The decision to bring back 3DS exclusive Miitopia was a strange one on Nintendo’s part. This title originally landed to scattered applause in the dying days of the 3DS lifecycle, meaning it never really had a chance to shine. With a fresh lick of paint, new mechanics and a brand new audience, it’s sure to find more love in 2021 — but even still, it’s hard to deny how odd this game, and its re-release, really is.
Miitopia originally began life within the Nintendo StreetPass system as a mini-game called Mii Plaza. In it, 3DS users attempted to rescue a Mii trapped in a cage by collecting other Mii characters in real life (via Wi-Fi) to pit them against a barrage of enemies in real-time battles. Miitopia was heavily inspired by this concept, and follows a similar formula.
In the story, you’re a lone Mii facing off against an evil being who steals faces for a living. When the village you occupy is attacked and your friends’ faces are stolen, it’s up to you to journey forth and conquer twisted monsters in turn-based battles. Along the way, you’ll meet a number of new friends (and a horse), and explore a medieval land cursed by darkness.
Each Mii you take on your quest is fully customisable — and it’s for this reason that Miitopia is as endearing as it is.
You can make your gang look any way you like, and with the updated Mii Maker you can create some very fun (and monstrous) beings. The new makeup functionality (new for the Switch version) is an absolute blast, and lets you make Miis as life-like and cartoony as you want. You do have to have the creative skills to match this feature, which is why I just went for a bad arse-looking girl gang, but it’s a great little tool to experiment with.
That’s where one of the game’s main problems lies: beyond this unique character creator, there isn’t a whole lot of substance to Miitopia.
Exploration is automatic, so most of the time you sit back and watch your characters roam around. There’s a Tomodachi Life-style simulator that lets you romance or befriend your fellow Miis, and this adds an extra layer of fun and humour to the game, but overall, the main gameplay is too repetitive and shallow to be consistently exciting.
The turn-based battles aren’t challenging, even in the later parts of the game and it’s easy enough to grab the high-powered weapons you need to breeze through the game. You can even get away with turning on ‘auto-battle’ and basically leaving your Miis to their own devices. It means gameplay isn’t particularly involving or deep — and that there’s no real strategy behind the game.
But despite this, Miitopia remains charming. The game certainly gets repetitive as you travel throughout the land and face monster after monster, but dull moments are often broken up by laugh-out-loud humour and enough ridiculousness to keep players entertained.
Miitopia knows it’s a weird game and wholeheartedly embraces this. Characters often make strange facial expressions, or find themselves in ridiculous situations (i.e. being accused of murder in a modern-day theatre, finding a mean message in a bottle at the beach, facing down butterflies with human eyes) and the game leans into the absurdity.
There’s plenty of fourth wall breaks, characters pointing out how weird the game is and moments where you’ll have no idea what’s going on.
It’s in these moments that Miitopia is best. It knows it’s a ridiculous game, and it knows you know that, too. It’s why the game succeeds despite its turn-based battles being relatively ordinary and straightforward.
Yes, the base game is shallow and your adventure mileage may vary. But if you embrace the weird, heartwarming relationships of the game and its off-kilter sense of humour, there’s plenty to love about it.
It’s still one of the weirder games that Nintendo’s released, but it absolutely deserves a second look on Nintendo Switch.
We need more strange, inexplicable games like Miitopia.