Virtually connecting with familiar faces.
In the Summer of 2017, I was preparing for the biggest change I had seen at that point in my life. I was getting ready to move to the other end of the country for six months, to do something I’d never done before. For the first time, I was truly alone. Or so I had thought because I quickly realized I wasn’t really by myself on this adventure. My friends were still with me. Not in person, of course, but in my 3DS. In Miitopia.
Some context: earlier that year, I had, completely on a whim, applied for an internship that would take me out of New York and to sunny Florida. Why? I’m still not entirely clear on that, but I chalk it up to a really bad day. Whatever the reasoning, I sent in my application, and the rest, as they, say, is history. The next few weeks were a whirlwind of interviews, more applications, and paperwork. Next thing I knew, I was set to move to Florida later that year, in August, to be exact.
That summer, I was living with some friends to work at my school. Of course, I had brought my 3DS with me (I couldn’t afford a Switch at the time). One day, while browsing through the eShop, I stumbled upon a game I had remembered hearing about: Miitopia. As a fan of both RPGs and Miis, it was a game that had been on my radar for a while now. So, I did what any reasonable college kid would do and spent the $40.
See, ever since I bought my Wii in 2006, I had this strange fascination with Miis. Whether it be bowling with virtual recreations of family members in Wii Sports, or fighting in Super Smash Bros. as Carly Rae Jepsen (who is a sword fighter, of course), Miis were always a constant source of joy for me. Perhaps that’s why I gravitated so closely to Miitopia. Plus, I think the prospect of fighting alongside my friends was too good to pass up. It’s an objective truth that adding your friends to any games you play makes it exponentially better. Just look at The Sims and Oregon Trail.
Right from the get-go, I knew I was in for a treat. It started when I met my first party member, based on a friend who happened to be visiting. Since they were with me at the time, I asked what class they wanted to be. I made them a pop star. As I progressed throughout my journey, I soon came upon two other party members, a mage and a cleric, based on friends who I recently took a trip to Washington, DC with. We bravely ventured forth, until we were stopped right in our tracks.
See, once you beat the first world of Miitopia, the game flips the switch on you. By this point, you’ve gotten used to the loop: fight until you find an inn. However, after reaching the first inn of the second world, Miitopia’s main antagonist (who is also based a Mii of your choosing), literally swoops in and steals your party members right in front of you.
Now what? Do I just continue alone?
Heck no, this is Miitopia, after all. So of course, I ran into another group of eager-to-fight Miis, this time based on my three summer roommates. And when they were taken, I teamed up with another three friends. The more I played, and the more I fought with my friends, the more connected to this little game I became.
I should mention that by this point, I was already out of New York and living in Florida. Sure, as smooth as the transition turned out to be, it still had its rough moments, as any major life change is bound to have. I quickly became acclimated with my new life, but whenever the homesickness really crept in, Miitopia was always there.
You may look at my description of Miitopia and figure that having my friends as the avatars is what made this experience so special. You’d be right in a sense, but that also misses a lot of the story. Creating a character in Miitopia is more than just changing their appearance.
It’s also about choosing their class and, most importantly, personality. A stubborn Mii may decide they don’t want to get hurt and will defend themselves, for example. As you can’t control your party members directly (you only have control over your main hero), these personality quirks determine how they act in battle.
Through this, I was able to truly create the best representations of my friends that I could. One of my roommates from that summer absolutely loves the color yellow, so of course I made that her signature color in-game. One of my other friends, who is currently on their way to earning a PhD, is a scientist. It’s almost shocking how strong of a picture you can paint with so little input.
I won’t lie and say I didn’t get a little emotional seeing my party out working together. You see, the battles of Miitopia are little more than an afterthought, really. Where Miitopia truly shines is the interactions and relationships between the characters. Even while walking through a given map (which you don’t control, either), your characters will pop in with some words of wisdom. Granted, none of these statements were generally enlightening, and the characters barely interacted with each other, but it still gave a sense that these were friends on a journey together.
And that’s the key to Miitopia. Relationships between characters can grow in any number of ways, from healing a fellow party member to simply bunking together in the inn. Building relationships also give you access to stronger abilities in battle. Not to steal a line from Kingdom Hearts, but in Miitopia, your friends are your power.
Sometimes I truly felt lonely in my new home. But when that happened, I could turn on my 3DS, go into Miitopia, and fight a few rounds of bad guys with my pals. Together, we journeyed through distant lands and fought monsters of all kinds. And when these friends were taken from me? Well, there were even more friends who were waiting to join the fight.
But there eventually came a point where I couldn’t let the Dark Lord take any more of my friends. And so I rescued each of them, one by one. Soon, all of my friends, every single companion I had encountered on my adventure, were by my side. And this is when Miitopia truly cemented itself as a game I’ll always remember.