Update: The Miitomo app is now available on the U.S. App Store.
Thanks to my Japanese App Store account, this morning I was able to go hands-on with Nintendo’s first real venture into the App Store. The game, Miitomo, doesn’t feature a household name like Mario, Donkey Kong, or even Kirby, but the release feels very much like a Nintendo title.
Miitomo, as its name not-so-subtly alludes to, is a game featuring the Big-N’s popular Mii characters. These characters, which originated on Nintendo’s Wii console back in 2006, have stood the test of time, remaining relevant nearly 10 years after their debut. Miitomo is a game based around custom-made Mii characters spawned from selfies taken by players. Gamers then have have the option of fully customizing the look, clothing, and accessories worn by their Miis.
True, Miitomo is not your typical Nintendo platformer that builds off the company’s many-storied franchises, but it’s a play-it-safe first foray into the world of mobile phones and devices. Nintendo has partnered with DeNA for its mobile device efforts, but most of its titles will be developed in house, with DeNA helping out with the service side of things.
When you first start Miitomo, it’s immediately recognizable as a Nintendo title. It feels like someone took my Nintendo Wii and shrunk it down to fit inside of my iPhone 6s. The music and sound effects, most notably, are of the characteristic Nintendo style. The Miis themselves look just like the Miis on the game-maker’s handheld and home consoles. The writing — witty, with just a hint of corniness thrown in for good measure — is classic Nintendo.
Miitomo officially launches in Japan on the 17th of March, which means it’s available right now on the Japanese App Store. It’ll make its way to additional territories, including the US, during the remainder of March.
Although Nintendo held pre-registrations for the title, if you download the game from the App Store, you can start playing immediately without needing a login. Truth be told, I was surprised with how little friction there was from the point of downloading to actually playing. While one of the initial in-game downloads was fairly lengthy, the gameplay tips provided during the download session kept things interesting.
Miitomo is based around grooming your character and interacting with it, progressively leveling it up. When you first create your Mii, you’re able to customize it to a high degree, giving it a name, and even changing the type of attitude and voice inflection it possesses. Nintendo labels Miitomo as a social interaction game, which is another way of saying that the typical hand-eye coordination demanded by so many Nintendo titles of the past can be left at the door.
“Playing” the game primarily involves answering questions asked by your character. These questions help your character to get to know you, and can then be used in interactions with friends throughout the adventure. Friends can be acquired via social networks or via personal friend exchanges that require someone with another smartphone running Miitomo.
Although the main premise behind the game is character development, acquiring friends, and learning details about those friends via questions, there are other elements within Miitomo to break up the monotony.
There’s the shop where you can purchase clothes and accessories, and there are mini-games, though I use that term loosely. The games, which are found under the Miitomo Drop section of the Shop tab, allow you to participate in rudimentary Peggle-styled events to win prizes. Mini-games, as you might expect, require digital currency, and currency can be acquired by progressing through the title or via an in-app purchase.
Miitomo isn’t the flagship smartphone game that many have been clamoring for, but it’s an interesting first attempt from Nintendo. The actual gameplay may leave something to be desired, but it without question has Nintendo’s fingerprints all over it. Ultimately, the success you have with Miitomo will be determined by how many friends you can acquire and how many questions you and your friends are willing to answer. With enough friends, and enough questions in the mix, I could see Miitomo turning out to be an enjoyable, yet slow-burning game.
If you’d like to try Miitomo now, you’ll be happy to know that it is completely playable in English, even if you download it from the Japanese App Store. What are your thoughts on Nintendo’s first iOS game?