Wednesday, 23 March 2016

FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Miitomo (iOS, Android)*

I always thought Nintendo had made the right choice by staying true to their own consoles instead of whacking some micro transaction-riddled rubbish onto mobile phones. So naturally, as soon as Nintendo announced it would finally be turning to smartphone app production after so many years of reluctance, I was sceptical.

Would they be able to pull it off? After all, this was new territory for Nintendo, and they’ve already become something of a laughing stock when it comes to the Wii U, so I didn’t want to see this turn into a similar problem.

On 25 October 2015, Nintendo announced their first mobile application, Miitomo – a Tomodachi Life-esque social interaction app involving Miis. At first glance, it really didn’t interest me in the slightest. If I wanted to communicate with my friends I could text them, and if I wanted to play Tomodachi Life, I could just load up my New Nintendo 3DS: why did I need a clone on my smartphone?

Miitomo launched in Japan on 17 March and received a colossal one million users within three days. It’s due for a worldwide release on iOS and Android later this month, but I managed to get my hands on a Japanese copy of the app, because the reception it received there piqued my interest. That, and I’m extremely impatient. I had to see what all the fuss was about.
Inside Miitomo's Mii Maker 
(That's supposed to be a lip piercing, by the way!)

The first thing Miitomo prompts you to do when you open the app is connect your Nintendo Network ID (though since I don’t have a Japanese NNID, I sadly had to skip this part). Then it’s straight into creating your Mii with the Mii Maker.

You can take a photo and let the app work its magic, or you can create your own from scratch. All the usual options are there, from height and weight sliders, to goofy smiles and beards. I made myself, but you obviously don’t have to – go as crazy as you like. Maybe it’s my total lack of imagination, or just that I prefer to have an avatar that resembles me. Who knows?

The one thing that disappoints me about Miitomo’s Mii Maker is the lack of colour options for hair and eyebrows. You’re stuck with the usual blonde, brown, and grey shades typically seen in all Mii Makers, even though you’d think Nintendo would let you pick whatever colour you want by now. I wanted to make my Mii resemble me as much as possible and let it rock light purple hair, but I had to settle for grey instead. Hmph. Of course, this was only a little niggle, and was something I soon got over.

You're able to change your Mii's appearance whenever you want by clicking on ‘Edit Mii’ in the main menu, which is a touch I really like. Sick of that stubble you decided to give your Mii yesterday? No problem, get rid of it.

You then go into even further customisation options. Here you can mess about choosing a suitable voice for your Mii, giving it a personality type, and even deciding how lazy you want it to be.

Once your Mii is born, it will immediately fire a multitude of questions at you. A bit like a psycho ex-partner, it wants to know an endless plethora of information about you, from what you think about cats, to what you spent last weekend doing. Your answers are then saved, and available to view any time in the ‘My Answers’ tab.

Any friends you've added are also able to view your questions and answers, and can comment on them, so don't go giving your Mii answers that are too personal – unless you don't mind sharing, that is. You also earn a small number of coins per day by answering questions.

Miitomo's friend feature

You can add friends either online or face-to-face, much like Friend Codes on the Nintendo 3DS. To add a friend in close proximity, you must both have the app. You’re both presented with a set of four symbols: tap the same one as your friend and you’ll add each other.

To add a friend online, you have to link Facebook and/or Twitter to Miitomo. It then shows a list of people you have on those apps, and you can send them a request from there. Make sure you find as many friends as you can, as you earn a decent amount of coins for every 2-5 friends you add.

Once you've added a friend, you can click on their Mii's head in your friend list and this will take you to visit them. Here, your friend's Mii tells you various answers to questions they've answered, and will also ask you questions too. You are able to comment on answers they've given, and give them a ‘heart’ to let them know you liked it – think of it as the Miitomo ‘like’ button. You can only read a certain number of your friend's answers a day, but you can unlock more with sweets, which you can win from a minigame.

When you're not visiting a friend, a thought bubble with their Mii's face in it will appear above your Mii if they've got answers to questions you haven't read yet. Clicking on the bubble allows you to read them, and then comment and ‘like’ as if you were visiting them. I found it fun to see what my friends had answered, even if they were in response to silly questions.

Miitomo's outfit shop and wardrobe

There are a whole host of clothing and accessory choices to purchase from the Miitomo Shop. Whether you’re looking for shirts, hats, socks, shoes, full outfits or more, they have it all. Different types of item can be viewed by cycling through the various tabs, and you can click on any item and your Mii will model it for you, like a try-before-you-buy kind of system.

Even though I don't have a ton of coins in the app, I like to stuff on anyway just to see how they look and to see whether something is worth saving up my precious gold for. Nothing worse than buying clothes, then trying them on when you get home, and they look terrible, right?

Once you've bought an item from the Shop, it will automatically be equipped on your Mii. To look at what you've purchased, head to the 'Wardrobe'. Here, your Mii can try on clothes and accessories you already own, and you can also create preset outfits, meaning if you change your Mii's clothes and don't like your new look, you can easily go back to your favourites without trudging through various tabs.

"Photos" I created using Miitomo's 'Miifoto' feature

After you've changed your Mii's outfit, it will suggest you take a photo of its new attire using the 'Miifoto' feature, which is by far my favourite thing about Miitomo. You are able to alter your Mii's pose and facial expressions, and add text, borders, and clipart to the photo. You can also change the background of the photo, using built-in stock backgrounds, or you can also use your own from your phone's photo gallery.

If you're too lazy to do all this, there is also a ‘randomise’ button you can click, which creates a random photo of your Mii using an array of the photo customisation assets, but where's the fun in that? I took advantage of the Miifoto feature, and ended up making quite a few Mii photos… it’s brilliantly addictive.

When you're done editing your Mii's photo, you can save it to your phone directly or share it to social media. In the Japanese version of Miitomo, you have the option to share it to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Line (Japan's version of WhatsApp). I’d imagine it will be the same with all the other regions, with WhatsApp eventually replacing Line in some areas.

Miitomo's only current minigame, 'Miitomo Drop'

I was disappointed to find there's currently only one minigame in Miitomo – a pachinko/coin drop hybrid called 'Miitomo Drop'. It costs 500 coins (ouch!) or one 'game ticket' to play. You are given a small number of game tickets when you download the app within its release month, and they are also given as one of the My Nintendo mission rewards. 

The aim of Miitomo Drop is to strategically drop your Mii so they land on an item of clothing or an accessory, which you then get to keep. This is great if you can't afford to buy it in the Shop, but it isn't as easy as it sounds.

There are many obstacles on the way down, all of which knock your Mii off its course. From pinball bumpers, to spinning platforms, your Mii will get shoved around by everything, making it incredibly difficult to land on anything. Even if you are then lucky enough to land on an item, your Mii has to stay touching it for three seconds for it to count as a win – something I found incredibly frustrating. There’s nothing worse than getting close to winning a cute cat t-shirt and then falling off of it after 2.5 seconds.

If you don't manage to win anything, you'll receive a consolation prize of sorts once you get to the bottom: three sweets. These sweets can be given to a friend's Mii in exchange for an unread question answer when you've hit the daily limit. Nothing too exciting.

Miitomo Drop is the most disappointing part of Miitomo. 500 coins seems to steep for just one go, especially as coins aren't too easy to earn unless you want to pay real money for them. The three-second rule is also annoying: it feels like forever when you're waiting in anticipation to see if you've won something.
Miitomo loading screens and My Nintendo missions

As I wasn't able to link my Nintendo Network ID to the Japanese version of Miitomo, I unfortunately wasn't able to complete any My Nintendo missions. I don't know too much about them, but I do know that you receive Platinum Points upon completing them, which can be exchanged in My Nintendo for digital content such as desktop wallpapers, games and DLC.

Something else I haven't used much is Miitomo's ‘power saving mode’, which isn't great. The app eats up your battery like nothing else, and this mode really doesn't do much to conserve it. If your phone is close to dying you may want to give it a go, but it really doesn't make much of a difference.
If you leave the Miitomo app without exiting it via the menu, it will load the place you were last at when you open it again. But it does take a couple of seconds, leaving you with a cute loading screen, where both your Mii and your friend's Mii's share various game tips with you.

Spending time with my Mii

Miitomo is an incredibly pleasurable experience. It's cute, light-hearted, and is something I don't mind checking into every day to waste a few minutes of time with.

But although this is supposed to be some form of social app, I think I'll be sticking to Twitter and Messenger when it comes to talking to my friends. I will definitely be downloading the correct version when it's available in the UK though, so make sure to find me on there if you want to read some of my ridiculous answers.

[The * in the title means I've used this piece in my assessment for university, but it doesn't affect my overall view!]

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