What’s your favorite part of a role-playing game? Your answer will likely determine whether or not Nintendo’s quirky new RPG Miitopia is right for you.
The review scores for Miitopia have been all over the map thus far—some outlets have enjoyed it, others not so much. The scores themselves aren’t terribly useful, but after digging deeper into the reviews and getting some hands-on time with the full game, the pros and cons are consistent enough to offer some guidance. In the end, it all depends on what you’re looking for in an RPG:
- If your answer to the initial question was “the characters,” then Miitopia is right up your alley. If you can fashion a character out of a Mii, you can add them to the game, and the key draw of Miitopia is watching these characters grow and interact with each other. (It’s not just the main party either—watching two of my old IT support colleagues battle for the hand of Princess Nikki from Swapnote just made my day. Oh, and did I mention Greenhorne Castle is ruled by Weird Al Yankovic?) The frequent cutscenes and random overworld dialogue were charming and occasionally hilarious, and discovering your Mii’s personal tastes and quirks (through both battling with them and feeding meals to them) was thoroughly enjoyable. As your characters grow closer, they can team up for super-powerful attacks, and there was no better feeling then watching all four party members team up for a single attack that sent a powerful enemy reeling. Quarrels popped up randomly from time to time, but these seemed to be easily resolved and didn’t leaving too many lasting effects—if managed properly, team relations are all unicorns and rainbows.
My one concern is that the game slaps you with a hard reset at certain points, stealing away your entire party and cursing you back to level one. It wasn’t Sephiroth killing Aerith, but it was still aggravating (and would have been even more so had I not known it was coming), and is sure to be off-putting to anyone who’s invested a lot of time, emotion, and food in constructing the perfect party. You’ll eventually develop that sort of bond with your new party, but it’ll take a while.
- If your answer was “the gameplay,” Miitopia might not be your cup of tea. If there’s one criticism that popped up a lot in reviews, it was that the gameplay was very hands-off and repetitive. In each section of the overworld, your party walks itself across a linear map, runs into a few mostly-canned encounters, and gives you direct control of just your main character (or you can choose “Autobattle” and watch the chaos from a distance). If a level has multiple branching paths, you’ll have to replay the level once for every possible path to completely clear the area. While some players will find this maddening, it does give you the chance to see even interactions between party members, and there’s always a pay-off (quite often a treasure chest of some sort) for taking different paths. Additionally, the PC AI is perhaps the best I’ve seen in an RPG, with players concentrating their attacks to take down enemies and using items/spells to heal themselves and each other. Still, if you’re looking for involved gameplay and opportunities for exploration, you probably won’t find what you want here.
- If your answer was “the story,” you’ll have to ask yourself how much character interactions play a role in your enjoyment. Thus far in my playthrough, the story has been pretty generic and cookie-cutter: bad guy terrorizes kingdom, love triangle between a princess and two suitors, quest to save the princess (well, just her face), etc. Once again, it’s the characters that make the story unique moreso than the world itself—defeating a generic Dark Lord has been done to death, but how often can you defeat a Dark Lord with the face of your professor or boss? If that idea appeals to you, then Miitopia probably will too.
Personally, I get attached to characters more than anything else, and Miitopia is the sort of personalized RPG I’ve been waiting decades for, and while I felt the specific critiques of this game were valid and justified, I had an absolute blast in spite of them (and my Splatoon 2 technique is suffering as a result). The game will appeal to certain types of RPG players and be off-putting to others, but if you enjoy character development and silly hijinks, Miitopia may just be worth taking a chance on.