In the past if you wanted to play something created by Nintendo, you had to own one of its machines. Sure, there are exceptions out there, like the original Donkey Kong that graced other consoles such as the Colecovision, and the Zelda CD-I games that no one should ever speak of again. Still, for the really good stuff – the software that’s been programmed by Nintendo developers, you had to have access to its hardware. That’s all about to change with the release of Miitomo, Nintendo’s first free smart device application that puts a Nintendo-made product in the palms of millions of people who own an iOS or Android device.
The first thing to realize right off the bat is that Miitomo isn’t a traditional video game. Instead, it’s a communication app with social networking hooks. Of course, leave it to Nintendo to add gaming elements to the experience. How it works is you create or import a Mii character to serve as your avatar. You can customize the way it looks, acts, and sounds. Your first task in the app is to answer a question that Nintendo generates for you. For example, you might be asked, “What’s your favorite type of bread?” and you can answer however you like. Your answer can then be accessed by your friends who have also downloaded the app, providing you’ve registered each other on the friends list. This is easily accomplished if you’re already friends on Twitter or Facebook and you’ve linked those accounts to Miitomo. You can also send friend requests to friends of friends, so the circle can grow at a fairly rapid pace providing you have people who have downloaded the app. Unfortunately there’s no way to add friends you’ve already discovered on the 3DS and the Wii U, which seems a bit silly, but perhaps there are technical issues at play.
So, after you’ve answered a few questions and have befriended some Miis, they will begin showing up in your Mii’s thought bubble above his or her head. You can tap your friend’s head and the Mii will reveal one of the answers to a question that has been asked. You then have the ability to “heart” the answer and to leave your own comment. As more people reply to the answer, it creates a thread so you can easily follow the conversation. All of the answers are read by that user’s Mii and most of the voices have a very funny sound to them. In fact, I don’t think it’s possible to choose a natural sounding voice in the app. Little Nintendo touches abound here, with each Mii’s head looking up if the person talking is above them in the conversation, or down if below. In addition, certain words will cause the Miis to animate, which can really add some fun and quirkiness to the experience. So, if you type the word Nintendo you will hear the Mario coin sound effect, and if you use the word money coins will fall from the sky.
The My Nintendo reward site launched alongside Miitomo and is integrated into the app. You will have daily goals to accomplish that will reward you with Miitomo points, which are also Platinum Points on My Nintendo. These points can be exchanged for rewards like free downloads of games or in-game purchases of tickets. Some of the daily tasks are really easy to complete, and it’s designed to entice you to come back and check out the app on a regular basis. The Miitomo Shop is where you can buy new clothes and accessories to add some fashion to your Mii. All of the stuff in the shop can be purchased with in-game currency, but if you don’t want to wait to accumulate enough coins you can purchase them with real money via in-app purchases. Every day the shop will have new items to look at, try on, and buy. There are more options than you might think with plenty of ways to customize your shirt, pants, socks, shoes, hats, scarves, glasses, and more. There are entire outfits available for higher costs if you want to have the full head to toe treatment, such as the pirate costume or the cowboy outfit.
In addition, every few weeks there are limited edition fashions only available via Miitomo Drop, a pachinko-like game where you drop a Mii and it bounces around, eventually landing on a platform. Each drop costs one ticket, which can be earned by leveling up your Mii’s style level and popularity level or by just checking in once a day as there is always a daily reward for stopping in. When you play the mini-game, the goal is to land the Mii on an item that you really want. Success will reward you with that item, which you can usually customize further by selecting a color. If you fail, you’ll still be rewarded with pieces of candy.
Candy can be used to coax a friend’s Mii to talk more and reveal more details. You see, the more friends you have added to the app, the more random it can become to see certain Miis. So, it’s not uncommon for them to not appear as often in rotation, but if you like you can go and visit their Mii in their own room. By doing this you can interact with just that friend and get more answers to the questions that have been asked. You need to pry the answers out of them with pieces of candy, just like in real life.
Occasionally a Mii will come over and visit you in your room. During this time you will be able to listen to a bunch of answers that have been given by your friend. The app may even ask you a question that’s specific to that Mii, and only you and that friend will be privy to the conversation. Think of it as sort of like a direct message on Twitter.
Hidden away in the Menu icon at the bottom of the screen is Miifoto, which is my favorite part of the entire app. Here you can take any photo on your device and use it as a background. Then let your creative juices flow by enhancing the photo with your friends’ or your own Miis. You can pose them in various ways, and the editor is quite robust, allowing you rotate, size, and manipulate the Miis to your heart’s content. There are over fifty different animations to choose from, showing different emotions on the faces of the Mii characters. You can add speech bubbles and text to any photo to really get your message across. I’ve spent hours just playing around with this part of the app. It’s extremely easy to make some fun creations and you can share them via Twitter, Facebook, SMS texts, and even e-mail. If you’ve got some creative friends, you’re bound to come across some hilarious pictures.
Miitomo is very much a Nintendo app in presentation. The graphics look clean and colorful and the animations are slick and smooth. The music is the high point with plenty of catchy tunes in every section of the app. Each Mii has its own personality, and thus the music that plays when your friends come over to visit one-on-one will differ based on their traits. The music variety is fantastic and it never grated on me, even after spending well over 20 hours with it.
In the end, Miitomo is a communication application that is very dependent on how much effort you and your friends put into it. It will quickly die off if you’re not staying involved and answering multiple questions daily. The same can be true if you don’t have any friends using the app on a regular basis. You don’t open up your texting app every day unless there are messages pending, and the same scenario could ring true here. After using the app for a week and a half, I’ve found my interest waning a little bit as there seems little left to do, other than to find out little nuggets of information from my friends.
In order for Miitomo to truly flourish I feel it will need some vast additions to the activities. If I was able to customize my living space with furniture, wallpaper, and items it would offer up more to do and I’d be more likely to check in every day. As it stands now, I like the idea behind Nintendo’s first smart device application, but I can see the luster starting to fade even at this early date. Only with constant updates and new things to do will it succeed long-term. Time will tell.
Reviewed on an iPhone 6S Plus.