This Week in Games - Miitopia

by Dustin Bailey,
The New Nintendo 2DS XL—a name which remains a downright upsetting configuration of bizarre branding—released in North America this past Friday, and while there's still life in the 3DS line it seems very likely that this console will mark its final revision. There's also a real possibility that this will be Nintendo's last dedicated handheld, with the hybrid Switch offering enough early success to make the company's proposed single platform future a reality.

Nintendo's portables have outdone their console brethren by leaps and bounds, and it's proven close to impossible for any rival to compete with them in that market. Sega's attempts were scarcely a ripple in the ocean of Game Boy sales, and Sony's PSP—a successful platform by any metric except for its easily pirated software—ultimately couldn't catch up with the success of the much weaker, weirder DS.

The fact that the 3DS has been as successful as it has—mired in gimmicky display technology, visually outclassed by the Vita, and released amid the worldwide explosion of smartphones and mobile gaming—speaks to Nintendo's monolithic position in the handheld market. It's almost like they'll make money despite themselves. Remember the “disastrous” price cut that accompanied the 3DS a few months after its release, something so terrible Iwata took a personal pay cut and every owner of the platform got 20 free games? Despite all that, we're look at the 3DS as a success all these years later, both for Nintendo and as a home to all sorts of wild and wonderful games.

First Impressions: Miitopia

Miitopia is an RPG that you barely play. What its systems offer is slim: a little bit of character customization, and a vague guiding hand in your party's development. It feels like a slightly expanded version of a StreetPass game than a full retail product—which it certainly is, at a full $40. I know that's all true, but every time I sit down to play it I can't stop. It's so full of charm and joy that I want to linger in it, and even as the same battles repeat again and again I'm compelled to keep revisiting them.

Like the title implies, Miitopia is a Mii-focused experience. Custom-built Miis play the role of every single character in the game, from your main character to the villain at the end of the quest, all the way down to the lowliest villagers and shopkeepers. You can either make them yourself—a ridiculous, time-consuming process—or let the fate of your story rest in the bonkers hands of Nintendo's Mii sorting algorithms, which will pull down Miis made by other players to fill each new role. The magic that sorts out those roles is hazy, but it's repeatedly provided casting choices that are inspired by virtue of their sheer absurdity.

My earliest quests involved rescuing a baby Iron Man from the clutches of Dio at the behest of a mayor portrayed by Carlton from the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Now I'm helping King Robotnik and his daughter, Princess Tracer, settle some disputed matters of betrothment. The random pull of random characters from the ether keeps everything feeling like a fever-dream of bad fanfiction, right down to the self-inserts of random people including their own likenesses. The dialog accompanying every role is enthusiastically earnest and goofy, and it's the straightforward comedy that keeps these deep ventures into absurdity fun and fast-paced.

The one set of characters you'll probably want to customize yourself is your party, made up of four folks at any given time. You can assign any class you want to each of them, and the options range from traditional warriors and mages to more esoteric selections like pop stars, but most of their eventual development happens by chance. Getting new gear means doling out an allowance to your party and seeing what they return with, and stat development means feeding them random food drops—the effectiveness of which is determined by each character's tastes. You might have a mage that hates the flavor of everything that raises their MP. That's life, I guess.

In battle, the only character you have direct control over is yourself. Everybody else acts on their own, according to their existing personality traits and relationships to each other. The way you influence this is by deciding who rooms with who in the inn that follows every bit of exploration, shifting them around so that everybody gets to be friends and nobody starts getting jealous of one another. In a more fully-featured RPG, a system this hands-off would be infuriating, but given how simple and easy the battles are in Miitopia it's the randomized interactions that make them interesting, like watching a kind adventurer continually have to warn her absent-minded companion about incoming attacks.

This stuff works because Miitopia isn't really an RPG—it's much more like a Tomodachi Life follow-up, albeit one with a far more concrete set of gameplay goals. It's about defining the personalities of your characters and watching them bounce off each other in incredibly goofy ways, and the fact that here those interactions are taking place among HP and mana bars are pretty tangential.

How long that sheer goofball charm can keep up is another question, since there will certainly come a point where you've seen most of the potential actions and the remainder of the game becomes a quest to grind it out to the end. But I haven't hit that point yet. So far, the goofball enthusiasm has remained infectious, and if you enjoy this sort of sandbox personality simulator—as rare a genre as that might be—it's worth taking a look.

NEWS

DON'T WORRY, MORE PERSONA SPIN-OFFS ARE ON THE WAY

I really, really wish I had the time to devote to finishing Persona 5. I feel like I've barely played it at all—which is an absurd thing to say, since I'm twenty hours deep—but every time I think I might have a weekend free to do those social links and explore another dungeon, something comes up. Not being able to squeeze in the remaining 3000 hours is going to be a real shame if it means I'll have to miss out on all this hot dancing action.

Atlus has announced a pair of new Persona dancing spin-offs—Persona 3: Dancing Moon Night and Persona 5: Dancing Star Night, which take the characters of the respective originals and give them an insatiable need to rock their bodies to the rhythm. (Maybe Joker will finally loosen up.) The lead staff of Persona 4: Dancing All Night are also working on the new games, so they should prove worth spin-offs.

If you, RPG fan, are more hungry for games featuring stats and dungeon exploration, there's still more good news. Persona Q2 will be coming to 3DS—another bit of continued life for the platform—and based on the first teaser image it looks to feature the P5 cast. The previous Persona Q combined previous casts and the map-focused gameplay of the Etrian Odyssey series, and the thought of that deep exploration combined with P5's impeccable style is pretty exciting. You know, if I can actually finish the game it's spun off from first.

DRAGON QUEST XI FINALLY ANNOUNCED FOR WESTERN RELEASE

Let me walk you through a part of the “This Week in Games” writing process that has been inescapable every single week for months on end. I see another new announcement regarding Dragon Quest XI. I wonder if it's worth including in the column. I wonder if Square Enix has ever gotten around to officially announcing the game's Western release. I realize they haven't, I decide to wait for that announcement before covering it, and I repeat that process again the next week.

Thankfully, my personal nightmare is over—Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age has been announced for Western release sometime next year. The Japanese version released just this week, so we'll have plenty of time to agonize over foreign gameplay videos and screenshots in anticipation. It's like 1997 all over again.

DQ11 is out on both PS4 and 3DS right now, with a Switch version on the way at some indefinite point in the future. Only the PS4 game has been officially announced for the West, but it would be surprising if any of the three didn't make it over, especially as Squeenix has been pushing for the series over here with the release of spinoffs like Dragon Quest Heroes and Builders.

THERE WILL BE LOTS OF NEW SENRAN KAGURA GAMES TO INTRODUCE TO YOUR LIFE AND HOMETOWN

At this point, I've played a lot of boob games. Most of them range from mediocre to very bad. The only one that even slightly edges past that low bar of quality is Senran Kagura, buoyed by a colorful cast of busty ninja girls. Some article I saw on Twitter the other day told me that boobs are back in fashion, so I guess it's appropriate that a whole slew of new Senran Kagura games are on the way.

The PS4 will get Senran Kagura 7EVEN: Girls' Happiness, and I'm not sure exactly how you're supposed to do the math to make this the 7th entry in the series. I assume it's the next major sequel, but little's been announced beyond the title. The content of Senran Kagura Burst Re:Newal is a little more concrete, as it's a full remake of the original 3DS game in HD.

But the real action is coming to the Switch in the form of Peach Ball: Senran Kagura, which is—of all things—a pinball game. I like goofy, video game renditions of pinball a lot, so I'm offering this one a hearty “sure, why not.” I was about to make a joke about how a boob will likely serve as the ball, but then I started thinking about an actual ball of flesh careening around a pinball table and squishing into bumpers and started to feel very uncomfortable. There's surely a Senran Kagura on the way that will make you feel uncomfortable, too.

UPCOMING RELEASES

HELLBLADE: SENUA'S SACRIFICE
Developer: Ninja Theory
Publisher: Ninja Theory
Platform: PlayStation 4 / PC
Release Date: August 8
MSRP: $29.99

It feels like after its announcement years ago, Hellblade dropped from the face of the Earth. If you remember it at all, it's because of its strange promise to offer nuanced look at mental illness through the lens of a viking-themed action game about a descent to Hell. Ninja Theory has made lots of good stuff, but there are lots of warning signs here, from a lack of publicity to a budget price, that are going to ensure you should have only the most cautious of optimism.

MEGA MAN LEGACY COLLECTION 2
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Platform: PlayStation 4 / Xbox One / PC
Release Date: August 8
MSRP: $19.99

With the NES games forming the core of most Mega Man nostalgia, this second Legacy Collection is a weird one. It finishes collecting the numbered entries in the main series, which is a distinction seemingly devoid of meaning, having now flipped between lavish 16 and 32-bit platformers to ultra-tough 8-bit throwbacks. Unlike the previous collection, this one isn't being developed by the emulation wizards at Digital Eclipse, so the final quality is much more of a question mark.

ALSO AVAILABLE:
The artist formerly known as Cliffy B has a new, gravity-defying arena shooter called Lawbreakers on the way, and based on a little beta time ages ago it could be alright. Plenty of time has passed since then, though.


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