Part of Nintendo's strategy for its Switch console has been to introduce previously-released games that may not have found an audience before, specifically ones from the low-selling Wii U. That's why I found it curious that Miitopia, released on the Nintendo 3DS, would be the latest re-release to hit the Switch. But, whether you played the original game on 3DS or not, Miitopia is a fun and very simple RPG. It won't reinvent the RPG wheel, but it's definitely a fun way to pass a weekend.
Mii would like to play
Miitopia isn't an RPG with explicitly defined characters in the traditional sense. The story centers around a lone traveler who stumbles into the middle of a great evil presence. The sinister Dark Lord is stealing the faces of anyone in his or her path. This kicks off a long journey (far longer than one would expect for a game like this) to find the Dark Lord and remove their evil from the land.
Miitopia's standout feature is that every single character can be played by a Mii character. If you have a Mii character in your Switch profile, you can use it to play whatever role you want, whether it be the hero, the villain, the various party members, or even the NPC townspeople. It's really easy to fall into the rabbit hole of building Mii characters, especially with Miitopia offering additional cosmetic options, like makeup and wigs. I can't imagine anybody with dozens of Mii characters on their Switch, but if you don't, that's okay. Miitopia helps out by offering a slew of other template options, including the ability to add a friend's Mii and use "Popular" pre-made Mii characters from the 3DS version.
With the way that any Mii character can be slotted into any role, it gives Miitopia's adventure the feeling of a pen-and-paper RPG. That's helped greatly by the moment-to-moment gameplay.
Get to know Mii better
Miitopia's core experience plays out like a rudimentary RPG. Each playable character has a small list of jobs (classes) they can choose from, which prepares them for random turn-based encounters. Combat is so simplified to the point that beginner players can switch on an Autobattle feature and watch the characters automatically pick their best attacks.
However, that's not to say battles are totally mindless. In fact, there are some interesting ideas at work here. In addition to healing spells and recovery items, players can utilize Sprinkles, which are bonus HP and MP nuggets that can be allocated among the party. Players must determine who's in the best position to use these Sprinkles and who would be better served to use their spells or items. On top of that, there's a Safe Spot mechanic, where only one party member at a time can stand safely away from enemy attacks. The Safe Spot allows a single character to recover health and magic. Managing who's using the Safe Spot is a keen twist to the typical RPG formula, especially as characters develop to the point that they can interact with characters inside the safety circle.
Speaking of interaction, that leads to Miitopia's other defining feature. Party members will find an Inn at the end of each run and this is primarily where they'll get to know one another. Pairs of characters familiarizing themselves with one another will build their bond, which ultimately affects their chemistry in battle. The way Miis get to know each other feels like something out of The Sims, where they'll exercise together, gossip about other characters, and share fun stories. Part of the challenge here is ensuring that everybody gets to know one another, but also paying attention to each individual Mii's wants. For example, if two characters become really close, they won't be able to live apart for too long before they start pining for one another's company. Keeping your party happy is important for additional on-the-battlefield effects that can sometimes turn the tide in a close fight.
The other way for Miis to grow closer is to have them engage in activities. Players will occasionally find chances for characters to go for a night at the movies, a date at the nearby cafe, or a stroll on the beach. Don't ask where there's a movie theater, cafe, or beach around wherever you are or you'll be crushed by internal logic. Just roll with it. The point is that these activites not only help Mii characters bond, but they're often funny and heartwarming diversions, keeping Miitopia's overall tone lighthearted.
The Sims-like element plays out during individual runs, as well. This is where the pen-and-paper element of Miitopia comes in, as random events can sometimes play out. One example saw a character fall into a hole in the ground, taking them out for the duration of the run. Another example saw a character take a nap, only to fall asleep on top of a cactus and take damage. It's a very Dungeons & Dragons kind of aesthetic and it gives Miitopia an extra influx of fun and personality. It's a refreshing addition from what's otherwise a straightforward run filled with banter that often doesn't make sense.
If you've already played Miitopia on 3DS and are wondering if there's anything new here, there is one major addition. Just before leaving the first area, players will find a horse. The horse will work just like a Mii character, in that players can have their Miis bond with the horse in order to unlock special abilities. The thing to note is that with a horse comes a stable at every Inn, which presents a new challenge in that at least one Mii character in a party of four will sleep alone. It's an interesting wrinkle and one worth managing, because the horse hits hard in battle.
Take Mii to adventure
If you're looking for an RPG with a hard-hitting story and heavy depth in combat, Miitopia is not what you're looking for. Everything about this game feels simplistic, from the combat, to the dialogue, and all through the story twists. That doesn't mean Miitopia isn't a good time, though. I still enjoyed my time with Miitopia, mostly because of the blend of pen-and-paper storytelling with Sims-style character building.
Unfortunately, Miitopia's story drags on way too long, given how shallow the narrative feels. There are going to be some frustrating moments where it feels like the end is near, only for party members to get swept away and replaced with new ones that have to start completely from scratch.
Still, if you like Nintendo's brand of wholesome humor, Miitopia should be right up your alley. If you have a lot of Mii characters saved up, waiting for an adventure just like this, your moment has arrived.
This review is based on a digital copy provided by the publisher. Miitopia will is available now on the Nintendo eShop for $49.99. The game is rated E.
- Nearly every character can be customized
- Pen-and-paper RPG style is welcomed
- Wholesome humor
- Mii character bonding is a fun challenge
- Safe Spot is a cool idea in combat
- Overall combat feels too simplistic
- Story eventually wears thin
- Some moment-to-moment banter doesn't make any sense