set foot on really irks me. It’s just damn strange. It would have been so much better just to have my team make camp at the end of most paths, with inns only showing up now and then or at the end of main routes or something. This issue is even weirder because sometimes in the middle of a path, as day turns to night, my team will make camp all on their own. A short little cutscene will play, a tent and campfire appear, some conversation happens, then, when the sun rises, everyone hops up to continue on the path… only to end up at an inn. Because it stands out so much, this is probably my only major issue with the game.
“Solid Snake and Vault Boy fought for the love of Princess Birdo, but there could be only one…”
Minor issues I have come down to the customisation options. While the game employs the simple approach well in most every other aspect, weapons and armour seem almost too simple. There is a huge variety of them to pick from for each class, don’t get me wrong, but the differences between them is negligible. Your choice to equip or buy something regularly comes down to adding a few numbers to your stats or whether it looks cool or not. I never felt any real attachment to anything my teams wore or used, which you can probably tell from them all constantly changing in the screenshots. I had more attachment to Link’s tunic, which I received after tapping the appropriate amiibo, more so than I did to anything I found in the game itself, which was disappointing. The options for making things a bit more personalised are lacking too, with only a few colours to choose for each armour and none at all for weapons. Also, there are way too many damn polka dot outfits. Polka dot ninja, polka dot cleric, polka dot pop star… I mean, come on. Who likes polka dots that much?
Everything considered though, I wasn’t even expecting to become this invested in such a simple game, so I think a few minor stumbles and an odd decision here and there are totally fine with the overall product being what it is. I could honestly stand quite a bit more being wrong with this game if my reward was seeing all my favourite characters and celebrities doing completely stupid things. That’s where the fun exists in this game, and as much as I’ve tried to describe it or screenshot it, you really have to experience it for yourself.
“I’ve been everywhere man, I’ve been everywhere…”
Miitopia was a huge surprise, and I’m glad I gave it a shot. I’ve played many RPGs in my life but only a few have stuck with me for any amount of time. Miitopia easily earns that accolade just on how much it made me laugh and because of it’s player-directed stylings, I can thank my imagination for that. Well, that and a very active community of character creators! I look forward to taking another go at the story, recasting all the roles again or maybe even trying to reenact my favourite fandoms. An all-Avengers romp through a creepy castle? Yes, please! Fifty years of Star Trek characters in a swords and sorcery adventure? Let’s do this! As simple as this game looks on the surface, don’t let that fool you. Miitopia is player-driven control done right, and I hope we see more games like this in the future. But hey, Nintendo, maybe not as many eyeballs on butts next time if you don’t mind.