When Nintendo announced last year they would be developing mobile apps and games, I was considerably more optimistic about the idea of Nintendo on iOS and Android than others seemed to be. I understood the concern, as mobile apps are known to lack a certain integrity and fire that console and PC games have. I also understood the fear of in-game purchases, another problem that a lot of popular mobile games have. But we didn’t have to wait long before Nintendo released its first app, Miitomo. I’ve had a chance to play through it and I’ve got to say, there are a number of things about it that frustrated me, confused me, or just made me downright uncomfortable. Here’s five things I hate about Miitomo.
1: Making your Mii
On Wii U, there are two ways to create Miis: You can either make one from scratch or take a picture of yourself with the GamePad and let the camera scan your face to make a Mii that looks as little like you as possible. The facial recognition of the Wii U camera is absolutely awful, so when I learned that Miitomo also utilizes a similar feature, I was curious to see if Nintendo had improved on it.
Right off the bat I noticed a difference in the facial recognition interface that sort of made me nervous. Before taking the picture, you are first prompted to select your hairstyle and hair color. Personally, I took this as Nintendo’s way of telling me, “Hey man, we haven’t really gotten the whole hair thing down yet, but we can do everything else! We just need you to do the hair for us, and we can take care of the rest.” So I figured OK, at least they’re openly admitting they can’t get the hair right. So I got my hair perfect and proceeded to the next step of taking my picture. I started lining my face up with my phone — making sure to get my good side — when all of a sudden BOOM!, an unfamiliar looking Mii smacked right into my screen with a thud. Now, I’m man enough to admit that this startled me, but it didn’t stop there. More and more Miis continued to flood my screen, each one looking more and more different. I soon realized that these were the Miis the app was suggesting based on snapshots of my face. They were all different sizes, shapes, and races. Here’s the kicker: none of them shared the same hairstyle or even the same hair color as me. “Excuse me?!” What was the point of picking out my hairstyle back in step one? And that was when the last Mii hit the screen, looking bitterly disappointed. At least they got that right.
2: Your Mii’s voice
Oh, cool! In Miitomo, you can give your Mii a voice, rather than have them either be silent or spit Pikmin-like gibberish. What a time to be alive! However, there’s a catch: No matter what settings you choose for your Mii’s voice, they’re all going to sound like GLaDOS (from Portal) and a Speak & Spell had a terrifying child who hates you. Giving Miis a voice (as first seen in Tomodachi Life) is certainly a step in the right direction, provided we as a country invest in resources to prevent the eventual Mii uprising, but for now I think I’m going to turn off this feature.
There are plenty of games that have used voice customization effectively, usually through a selection of different voice actors and voice types such as Saint’s Row, Freedom Wars, and the NBA Street series. And with all the advances that have been made in the way of synthetic vocal technology, like Vocaloid and AI tech in Apple and Microsoft devices, I think a more immersive voice customization feature in Miitomo is certainly feasible. I understand the route Nintendo took for the voice setup in this app is probably much more cost effective, but Miis at their core are supposed to be caricatures of their respective players. An effective voice customization option would make our Miis that much more special. Until then, my irrational fear of Miis will continue to flourish.
3: Miitomo and social media
In an app where the majority of the appeal lies in interacting with your friends, I would have liked to have seen Miitomo take a different approach to adding friends. As it stands right now, there are two ways to add friends: You can either link Miitomo to your Twitter and/or Facebook account, or you can add someone near you by connecting face-to-face — sort of like how local battling and trading works in the Pokémon series or how Download Play works with 3DS games. Rather than being forced into making a Twitter or Facebook account, I would have liked an option to search for friends by name, or even a way to connect to my contact list on my phone and add friends that way. A way to see a list of my friends and add more people through those lists would have been a welcomed feature as well. Miitomo makes it hard to add friends, which I feel really diminishes the primary appeal of this app.
4: I don’t want to wear fruit, Nintendo!
This one is just … weird. Miitomo has a little mini-game called Miitomo Drop where you drop your Mii into a Pachinko machine for a chance to win rewards based on where your Mii lands. The prizes, however, are bizarre to say the least; they’re usually centered around a theme — Gothic-inspired clothing, for example — and some of the themes are really cool (particularly the ninja one), but for some reason most of the themes are centered around the idea of wearing food as clothing. There’s a pineapple suit, a strawberry sweater, cherry headphones, pancake dresses, and so on. These sets are meant to be special rare prizes exclusive to Miitomo Drop, which I suppose is why they’re so wacky. They may have went a little crazy with the food idea, however. I would like to see more Miitomo Drop themes like the ninja set — maybe a robot theme or even themes based on Nintendo franchises like Zelda and Metroid. I’d love to have more Nintendo related garb to go with my Mario hat! I would also like a way to send clothing to my friends as gifts, so I can guilt them into wearing pineapple hats.
5: Something’s missing
After exploring just about every nook and cranny of Miitomo, I found myself feeling the same way about it as I did with Miiverse. Something seems to be missing, and I think I know now what both of these apps need for me to consider them worth downloading and utilizing: each other. Miiverse and Miitomo would work great together. With a connection between the apps, we could have the social and personal aspects of Miitomo combined with the expressive and game-oriented platform of Miiverse. Separately they both feel a little hollow, but together I think that they’d make a fantastic app that enhances the overall Nintendo experience.
Personally, Miitomo just isn’t for me. There are some great things about it, however. The personality questions, the candy collecting, and the general Mii quirkiness are all things I love about it, but it’s just not enough to keep me coming back and picking up my daily rewards. But don’t take my word for it! If you’re one of the few that hasn’t downloaded Miitomo, try it out for yourself. It’s free, after all.