Of all the late-period Nintendo 3DS games to get a $49.99 Nintendo Switch port, Miitopia wasn’t high on anyone’s list. But like an old friend, Miitopia has returned, once again letting you cast yourself, friends, and other Miis as the main characters in a casual RPG adventure. A repetitive quest weakens the game’s otherwise considerable charm, but Miitopia modestly succeeds as an excuse to hangout with virtual friends while saving the world.
Mii, Myself, and I
In the peaceful and cheery realm of Miitopia, the sinister Dark Lord has stolen everyone’s faces in order to conjure a monster army. It’s up to you to stop the terror. Well, it’s up to your Mii. Remember Miis? Nintendo’s stylized avatars debuted on the Wii back in 2006, so they feel almost retro now. (Listen out for remixes of classic Mii channel themes.) Miitopia gives these digital doppelgangers their biggest starring roles since Tomodachi Life on 3DS and Miitomo on mobile phones.
As part of its console makeover, Miitopia greatly expands your Mii customization options compared to the Switch’s built-in Mii Maker that’s virtually identical to the original Wii incarnation. For example, you can give characters starry eyes or colorful anime hair that’s far more expressive and detailed than the standard Miis. By taking advantage of custom makeup and wigs, you can basically turn Mii faces into blank canvases to paint whatever you want, with impressive results. If you scan Amiibo costumes, you can create extremely convincing knock-off Nintendo characters.
Once you’ve created your Mii, it’s time to give it purpose. Like in most RPGs, Miis have a job that determines their stats and abilities. The warrior swings a powerful sword while the pop star sings helpful songs. Characters also have custom personality quirks. For example, cool characters easily dodge attacks, while cautious characters tend to skip a turn to deliver strong attacks.
Arguably more important than your Miis individuality is their social life. As Miis interact with each other, their social bonds improve and they gain access to partner abilities, such as sharing health items or unleashing pincer attacks. Miis bond both on the battlefield and at home base, where you can send Miis out on Animal Crossing-esque activities to strengthen their friendships or squash a beef. Turning interpersonal relationships into a tactical asset is as satisfying here as it was in Fire Emblem Awakening, and putting two people in the same room in the hopes they’ll romantically pair up feels like Fallout Shelter…just without the forced breeding.
You’ll have plenty of chances to cast familiar faces as the game’s various fairy tale characters, even after you’ve created your initial party. Maybe your wife is a fairy goddess, or your boss is the gluttonous king. Go full Being John Malkovich and cast yourself as everyone. There’s a ton of potential for comedic juxtaposition. This also means that you’ll need a hefty catalog of personal Miis, as opposed to the generic ones the game offers, to get the most out of the game. Considering that Miis aren’t as prominent as they used to be, that might be a time-consuming task. Fortunately, you can download or create new Miis within the game itself.
Once the adventure begins in earnest, you’ll find that Miitopia is a full-fledged RPG, albeit a much more streamlined one compared to something like Bravely Default II. Beyond the social links and experience points, there are various other ways to power up your character, and the difficulty curve pushes you to stay on top of your game. Feed characters their favorite food (no wonder there’s a HelloFresh tie-in) to permanently buff stats. Play Rock, Paper, Scissors or spin a roulette wheel to earn gold and buy superior weapons and armors. The more faces you rescue by slaying monsters, and the more items you use, the more resources you’ll gain.
Battles play out like traditional turn-based, Dragon Quest-style affairs. While you directly control the main character, your party members do what they want, driving home the fact that these are your independent friends and not your minions. If teammates get hit with negative status effects, it’s up to you to hold them in the safe space until they’re good to go. New in this Switch version is a horse you partner up with for stronger attacks—after you bond with the horse at the stable, naturally.
There’s no real overworld to explore. You just move between different points on a map screen. Once you begin an encounter, the party automatically walks in a straight line, occasionally stopping to fight monsters or open treasure chests or pick between two paths, until you reach an inn for rest and relaxation. The structure is not unlike Ring Fit Adventure, Nintendo’s other, casual JRPG of the moment.
You can breeze through Miitopia’s stages in what feels like seconds, due to the game’s straightforward routes. This is especially true if you impatiently hold down the ZR trigger to speed up time. The game is surprisingly addictive, though, despite the moments blurring together into a pretty repetitive experience. Miitopia isn’t a 100-hour-long JRPG epic, but traveling across its different lands and completing the elaborate quest chains will take you more than a couple sittings. By the time I reached the first ending, I had beaten nearly 1,000 monsters, which meant seeing many of the same (admittedly adorable) animations and events over and over again.
Miitopia does mix things up in spots. Every so often, you’ll need to level up a new party, which gives you a great opportunity to create new Miis and experiment with new jobs. The endgame also switches up the format by having you browse between quests on an open map instead of following a linear path. The fact that this game even has endgame content reflects a delightfully hardcore gamer spirit underneath the casual exterior.
Miis by design are graphically basic characters. Miitopia began life as a 3DS game, so don’t expect a visually lavish Nintendo Switch title. However, between the lighting and textures, the art style has an appealing diorama-like quality similar to what we saw with the Link’s Awakening remake, also co-developed by Grezzo. I turned my partner into a cat and not only did she have a costume fuzzy enough to touch, but also metal claws that looked dangerously sharp. There’s more atmosphere than you’d expect from such a simple game.
Regardless of how advanced its tech is or isn’t, Miitopia’s vibes don’t disappoint. Despite wearing stolen faces, monsters are more cute than terrifying, like a crying banshee or a pile of spiky rocks. There’s well-written friendly banter, too. Miis exaggerate their faces to display a whole range of emotions, from love for a wounded teammate to a bloodthirsty euphoria after getting a combat boost. This may sound trite, but after a year of isolation, there’s just something nice about seeing a version of you and your friends hanging out together.
A Little Help From My Friends
Miitopia is funny and pleasant. It also has enough fleshed-out mechanics, including legitimately clever social incentives, to be a worthwhile RPG for beginners. That said, it also feels padded, like an entertaining movie stretched into a poorly-paced season of TV. So, to avoid burning yourself out, take your sweet time. Play a few fights each day. Craft the perfect Mii for each and every character. There’s no need to rush. In Miitopia, your friends will wait for you.
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