Bravely Default II vs. Miitopia: Which One Is Worth Buying?

Hey, if this title card worked for Mortal Kombat: Equestria, it’ll work for this post.

2021 is shaping up to be a strong year for Nintendo titles, and as I mentioned back in February, the Nintendo Switch seems to have claimed the title of the RPG console now that the 3DS is officially history. Two of the more-prominent titles that have graced the console in recent months are Bravely Default II, the third game in the Bravely series (despite the II in the title), and Miitopia, a port of the 3DS title from 2017. As games go, these two may technically fall into the same genre, but they couldn’t be more different, and they cater to very different segments of the role-playing game fanbase.

I’ve already spoken about Miitopia in great detail, so I’ll be focusing on BD2 for the bulk of the ‘review’ portion of this post. The bigger question, however, is this: Which of these games better fits your preferences and experience? The answer depends on your personal preferences and RPG experience: Miitopia is a simple, fun experience that is best played in byte-sized chunks and is perfect for new or casual RPG fans, where Bravely Default II is a deep-cut title that is best suited for rabid/hardcore fans of the genre that are looking for something suitably epic and complex.

First, let’s discuss some of the revelations I’ve had since my discussion of the BD2 demo:

  • The game’s biggest surprise has nothing to do with the gameplay or story: This thing runs really badly on the Switch. Square Enix had better hope that all these “Switch Pro” rumors turn out to be true, because if any game could benefit from a hardware upgrade, it’s this one. Transitions between locations and into cut scenes are as slow or slower than Animcal Crossing: New Horizons, button presses can sometimes take a second or two to register (usually when entering a ‘Party Chat’ vignette), and combat animations will occasionally freeze and skip to the end of the action. (On one memorable occasion, an enemy teleported across the overworld screen to land on top of my party for a surprise attack! This is irritating but understandable in an online game like Splatoon 2; having it happen in a single-player game is simply inexcusable.) For all of the technical blemishes Miitopia had in its move to the Switch, they were nothing compared to the issues I encountered here, and the fat that neither game ran especially smooth makes me worry about some of the Switch titles currently in the pipeline, especially *gulp* Pokémon Legends: Arceus
  • The job/ability/battle mechanics seemed to fit together better the second time around. While I’m still not a fan of certain aspects of the game (*cough* the weight mechanic *cough*), the job and combat systems seemed to make a lot more sense when I started playing the game. I stuck with the default jobs the demo gave me originally, but with the way the job level system maxes out at Lv. 12, the game encourages you to continuously rotate jobs onto different characters in order to keep growing and receive certain useful perks (it reminded me a lot of how the “Superfresh” designation in Splatoon 2 encourages you to try out all sorts of weapons). In addition to your main job (which receives job points for each battle), you also have a sub-job that does not gain experience but still lets you access the perks you’ve unlocked, letting you grind new jobs without losing all the benefits of the old ones. (Experience points are a separate system that you receive regardless of the jobs you’re using.) While some of the jobs don’t strike me as all that useful, there are enough interesting ones that you can use to piece together abilities (which can be assigned at any time regardless of what job you’re using) to create the ultimate brawler/healer/magic user for wreaking havoc in boss battles.
  • Speaking of battles: The fights aren’t necessarily difficult, but they can drag on forevvvvvvvver. In the demo, you were encouraged to try different strategies and job combinations until you found one that proved successful. Given my tendency to over-level my characters while playing, however, boss battles boiled to down to giving each character their strongest job, figuring out what attacks would do the most damage, and then spamming said attacks until the enemy caved. (There doesn’t seem to be any feedback mechanism besides winning or losing fights, so unless you’re looking strategy guides up online, going in with your best team comp every time seemed to be the most effective way to win.) I didn’t lose any fights like I did in the demo (besides the fights you’re supposed to lose to further the story, and even then I ended up timing out some of those rather than actually losing), but it meant that tough battles were often 30-minute slogs that tested your patience more than your skill. (There are also super-hard enemies scattered around the map that you can take on in you want a tougher challenge, but after one took me an hour to complete, I decided the payoff just wasn’t worth it.) Random battles aren’t usually too bad (especially since you can swing your sword at the enemy in the overworld and bank a free Brave point at the start), but they can add up in the surprisingly numerous and expansive dungeons, forcing you to get creative with abilities and item use to sustain your squad (‘Solar/Lunar Powered’ and other regenerational perks are a must). In other words, traveling around the world is along and arduous process that is only recommended for those who are really invested in the story.
Lies, delusions, credulity, and isolation…and that’s just in the halls of Congress!
  • However, the story is really good and really easy to get invested in. The twist in the Savalon tale after the demo ends is worth the price of admission by itself, and while I feel like the Wiswaldian final boss could have been tied back to the story a bit more closely (they’re just some random person who didn’t get enough love from their parents as a child), the game does a great job making her a despicable villain that the player will enjoy smiting (it reminds me a lot of Helgenish from Primrose’s story in Octopath Traveler). Each of your travel companions (and even the protagonist Seth to an extent) is well-written and just bursting with personality (Adelle is my personal favorite), and they do a great job drawing you into the story and making you want to complete their quests and see their problems resolved. The many cut scenes and copious voice acting do slow the game down, but they make the game much more immersive and interesting, and they help inspire you to grind through the long, arduous processes from the prior point.

So after all this, would I recommend Bravely Default II to the general public, and more importantly, would I recommend it over the wild, irreverent, and enjoyable game that is Miitopia? The answer really depends on what you’re looking for out of an RPG:

  • Miitopia and Bravely Default II are polar opposites when it comes to combat: The latter gives you a smorgasbord of specific options for each character’s turn, while the former doesn’t even give you control over your entire party, limiting you to the actions of the protagonists and some general healing options in the form of sprinkles and the Safe Spot. In other words, Bravely Default II is for people who want to be overwhelmed with customization and strategic options, and Miitopia is a more straightforward experience that requires minimal experience or preparation on the part of the player.
  • Similarly, the depth of each story is dramatically different: BD2 provides a wealth of lore and backstory, and weaves together elaborate and serious plotlines for each chapter that leave the player guessing until the very end. Miitopia‘s story is longer than you might think at first, but there’s no real lore or depth behind anything, and it’s really not meant to be a serious tale (in fact, the less serious you take it, the more fun you’ll have). You won’t get the tragic tale of a lost kingdom and its stolen treasures in Miitopia, but you’ll never get to play as a language arts textbook in BD2 either.
  • Bravely Default II is a serious time investment every time to sit down to play, as you’ll be battling through dungeons and tackling marathon boss fights without an easy off-ramp. Miitopia, in contrast, actively asks you every couple of levels (which are shorter to begin with) whether you want to stop and take a break (and given the repetitive gameplay, it’s probably best to consume it in smaller bites), and is much more in line with the ‘pick up and play/put down and chill’ mantra of the 3DS (in contrast, I couldn’t make it out of one dungeon in BD2 without having to plug in my Switch charger!). Throw in the many cutscenes of BD2, and Miitopia winds up being the faster and more action-packed experience despite the levels being mostly on rails.

In other words, I see Miitopia as a gateway to the role-playing genre, a good first step for players who want to dip their toes into the water (maybe not as good a first RPG as Super Mario RPG: Legend Of The Seven Stars, but probably the best ‘starter RPG’ I’ve run into outside of the Pokémon series). It’s a game that you can take as seriously as you want, one that places you more in a managerial role when it comes to combat and doesn’t make you sweat the small stuff, and one that provides a bit more action in favor of slow, drawn-out attempts at world-building. If you’re into more active gametypes such as platformers, Miitopia is a good way to try on an RPG for size before committing to it.

Bravely Default II, in contrast, is a deep-cut game for RPG veterans, ones who want more exploration, more elaborate storylines, and more control. The game is longer and slower (and it may not run that well), and it will either overwhelm newer players with its battle strategies and or put them to sleep with it relative lack of action, but it also rewards those with the patience to sit through it with a engaging story, charming characters, and lots of ways to approach each and every fight. Longstanding RPG fans will really enjoy this game, and if you play through Miitopia and decide you’re looking for a game with more depth, than you might enjoy it too.

So if you’re curious about seeing what a role-playing game is all about, start by giving Miitopia a shot and seeing if it’s a genre you want to explore further. If so, you’ve got a lot of great options for diving deeper on the Switch, and Bravely Default II should definitely be on your radar. No matter your experience level, the Switch has an RPG that’s right for you.

Never change, Adelle.

Miitopia: Extremely Late (Yet Somehow Still Early) Impressions

This is either the world’s greatest RPG or the world’s worst fanfic, and I LOVE IT.

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.
Hi ho Silver, away!
  • 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!

Could Miitopia Be Nintendo’s Next Mobile Title?

You only wish your party looked this fresh.

We at the Korner would like to thank Jon Cartwright of GameXplain for inspiring today’s post:

From a gaming standpoint, that’s easy: Miitopia, despite the fact that the game basically plays itself through a stock storyline, is a really, really, really good game. It’s so good that it stole my 2017 Game of the Year award from Splatoon 2 (and for those of you who recall my never-ending stream of clips on my Twitter account, which has only stopped because the Switch caps the amount of videos you can have on an SD card at 1000, that saying something). Through its superb use of character interactions and customization, Miitopia was a fun diversion during my last extended entrapment at home three years ago (and has even resurfaced a few times during the current pandemic). It’s the sort of game that I think deserves another shot at glory.

Despite this feeling, however, I don’t think Miitopia would make a great Nintendo Switch game. Its use of touch controls would make playing in docked mode a hassle, the ubiquitous (and hilarious) Miis of the Wii and Wii U eras are being phased out, and its mediocre sales (1.15 million by the end of 2018, or approximately .23 Animal Crossing: New Horizons) indicates that not too many people were itching to pay $40 to play this in the first place (let alone the $60 going rate for first-party Switch titles). Despite the potential savings from porting a game rather than developing a title from scratch, this one doesn’t seem to be worth the investment.

The Switch, however, isn’t Nintendo’s only option these days. The company has been dipping its toes into the smartphone pool for a few years now, and the results have been mixed thus far. Pokémon Go remains a popular title and games like Mario Kart Tour, Fire Emblem: Heroes and Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp have had their moments (the jury still seems to be out on Dr. Mario World, Goomba tower or not), but Super Mario Run has been mostly forgotten now, and Miitomo never truly caught people’s attention. Could Miitopia‘s story and combat mechanics be the extra twist that Miitomo needed to be successful? I think it’s worth finding out.

From a financial standpoint, bringing Miitopia to smartphones seems like a low-risk option. Not much would have to be changed from a story perspective (once the original game was beaten, you could revisit the Travelers’ Hub for an endless set of quests to embark on, giving the game solid replay value), much of the online infrastructure such as Mii Central is still operational, and the game has a few convenient hooks where (as much as it hurts my soul) microtransactions could be incorporated (game tickets for rock-paper scissors and roulette games, gold for standard item purchases, etc.). The touchscreen mechanics of the 3DS would map to smartphone and tablet screens much easier than to the Joy-Cons or Pro Controller (and as a 90% auto-runner, there wouldn’t be much of a need for movement controls), and the graphics could be scaled to allows the controls to fit comfortably on the same screen as the action. (Perhaps some of the customization options from Miitomo, such as more varied outfits, be brought over to Miitopia as well? Or maybe a multiplayer battle cooperative or competitive battle option?) People may balk at paying $40 for this game, but a sub-$10 entry fee (heck, it could even be free to play) with premium customizable content available for a fee? This feels like an easier sell to me, and something that could break even with a smaller user base.

Of course, there are concerns to this proposal, the most notable being an utter lack of recognizable IP that might draw people to the game (why would you play a Nintendo game without Mario, Link, or Isabelle?). However, having an army of OCs in a variety of roles is part of the game’s secret saucewho needs Mario when you and your friends get to battle your annoying gym instructor over the fate of the universe? Add a few hooks to display your achievements on social media, and you’ve got a game that’s ripe for flexing, meme-making, and all those crazy things the internet loves to do.  Besides, there are ways to work in some callbacks to beloved characters (like, say, all those amiibo unlockables?), so there will still be a place for everyone’s favorite characters.

Miitopia was (and remains) a fun, quirky experience that was a joy to play through, and it deserves a second chance at life. Nintendo’s continued foray into mobile gaming seems like the perfect avenue for just such a chance, providing a low-risk opportunity to find a wider audience for the game and even provide some additional revenue for the Big N to pay back Tom Nook (come on, you know President Furukawa is as deep in debt to Nook as the rest of us). With little else of note coming from Nintendo in 2020, this seems like as good as time as any to dust off a forgotten 3DS adventure and re-introduce the world to the joy of stomping the Dark Lord out of existence.

How To Do Repetitive Gameplay Right

Most every game gets repetitive at some point, whether it’s because you’re stuck at an obstacle or boss fight or because the gameplay itself is short and standard (for example, there isn’t a lot you can do in a football game except, you know, play football). The key is what the game does in response to this issue, as handling repetition well can be the difference between a good game and a bad one.

Consider the latest two games I’ve highlighted, Miitopia and Sonic Mania. Despite being completely different genres, both games lean on linear gameplay through worlds with a number of branching paths, with any number of bonuses waiting for ambitious explorers. This means that completionists and OCD players like myself are going to have to go back through each level a number of times to fully ‘defeat’ it. So why did I enjoy going back through Miitopia levels but come to detest doing the same in Sonic Mania? Essentially, it was because Miitopia always did the right thing when it came to repetitive gameplay, whereas Sonic Mania never did.

So how do you handle repetition in games? Here are a few takeaways from my experience:

  • Save the player’s progress early and often. Break your levels down into small segments (conceptually if not literally), and record the player’s progress after each one. That way, if the player runs into a challenge that takes them a few tries to overcome, they can a) focus squarely on that challenge instead of slogging through a bunch of stuff they’ve already done, and b) not have to re-do said challenge if they fail further down the line.

Upon falling in battle, both Miitopia and Sonic Mania send the player back to the beginning of the stage they were playing. The difference is that Miitopia‘s stages are much smaller than Sonic Mania‘s, and boss fights are separated into their own stages, so returning to the point of the player’s prior failure is quick and easy. Sonic Mania, on the other hand, ships players all the way back to the beginning of the zone they were playing when they receive a Game Over, forcing them to play through up to two (pretty long) acts to get back to where they perished.

  • Give the player plenty of chances to succeedSonic Mania actually has a nice checkpoint system built in, which works great when you have a life to give. The game is surprisingly stingy with its lives, however, and it doesn’t take long to burn through them all on a tough boss fight and suffer the indignity of a Game Over. Say what you want about lives being so plentiful as to be meaningless in the Mario series, but the games give players more than enough chances to overcome the challenges they face. (In fact, Super Mario Maker‘s infinite-retry system is the only thing that makes beating kaizo and other super-hard levels possible.) Miitopia copies the Mario Maker technique and lets you try your hand at a level as many times as you want.
  • Make the rewards for exploring both worthwhile and permanent. In Miitopia (and most RPGs, for that matter), every individual battle you play through gets you money and experience, and thus exploring ultimately makes your party stronger. In Sonic Mania, exploring a different path might net you… More rings? Maybe a shield or an extra life? Not only are these rewards not terribly enticing, but some are also ephemeral and will disappear at the end of the stage. It just feels like exploration in Sonic Mania is just for the sake of exploration, and doesn’t actually net you much in the end.
  • When all else fails, make sure no two gameplay sessions are the same. In truth, some of the most fundamentally repetitive games out there (MaddenMario KartOverwatch) are also some of the most popular and enjoyable. The reason is that games like this introduce just enough randomness (different players, different maps, etc.) to ensure that every match is its own unique entity. Miitopia accomplishes this mostly through its potentially-infinite cast of characters, as well as the different roles they can take on. Sonic Mania has nothing like this, although in all fairness single-player platformers are at a huge disadvantage in this category.

In the end, it’s all about finding ways for the player to enjoy your game, even in the face of repetition. When a game can pull it off, it allows for near-endless replayability. When a game doesn’t, it had better hope that a one-and-done playthrough is worth the cost.

Miitopia: Is It Worth Buying?

Image from Polygon

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.

Miitopia: Early Impressions

Avengers assemble! …Assemble the goofiest costumes you can think of, that is.

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.

Occasionally your characters will test out different hair styles, although the change doesn’t persist past the initial encounter.

  • 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.)

Callie is definitely not on Team Goblin Ham.

  • 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.

Saving the world’s faces is a tiring business.

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.