While the Nintendo Switch is riding high off of its incredible sales numbers and exciting E3 game reveals, the 3DS has quietly positioned itself to have a nice little 2017 of its own. Much like its younger, more-expensive brother, the 3DS has quite a few quality titles coming out this year, including a pair of new intriguing first-party IPs from Nintendo itself. The one I’m most excited about is Miitopia, the customizable RPG adventure that lets you cast anyone you want as the heroes, villians, and even random NPCs.
I blasted through the Miitopia demo Nintendo released in just two sittings (not because it’s short, but because I’m easily hooked by anything RPG-esque), and found it to be engaging, charming, and above all a ton of fun. My more-detailed thoughts on the demo are as follows:
- The Mii characters are the true draw here, and their interactions with each other are just adorable. From their emotive expressions to their wacky conversations, the game is less about saving the world and more about seeing what sort of hijinks you characters get into as their relationships grow. (While characters can antagonize each other in theory, this rarely happened during my playthrough, and things tended to trend towards positive relationships.) All of the personalities you can assign have both positive and negative attributes that can affect them in battle (for example, a “cautious” personality will sometimes take longer to attack, but will deal extra damage when they finally unleash their fury). The only trouble I ran into was when my “kind” fighter refused to strike an enemy on consecutive turns (dude, you’re my only source of consistent damage! Just close your eyes or something!).
- You only have a limited amount of control of your party, but it doesn’t detract from the gameplay—in fact, I thought it enhanced some interactions. You can’t help but chuckle when a character asks to buy a super-cool new weapon, but ends up coming back with an HP banana instead.
- You also only have direct control over your initial hero in battle, but the AI is pretty smart and tends to make good decisions based on the situation. Your allies gang up on enemies to take them down quickly (and seem to take cues from you when there are multiple potential targets), they make good use of their magic to blast foes or heal allies, and generally play to the strengths of their class.
- The inn-based shenanigans are by far the most fun part of this game, and since there’s an inn at the end of every level, you get plenty of chances to mess around with your characters. The feeding mechanic (giving food to party members to boost their stats) is really fun to play around with, as each character has a specific set of tastes which must be learned through experimentation. Also, the outlandish outfits that characters ask for when it comes time to upgrade their equipment is just hysterical. (My fighter ended up looking like a bee, while my cleric decided to rock the “Victorian-era maiden” look.)
- While the character interactions are the key draw of the game, I wish the game featured a bit more combat. While feeding your party members and giving them gold to buy items is one of the best parts of the game, I constantly found myself short of the food and money necessary to drive these interactions. More fighting would mean more gold and more food, which in turn would show off more character personality through meals and spending sprees.
- Although enemies seem to make a habit of distributing their attacks across your party, the fights still offered a decent challenge, especially when facing a larger group or a boss. The battle system reminded me a bit of Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam in that you have a ton of options in battle (attacks, magic, sprinkles, safe spot management, etc.), but the battles are a bit more difficult to account for these options. Luckily, there’s also an inn at the end of the every area that lets you heal and upgrade your party.
- While the story is interesting by itself (a Dark Lord has stolen people’s faces), the presence of an omnipotent dues ex machina that randomly grants you powers and summons new party members feels kind of awkward, at least in the early stages of the game. Nevertheless, things progress smoothly and naturally once the stage is set in the beginning.
- The game takes a page from Animal Crossing with its amiibo compatibility, with specific characters granting you special costumes for your characters. While the costumes are all sorts of awesome (they range from cute to hilarious), they also take the place of your regular armor, and since the costumes don’t give you any sort of defensive boost, you’re likely going to have to abandon them pretty quickly in favor of the regular equipment. Still, it’s nice to see the amiibo play a noticeable role in a game, because it seems like that doesn’t happen as often as it should.
Overall, I really enjoyed the Miitopia demo, and can’t wait to try the full game when it drops next month. It’s a fun, quirky game with a lot of personality, yet it still has the heart and soul of a full-fledged RPG. The demo is available now from the 3DS e-Shop, and I’d encourage anyone who is interested in the game to download it and give it a try.