I like Miitopia. I like it a lot. But I also recognized that the game had its limitations, and didn’t think it had enough crossover appeal to warrant a re-release on a newer Nintendo system—in fact, I thought its best choice for a new life was as a mobile game. Nintendo thought otherwise, however, and dropped a surprise announcement a few months ago that the game would be coming to the Nintendo Switch this May. Sure, there would be a few new features (enhanced Mii customization options, a horse partner) and the graphics would now be in stunning 1080p, but for someone who had sunk 200+ hours into the original game, would there really be enough here to warrant coming back? Would the game still hold my interest for a second complete playthrough?
The original 3DS game had a playable demo available before the game, and Nintendo repeated the move this week shadow-dropping a Switch demo of the game. The main headline here is that the demo…is pretty much the same one they released ahead of the Nintendo 3DS version, so I’ve pretty much already reviewed it (hence the title of this post). However, there were a few differences this time around that are worth noting:
- Miitopia is not a graphically-demanding game, so I didn’t think the upgrade from the 3DS to the Switch would make much of a difference. However, I was surprised to see how much the visuals popped on a larger screen, and how much new detail as actually noticeable! (The character reflections of the floor of the cavern were a really nice touch. That said, the technical transition from the 3DS was rougher than I expected: The dynamic shadows on characters can be super pixelated at times (I noticed it most on my mage’s hair coming from their hat), and you encounter some slowdown in the game at odd times (displaying items and adding gold to your stockpile seemed to be a common trigger). Given how much more powerful of a system we’re dealing with here, I feel like these shouldn’t have been an issue for this port.
- Remember when Nintendo was trying to minimize the role of its Mii characters on the Switch? Suddenly, they’ve come back in a big way: Not only are they the stars of this entire adventure, but the most important addition Nintendo made to the game was the inclusion of makeup, wigs, and a huge range of customization options that have already led players to create some incredible Mii designs for the game.
If Nintendo has learned anything from Super Mario Maker and Miiverse, it’s that it has some incredibly creative/talented people in its fanbase, and when they give them tools that are this powerful to mess around with, they get some amazing results. If there is any feature that’s going to sell this game, it’s this one.
Not a creative genius, you say? Have no fear: Creators have to ability to share their creations via Access Keys, which allow other players to browse their creations and use them in their own adventures. At long last, I can bring my dream of a showdown between Great Sage Twilight Sparkle and Dark Lord Mitch McConnell to life!
All this being said, there’s one glaring omission here (at least in the demo): Searching the old 3DS Mii database appears to be limited to looking through ‘Popular’ characters, which basically means the same ten characters recreated fifty different times. Where’s the search-by-name functionality the 3DS used to have? I’m hoping it’s just something they removed for the demo, because I’ll be really sad if we aren’t able to dig through the treasure trove of characters from the original game.
- Transitioning from having a second screen as an interface can be tricky, but Nintendo’s had a lot of practice with its many Wii U ports, and the game mostly survives the loss of its second screen (yes, the map is useless, but it was mostly useless in the original game anyway). Unfortunately, the one issue I’ve encountered is a big one: In battle, what used to be a quick button press to pause the action to use your HP/MP sprinkles or the safe spot is now a two-step process, which means that instead of stopping immediately, you usually have to wait for a character to complete another action before you can register your decision. It wasn’t a big deal at this stage of the game, but what the fights toughen up and you need to make quick decisions rightthisveryminute, the delay could wind up being the difference between a close victory and a frustrating defeat. I really wish Nintendo had mapped these actions to a button like ZL or ZR to mimic the speedy response of the original game.
- Overworld, battle, and inn actions are basically the same as before, with the only real addition being “Outing” tickets. These are really just a fleshed-out version of the Jolly Jaunt tickets from the 3DS game (which are still here for some reason): Two inn roommates go off for some fun time at a ticket-specified location (a cafe, a beach, a fishing hole, etc.), a brief-but-usually-entertaining cutscene will occur, and the characters’ bond will grow (and they might get some useful souvenirs in the process, such as grub or recovery items). I’m all for seeing characters interact more often, but I don’t feel it adds a ton to the game.
- The new horse gets shoehorned into the very end of the demo, but I suppose it’s a decent addition: They’re nearly as customizable as the Miis, they can occasionally help you in battle (and apparently go on outings and form bonds with your team as well), and at the very least they don’t detract anything from the game. However, I’m curious to see how they might work them into the story later on in the adventure.
Overall, I’d call the transition to the big screen a successful one, and despite knowing exactly what was waiting around every corner, I was just as excited to play the game as I was four years ago. I wasn’t sure it would be much of a draw on the Switch, but with the secret sauce that is the new and improved Mii customizer (who would’ve thought that Breath of the Wild‘s Mii setup was just a beta for this game?), I could actually see this making some noise on the sales charts. The demo is admittedly limited, but the world winds up being much bigger (and the story a bit more complex) than you expect, and the interactions between your characters remain as amusing as ever. Look for my official ‘is it worth buying now?’ review after the game drops next month!