Nobody’s going to accuse the Wii U of being a record-smashing success. It’s a solid console with plenty of great games, but Nintendo’s box hasn’t fared quite as well as the other competitors in the Box Wars. Don’t count Big N out just yet, however, as they’re working on diversifying their portfolio. That means that you can go on Apple’s App Store or Google’s Play Store right now and download Miitomo, Nintendos’s “first smart device” app starring the company’s iconic Miis.
In its simplest form, Miitomo is a modern version of those quizzes we all took on LiveJournal back in the early 2000s. It may not be the Super Mario, Donkey Kong, Zelda, or StarFox experience many had anticipated, but it’s still Nintendo through and through.
You’ve got your customizable Mii character, who lives in its own little house and asks you questions through an adorable (or disturbing, it’s up to you) synthesized voice. You type in your answer and your Mii proceeds to hand it off to your friends while bringing you their answers. Through this, world peace is achieved…or at least you’ll learn a little more about your friends’ quirks.
This is Nintendo, so of course there’s a gleaming layer of polish slathered over everything. The degree to which you can customize your Mii is impressive, including their voice, clothing, face, hair and personality; the last of those affects the appearance of their home and how they act with other Miis. The questions you’ll answer run the gamut from pop culture (“What’s your favorite TV show?”) to cuisine (“What’s your favorite food?”) to pets (“What’s your favorite thing about cats?”) to just plain bizarre (“Imagine flowers blooming in your mind’s eye. How many do you see?” This one is later revealed to be a joke about how many people you’ll date in your life.)
Alongside the questions, you’ve got a few other things to do as well. Your Miis can visit each other’s homes and start up discussions, for instance, even going so far as to do this without being asked. You can arrange your Mii and their Mii friends in absurd photographs, which are then saved and shared among your friend network. It’s all bizarrely endearing, much as the Miis themselves were when they first showed up a decade ago.
The only real issue I had is that you need at least a few friends to make the system work well, and finding friends can be a pain in the butt; Miitomo links into Facebook and Twitter as well as allowing you to befriend people face-to-face, but simply having someone’s Miitomo username isn’t going to cut it. If you don’t use the aforementioned social networks you might have trouble finding enough people to really get Miitomo going.
Also, keep in mind that Miitomo is Nintendo’s first salvo into the world of mobile apps, but not their only one. You can also pre-register for their upcoming Nintendo Account Network, which aims to not just unify your Nintendo-loving life under one banner, but possibly expand the relatively enclosed world of dedicated hardware. See if your Nintendo Account ID is available RIGHT HERE!
Interacting with Miitomo will earn you cash money in the form of coins. These are used at the ingame shop in order to buy new clothing for your Mii; there are plenty of choices, all of which are unisex so you can wear whatever you’d like. You can also spend coins on several pachinko-esque Miitomo Drop minigames which offer unique accessories for winning. The first hit’s free, of course, so Miitomo is good about offering free game tickets for the Miitomo Drop, but if you don’t get what you want quickly you’re going to have to resort to paying coins.
That leads nicely to the question on everyone’s mind: Miitomo is a free app, and we all know that in 2016 if you’re not paying for something you’re the product. This means that there are microtransaction options available for you to whale your way to a new wardrobe. I didn’t toy around with these very much since Miitomo is happy to send plenty of coins your way to buy whatever you’d like; so long as you keep adding friends and interacting with the app, you’re golden, so to speak. It also helps that while there’s an impressive variety of clothing available, the only thing I ever wanted my Mii to wear was a hilariously goofy cat costume.
With all that said, should you try Miitomo? Well, it’s free, so there’s no reason not to take the plunge, and chances are you’ve already got the right hardware. With four or five friends who all hopped on the app as well I found it to be a hilarious and adorable slice of Nintendo on my phone. I can’t say this is what I expected when I heard that Nintendo would be getting into mobile apps, but they certainly could have done worse. Plus there’s that cat costume. Who could ask for more?