Category Archives: nintendo 3DS

Gotta match ‘em all in Nintendo’s free-to-play Pokémon Shuffle

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Like sand dunes eroding over time, Nintendo is slowing dipping its toes into the free-to-play market in an attempt to see what all the hubbub is about, as well as milk fans for money. Now, I never did download Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball, which had a unique take on bartering for cheaper mini-games, but it sounded like, at the very least, a fresh take on giving players something free to play while enticing them to drop some dollar bills for a bit more to experience. I’ve also not given Steeldiver: Sub Wars a look, so I can’t speak for how that submarine-steered competitive multiplayer thing faired. Naturally, the first free-to-play plunge from Nintendo I’m interested in trying out is Pokémon-related.

Pokémon Shuffle is another take on the “match three” puzzle formula, but instead of lining up similar looking gems or flowers or pieces of underwear, you’ll be matching cutesy disembodied heads of all your favorite–and probably some of your non-favorite–pocket monsters. You use the stylus and touchscreen to make this happen, and the game, thanks to its vibrant, colorful look and simplistic presentation, moves at a rapid clip. Basically, you’re matching three or more heads to deal damage to whatever Pokémon you are fighting, and different types of Pokémon to do more damage by way of a weakness system. Once you beat the Pokémon, you get a chance to capture it, and the capture percentage is upped a bit by how many moves you have left by the end of the battle; of course, you could always pay to up that guarantee of a capture. Strangely, some common Pokémon have really low capture rates, which doesn’t exactly line up with the, um, fiction of games like Pokémon Y and Pokémon White 2.

The free-to-play gating begins immediately once you get past the tutorial bits. See, there are three types of currency to pay attention to: Hearts, Jewels, and Coins. The core currency is Jewels, which you can buy for $0.99 each, with a small discount for if you buy in bulk. You can then exchange Jewels for Hearts. Hearts let you play one level one time (win or lose), and you can have a maximum of five total, with one reappearing every 30 minutes. Coins are a sub-currency used to purchase one-use power-ups before a battle begins, and from what I can tell, the majority of the power-ups are way too expensive for what little effects they cause.

I think Pokémon Shuffle‘s biggest misstep is in its Hearts. Also known as the Energy system when it comes to these things. Levels generally take one to two minutes to complete, possibly a bit longer if you are really studying the board for key combos or up against a really tough encounter, like Mew, which is the random event Nintendo’s running for the next three weeks since launch. That means, especially early on, you can use up your five Hearts in five minutes and then end up having to wait two and a half hours to play five more times in a row. Hexic for Windows 8 phones, which I found pretty addicting, was similar to this, but you only lost a chance to play again if you lost a battle/level; if you won, you kept going, riding it like a pro. I once downloaded Candy Crush Saga, but only played it once or twice before deleting, meaning I can’t tell you how it compared to this–but all in all, Pokémon Shuffle seems a little too eager to immediately put the player in a standstill and ask for an investment.

I will never drop any real money into Pokémon Shuffle, but as something I’ll pick up and play once or twice a day for maybe ten minutes at most, it doesn’t offend me. Too much. I can happily ignore all its free-to-play tactics and begs, though I do wish Nintendo took a chance to thank its long-time fans and incorporate some kind of connection with the various other Pokémon games for the Nintendo 3DS. I mean, my copy of Pokémon Dream Radar is collecting digital dust, so it would’ve been nice to keep that train a-chugging. Or, heck, use those Play Coins to help purchase extra hearts or Great Balls.

Again, Pokémon Shuffle doesn’t really bother me too much because I’m not investing anything into it other than a small chunk of my day, but if I really want my match three fantastical animal heads fix, I should probably wait for Pokémon Battle Trozei, releasing next month on the eShop for $7.99. Think about how many Hearts that could buy you in Pokémon Shuffle. Here, I did the math for you–$7.99, due to the odd way they are priced, could get you 6 Jewels, which could then be turned into 30 Hearts. So, the choice is yours–$7.99 to play thirty times or play as much as you want. I know, this is a tougher choice than trying to name an Audino for the umpteenth time.

My five favorite games in 2014

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Hello, end of 2014. Boy am I looking forward to seeing you come to a close. To help with that process, here’s my five favorite games from the past three hundred and sixty-five days. I know such a list is a strange thing to see this time of year and that I’m the only one doing it, but please, stick with me. If you wanna know what topped my list in 2013–and really now, why wouldn’t you–clicky click here.

If you take a look at my actual list of games played and beaten this year, you’ll notice there are not many current releases within it. That’s just how I roll, often getting to the big, new games much later in life–mine and theirs–and so I don’t have too fine of a list to pick from, but I’ll make the effort nonetheless and try to come up with some good arguments why I picked X over Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, which, if you’re a good little follower, you’ll already know I haven’t touched yet.

Let me mention some of the 2014 releases that don’t get the full thumbs up below. Transistorman. I really, really wanted to love this game, especially after how Bastion mesmerized me. In the end, I just liked it, favoring the complex and constantly changing combat way more over the muddled story, though I loved elements of how the story was told, such as the terminals and polls Red participated in. And there’s also episodes two through five for season two of Telltale’s The Walking Dead, which did not end up delivering well on the promise of following your Clem, y’know, the one you meticulously constructed via Lee in the previous season, through her next set of struggles. Plus, it stopped being an adventure game early on in the season and turned into a dialogue wheel selector. Boo to that. For season three, I will instead wait to see how it all pans out. As for Dragon Age: Inquisition, just insert a bunch of wet farts here.

All right, here they are, my five favorite videogames from 2014…

Luftrausers

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I’ve played Luftrausers on both Steam and the PlayStation 3, ending up stuck at the same spot for each version. I can’t get the blimp to spawn. Here’s the rub; I don’t care. I keep playing, keep dying, keep respawning and trying out new ship builds and listening in fascination as the soundtrack mutates this way and that, and I expect to keep playing Luftrausers deep into 2015. I don’t know if I’ll ever beat it or do well enough to get that blimp to spawn, which would then unlock a bunch of new missions to go after, but it doesn’t matter. The retro look, the killer soundtrack, the feel of launching up off the sub and into the sky, primo target #1 for every object loaded with a gun…it’s pure exhilaration. I’m not great, but it’s great.

Broken Age (Act One)

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Ahh. Old-school point-and-click adventure games with a modern look might be my new hot jam. Broken Age (Act One) is a whirlwind of imagination, bright colors, and, alas, pretty simple puzzles. On the surface, its story is cute and fuzzy, but quickly turns dark and upsetting once you begin to see how Shay and Vella are really living their lives. There’s also a fantastic cliffhanger that, if you didn’t know this game was divided into two acts due to financial, timing, and work issues, you’d believe it was planned. While I wish we could’ve seen the conclusion to these two kids’ journeys this year, I expect it to unfold early in 2015. Hopefully the next documentary video will shed some light on that. Oh, and Double Fine was kind enough to include a comic of mine in their weekly gathering of fanart. Obviously, I’m biased.

Diablo III: Reaper of Souls

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My history with the Diablo franchise has been like so: played the first one on my ol’ PlayStation one, using a controller to manipulate a mouse cursor, got into Diablo II a bit on PC during my college days for all the wrong reasons, and then never touched Diablo III. But then the news hit it was coming to consoles and being re-designed for controllers. I was jazzed. However, by the time I got around to thinking of it, an even newer version of the console was released, offering more content than you can shake a stick at, if you’re the shady type that carries sticks around. Anyways, I ran through the campaign once so far with Whisper, my bow-wielding, backflipping assassin, and enjoyed the heck out of slaughtering monsters, picking up loot, and upgrading her skills. I’m not even close to the level cap, and there’s a bunch of new content to try out still. Really worth the then $40 price tag.

Jazzpunk

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Here’s a wish I wish: I want to erase all memories of playing Jazzpunk. That way, in a few months, next week, or even after I’m done posting this blog entry, I can play Jazzpunk and experience everything it offers once again, with innocent eyes. The game is only a couple hours long, but it is non-stop gags and goofiness along the way; if you’re a fan of Airplane! you’ll absolutely understand what its going for. I don’t want a Jazzpunk 2, just a chance to eat it all up again, especially the Wedding Qake section.

Disney Magical World

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I was hoping to, at this point, already have written a blog post about what Disney Magical World meant to me this year. Still means to me. Unfortunately, I haven’t found the words for that yet, but let’s just say this little Nintendo 3DS title out from left field provided comfort, control, something to focus on when everything else was chaotic and spinning away. Its arrival was timely. I played it every night for a few hours for months straight over the summer and fall, putting it behind Dragon Quest IX and Animal Crossing: New Leaf in terms of hours played. It’s special, an unexpected mix of item collecting and difficult dungeon grinding, of saving up a single ingredient to make a specific recipe to give you that perfect café theme to get a new Disney character to show up and give you special collectible cards or gems to make new wands. It’s full of cycles and things to check in on, and it was a go-to when I needed a distraction. Truthfully, I could still be playing it now, today, but had to put it aside to give some other handheld games their due.

And there you go. My five favorites, with words to boot, and I expect to play Luftrausers, Diablo III: Reaper of Souls, and the conclusion of Broken Age in 2015, so that makes these games even stronger cases for me.

Here’s the real question though–did you play any of my five favs this year, and, if you did, are we on the same page? Let me know in the comments below.

One Fantasy Life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it

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I never thought this day would arrive, but, yeah, I’m totally playing Fantasy Life. It’s not some fever dream; I’m actually running around Castele, raising skills, unlocking Bliss, gaining Dosh, earning XP, doing quests, and having a really grand, relaxing time. As of this writing, I’ve logged just about 12 hours in the game, which is akin to maybe gaining your first dragon shout in Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. I’m not exaggerating.

If you are wondering why I would open on such disbelief and/or are new to Grinding Down…well, Fantasy Life is a game I’ve been pining after and trumpeting for a good long while now. Let’s see, let’s see–boy, am I thankful for the “search” function on this ol’ blog of mine. I first wrote about it in August 2009, back when it was originally geared for the Nintendo DS and was all about them sprites. After that, not much word surfaced until July 2012, when the game took a big visual shift to be more accessible for the Nintendo 3DS. And then time marched on some more, though gamers in Japan got to see it released while everyone else waited with collectively held breaths. With zero to even zero-er fanfare, a North American release was announced during this year’s E3 after Nintendo finished announcing all the things they felt were cooler and more worthy of air time than a multi-job cartoony life sim. Well, let’s put all that behind us, because the game is out, the game is mine, and the game is good.

For those that really ate up Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies, you’ll immediately notice a lot in common here. Let’s first touch upon the story, or rather the overarching story. See, each Life has its own set of main characters, problems, and resolutions, but the main path is different. One day, the ever-peaceful Reveria is shaken when a meteorite falls into your character’s house, setting off a chain of events foretold in an ancient prophecy involving the land’s goddess and the moon Lunares. Castele’s King Erik asks the main player to investigate these strange occurrences, and he or she is joined in this quest by Flutter, a strange glowing butterfly that has the ability to speak. Later on, you learn that the butterfly is really the daughter of Celestia, the goddess of Reveria, and she fell from heaven to help people. Not exactly Stella–but it does sound a little familiar, yes?

At the beginning of Fantasy Life, you get to customize your character a bit and then must select what Life you’d like to start on. I picked Alchemist as I’ve always been a big fan of alchemy pots in previous Level-5 games, and I wanted to see how addicting it would be here. There are twelve Life types in total. The Alchemist is a mix of gathering items and some light combat out in the field, though I actually can’t remember many story details from the early Alchemist-only quests. After eleven hours of this, I finally decided to switch over to a new Life–you can freely switch between Lives when not on a main path mission and learn universal skills–but I made the mistake of picking Cook, a Life that is perhaps too similar to Alchemist to feel different. I mean, they both use the very same mini-game for creating items. I suspect I’ll try for a Woodsman or Paladin next to get out into the wild more.

So far, at least for Alchemists, combat is real simple. You have a three-hit combo by mashing the attack button, but no dodge or twirl away from danger like in Disney Magical Castle‘s dungeons, which often leads to getting stuck in the combo animation and taking a few hits from enemies. I found it works well enough to hit twice, back off, and repeat, though it doesn’t make for exciting combat. However, many quests are of the MMORPG ilk, meaning kill X wolves or X bandit leaders, and your list will eventually fill fast just like that miscellaneous quests tab in Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim that you have to get out there and kick some monster butt. In addition to these side quests, you also have Life challenges to complete and Bliss objectives to move the story forward. There is always something to do or work towards in Fantasy Life.

Great news–the writing is funny. Very amusing, but then again, just about everyone in the game is speaking my language. Even when it isn’t diving into puns like a fiend, it handles everything else lightly, but still in an entertaining fashion. Even the quiet moments that Flutter has to herself are soft and poignant, with a pinch of fun. I’m not deeply invested in the world or its characters yet, but just about everything they say is interesting. Oh, and animals talk and say the silliest of things, so make sure you speak to each and every cow, chicken, and cat you come across.

I don’t doubt I’ll be back to write more about Fantasy Life, but probably not until I’ve tried out a few more Lives and figured out which is my true calling. Alchemy is good fun, but I need a little more adventuring under my belt.

Mining my experiences as a cowboy steambot in SteamWorld Dig

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I’ve never gone very far underground in my thirty-one insipid years on this planet we share, and that’s fine. A few family vacation one-offs where we’d explore a cave with a tour group or something like that, but never any personal expeditions. Much like the ocean, the underground is terrifyingly expansive and filled with too much unknown. Also–very dark. There’s a 2006 horror movie called The Descent that seems like the most scariest thing possible, as it follows a group of British spelunkers down into the deep dank depths of some labyrinthine caves in North Carolina; on top of that alone, they get pursued by flesh-eating monsters. No thanks.

If I was to go underground, I’d hope it would look more like SteamWorld Dig, all colorful and bouncy and peppered with kooky characters like Lola, who runs the bar in Tumbleton and acts as a respawn point, and Hank “Cranky” McCrank, a repairbot who helps you upgrade your digging tools. I mean, just look at the game’s hero Rusty; with his cowboy hat and big, green metal hands, he appears more than confident to handle whatever is lurking deep beneath the town, and so I’d go with him, though still not too far down.

The story here is slight, but solid enough to give Rusty a reason to dig deeper into the mineral-infested ground. Rusty the steambot wannabe-cowboy has inherited his uncle Joe’s mine after Joe apparently lost his life plunging into its depths for secrets. Naturally, curiosity screams, and Rusty takes up the call (and pickaxe) to continue his uncle’s journey. That’s it for now, and the characters aboveground in Tumbleton are essentially menu options and quest-givers at this point, but that could all potentially change down the line.

There’s a cycle to Rusty’s cavernous adventuring, and it is thus: dig down into the mine, gather as many minerals as you can hold, return to town, sell your stash, purchase upgrades to help you dig deeper, gather more resources, and survive longer. Much like Rogue Legacy and Spelunky, it has that “one more run” vibe to it, because even if you don’t get far or gather too much, every piece of trashium or copper sold is all feeding back into making Rusty better, stronger, more awesome, which promotes sojourning a wee further. You can really only go so far as your tools allow, and eventually you’ll run out of lantern light or hit dirt you can’t dig through yet. Or maybe even some tough critter-crawly enemies. Either way, you have to hightail back to sunlight, and you can either climb back up the hole you dug or find a fast travel point along the way.

On your way down below, you’ll also come across special cavern entrances that basically lead to a platforming section or ability-testing area. You can find some good valuables in these spots, as well as new abilities, like special drill arms, wall-jumping, or boosting upwards from a stationary position, which uses steam, a finite resource to also keep an eye on. These aren’t very tricky so far, and often give you a reason to travel up, left, or right rather than simply down all the time.

Right. I’m one of those crackpots that thinks Super Mario Bros 2 is a more enjoyable time than Super Mario Bros 3, and a favorite section of mine is when you have to travel downwards through layers and layers of sand. You do this by digging, by hitting the “pick up object” button, and the Princess–who else would you even bother playing as, honestly–will lift the sand beneath her feet away, causing her to fall into the next line. Keep doing this, and eventually you’ll get through it. You make your own path, and the enemies will even follow along it just like you. That same idea applies to SteamWorld Dig; how you dig down to the caves or map indicator is customizable, but you also have to be thinking about reverse directions too, about what would make it easier for Rusty with no light to find his way to Tumbleton. Unfortunately, returning to the surface, especially once you really get deep down, is where things become less fun and more of a slog. I thought I read that the underground is randomly generated, so if that’s true, the replayability is at least very strong with this one.

For those with a PlayStation 4 and subscription to PlayStation Plus, SteamWorld Dig is a freebie for the month of November. Even if it wasn’t free, I’d heartily suggest checking it out. So long as you don’t mind a whole lot of digging.

Disney Magical World is now closed for sticker business

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Last night, which I’ll dub Fantasy Life‘s Eve, I finally got the last 100th sticker in Disney Magical World, the one that asks you to acquire a bajillion different pairs of shoes. Yes, this sticker was more difficult to unlock than crafting a secret wand. Go figs. Anyways, there’s still plenty of items to find, recipes to make, parties to throw, crops to harvest, and so on, but I feel fine putting Disney Magical World aside now, accomplishing all the main tasks the game throws at you. I still have a lot to say about this game, though some of it I can’t speak about just yet, as it is still too raw to peel back and examine.

To be honest, I gave up on trying to dungeon grind for the rarer ingredients to make new kicks and turned to a less-than-traditional method to get three more stinky pairs of shoes for my avatar to wear. Evidently, if you use the Spotpass functionality, you can visit other players’ cafés, giving them a “Nice!” if you dig their design work. Giving out one nice earns you an entire new outfit, with shoes to boot (pun intended). Three nices gets you another outfit, and then, at last, five nices nets you a third. And so, instead of spending over an hour grinding away in dungeons for maybe even just the chance to get a Mystic Thread or rare gemstone, I simply visited a bunch of cafés and got what I needed in under ten minutes. Feel free to also hop over to my café, which is called The Drinkpad, and give me a nice as well.

There–I did it. Just popped the cartridge out of my Nintendo 3DS and returned it to its case on my shelf. Well, no, it’s actually in a shoebox on top of my dresser, but it sounds way more normal to say shelf despite me now revealing my strange organizational skills. Grrr. That said, I hesitated for a moment and considered at least putting the cartridge back in my travel case, but really…I could probably play this game off and on for a good long while, much to the dismay of other bereft 3DS/DS titles I’ve barely scraped the surface on, such as The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy, and Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story. It’s better if Disney Magical World is out of sight.

And here’s some of my final stats (for now) for the myriad collectibles:

  • 69/148 outfits
  • 17/23 wands
  • 169/303 furniture
  • 82/126 food
  • 20/21 fish
  • 68/70 farming
  • 212/300 cards collected

Oh man, there are SO MANY outfits to create in this game, and I barely saw half of them. Boo to that. Dressing up is one of my favorite things to do in games, whether it is Grand Theft Auto V or Dragon Quest IX, just give me fun clothes to mix and match. I have no idea what single fish I missed pulling out of the pond, but one can only fish for so long, as the fishing minigame is perfunctory, not amazingly engaging. Lastly, those cards…mmm, probably my favorite collectible to gather in Disney Magical World. Some are concept art-style drawings of the expected cast members, but others are old-timey posters, like of Steamboat Willy and such. I don’t know. I could look at them for days.

Lastly, look at the insane amount of hours I’ve logged in this thing since getting it way back in April:

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Clearly, I wouldn’t play a game I didn’t enjoy for such a length, even if it has its dry spell sections, where you are just waiting for crops to grow and people to eat in your café. Again, there’s more to this story than I’m ready to reveal, but this is the only game currently on the 3DS that even comes close to matching logged hours with Animal Crossing: New Leaf. I’m looking forward to discovering if Fantasy Life can overtake that coveted spot, but alas I probably won’t get to play until after Extra Life this weekend.

Disney Magical World is not goofing around

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Disney Magical World is possibly one of the most deceptive videogames I’ve ever stumbled upon. At a quick glance, it seems like it is an uninspired stab at trying to steal from the popularity of Animal Crossing: New Leaf, but set within the Disney multiverse. Instead of a house and town to take care of, you manage a popular café and must keep the locals entertained with extravagant parties, as well as running errands. However, there’s more layers to peel back, and they are all built upon the idea of grinding, something I’m usually averse to, but Disney Magical World is always doling out some new goodie or three that will help you progress down one of your various paths. The grinding is far from terrible, and it’s had its hooks me in for a good while.

So far, I’ve noticed a few spots along the way where the game ramps up in difficulty. Getting to about 22-25 stickers is fairly easy, but after that you really have to plan what you plant in your farm, what ingredients you use and save for later, and what dungeon levels to replay in hopes of getting some rarer items you missed the first time through. I think I hit another slow roadblock around 38-40 stickers, and then once more around 68-70. Eventually, you have to just sacrifice your plans and focus on something else, like having Daisy help create pretty froufrou dresses and making Pauly wear them, as they did count towards your Ace Ensemble total. I’m close to finishing up the fishing goals. Seems like the biggest things for me to work on still are creating furniture and throwing parties so all the cool peeps show up–I’ve not seen a lick of Jack Skellington despite some Halloween-themed items showing up in the store.

Right now, I have 77 stickers out of what I assume is a capped 100 stickers. Getting that 77th sticker the other night allowed me to open up a chest, which evidently had the game’s credits in it–along with a “happy crown” to wear. Is this Nintendo’s way of saying the game is over? Not from where I’m standing. I still need to craft a better fishing rod, throw more parties, gain a bunch of funky hairdos, harvest special honey, and so on. I think I only need one more garnet bubble to appease the mighty Donald Duck, and that means another go down an Aladdin-themed dungeon or dive beneath the castle and see if luck is on my side. Either way, it’s probably 20 minutes I have to set aside, just for one single gem, so I can build a new rod to help me catch bigger fish and, I assume, better gems. That might sound maddening, and it probably is, but it’s also extremely satisfying completing these quests. There’s no cheesing it; you gotta make the effort.

Which leads me to the combat, the one aspect I suspect my sister Bitsy will hate when I show her the game this upcoming Christmas. The dungeons are not mindless walkthroughs, but the majority of them are easy to deal with, so long as you have a good outfit (provides health) and a strong wand (determines how much damage you do and how many special attacks you can cast). Strangely, whether it is a tough or easy fight, I find the combat rewarding. It’s all action like Dark Cloud 2, but you can’t lock on to enemies; instead, you can do a twirl to get out of the way and hit them from behind for more damage. Mix this in with timed fights and traps, and you actually have a lot to think about. There’s also something so evil and awesome about the red gems, which revive you if you run out of health, but are also used to open the big treasure chest at the end of each mission. This means that poorer players get poorer and fewer rewards, and skilled players truly reap the benefits of being on top of their game. Combat is a big part of gaining new alchemy items and such, so it is vital to be at least competent at it.

At the beginning of this post, I put out the idea that Disney Magical World is a wannabe Animal Crossing clone. Let me now officially squash that thought; it couldn’t be farther from it. Whereas everyone in your Animal Crossing town has a personality and goes about daily life on their own, the people of Castleton are soulless pods, existing only to give the player a card or quest. If they have neither, you can simply move past them like the New York homeless. Decorating your cafe boils down to putting everything with the same theme in it, which is not very creative, but leads to better bonuses and guests. Yes, you can decorate your bedroom above the cafe as you wish, but it pales in comparison to what you can do in Animal Crossing. The big focus is on dressing your avatar and completing random quests, though I’m also a huge fan of collecting cards from everyone. Some cards are basically old artwork from the golden era of Disney, while other pieces are the same ol’ you-know-whos in stock poses.

I’m really hoping to have 100 stickers unlocked by the time Fantasy Life comes out next month, as I know there is simply no way I can juggle this, that, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, and Tomodachi Life. If I’m being honest, those last two have gotten a whole lot less love from me these last few months–my bad. I don’t mean it; I’ve just got stickers on the brain. And gem birthstones. And Pixie Dust so I can complete Peter Pan-themed furniture. And…

Eat bread, make friends, belt out a ballad, and more in Tomodachi Life

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Since its announcement, I’ve been pretty excited for Tomodachi Life. Watching the gang over at Giant Bomb play through some of its silliness and strangeness during one of the latest Unprofessional Fridays really helped seal the deal, and so I went right out the next day to snag a retail copy of the game. True, this is the sort of game one might want a digital version of so they can pop into it any time they want, but I’m a physical collector at heart. Truthfully, I was surprised to see it priced at $40.00 and initially balked, but decided it is ultimately better to support the quirky titles from Nintendo in hopes of more quirky titles from Nintendo. Paying it forward, y’know.

Anyways, you start out by creating an avatar to be your first island inhabitant. Naturally, narcissistic tendencies took over, and I selected the Mii modeled after me from my Mii Plaza. They refer to this dude as a “Pauly look-alike,” which is pretty cute and, at the same time, alarming. The clones will overtake us all. You can then fill an apartment with more Miis; some I downloaded off the Internet, a few more came over from the Mii Plaza, and I made one or two new ones from scratch. If you want a taste of what my islanders amount to, then here: Shaq, April Ludgate, Ron Swanson, Matt Mason, Minerva McGonagall, Satoru Iwata, and more. Plus, I have about six-seven more empty apartments to fill, but I’m in no rush to see those rooms occupied.

Tomodachi Life is a game best played in small bursts, and slowly at that. You navigate the island, which is more or less a collection of different button prompts, via the touchscreen and stylus. You can go to the food store and see what the daily specials are, you can visit the town fountain and watch as your Miis donate some coin, and you visit event spots like the beach or park to see if anything neat is going down. The main meat of the island is the apartment building, and here you can check in on your Miis. Some may be sleeping, some may be out at their day job, and some may be in someone else’s pad, schmoozing and boozing. Here, you can loosely interact with the Miis, giving them food, clothing, and accessories, and they’ll occasionally want to play a mini-game with you. Some are real simple, like grab an item as it falls, and others are more fun, like guessing what a pixelated item ultimately is. As you interact with these Miis, they level up and can gain additional items, songs, and catchphrases, as well as grow to like–I mean that romantically–other Miis.

I love how Tomodachi Life looks and sounds. Let’s start with visuals. We’re all pretty familiar with how Miis look at this point in Nintendo’s history, and despite just how little customization there actually is around them, they always end up looking strikingly similar to their inspirations. Like, my Ron Swanson…it’s uncanny. Speaking of looking like real-life stuff, the pictures of the food you can buy–as well as the hilarious flavor text–really help sell the entries as digital representations that I actually want to purchase. Just ignore that fact that the shopkeeper is a man with a block of wood for a head…

Audio plays a big part, too. There’s not a ton of background music, but what is there is fine. However, it really does all come down to listening to the Miis talk, whether they have a super high pitch or deeply deep growl. And they say whatever you want them to say, granted you can’t get too crass or pervy as Nintendo is wont to censor that kind of stuff. I love hearing the game refer to them by their actual names out loud. In the past, when you get to name a character, like in an RPG, it was always disappointing to never hear other characters audibly call him or her out in a cutscene. Whenever you win or lose a mini-game, an unseen studio audience cheers or boos, respectively, and you can also have Miis perform some karaoke or write your own songs; I’ve not really delved too deep into that stuff, but it seems ripe for silliness.

I’m enjoying my sporadic sessions with Tomodachi Life, though I do find it easy to burn through just about everything it offers in a single session, leaving me to just sit and stare at an apartment building’s windows, waiting for something, anything, to happen. This quirky title is not long for the world, but that’s okay. It’s a great piece of strange and unpredictable side content for Animal Crossing: New Leaf, and it should help fill in the blank days while we all wait–yes, you should be waiting, too–for Fantasy Life this autumn. I don’t know if I’ll write any further on Tomodachi Life, but you never know–it’s so unpredictable, like that time I gave Minerva a bowl of fried rice and she sky-rocketed into space, so delighted in tasting her favorite food. Yeah, it’s bizarre Nintendo at its best.

Oh, and if you want to add me to your island, by all means, show me a great time:

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