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Editor’s Note: This entry is outlined as an #event report on Nintendo’s announcement of the upcoming release of Tomodachi Life and initial online reactions from the fans.
Tomodachi Life is a life simulation video game for the Nintendo 3DS handheld console which takes place on the virtual Chin island inhabited by Nintendo Mii digital avatars. The game gained interest on the English-speaking web after Nintendo announced a North American release in April 2014.
Players in Tomodachi Life control a digital avatar known as a "Mii"http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/sites/miiverse, which can be imported from other devices, created from scratch or made using a photo taken with the 3DS camera. Similar to other life-simulation games like The Sims and Animal Crossing, the player can make friends, feed, dress and instruct the character to perform a variety of activities and have it interact with other Miis living on Chin island.
On June 18th, 2009, the Nintendo DS life simulation game Tomodachi Collection was released in Japan, in which the player performs everyday tasks to take care of the basic needs of their digital avatar character (shown below, left). On April 18th, 2013, the sequel Tomodachi Life was released for the Nintendo 3DS in Japan (shown below, right). The game was released in North America and Europe on June 6th, 2014.
Upon the release of Tomodachi Collection in June 2009, the game became the best-selling title of the week in Japan, with over 102,000 unites sold, and by September 2009, it had become the fourth-best selling video game in the first half of the year after selling 1.15 million copies in total. The game’s commercial success in Japan eventually gave rise to the development of the sequel title Tomodach Life.
Nintendo’s release of the sequel title in North America and Europe was mostly met with favorable and curious reviews from video game review sites, holding an aggregate average of 72/100 on Metacritic, a score of 8.4 on IGN and a 7.5 on Polygon. While many reviews highlighted the game’s bizarre take on life-simulation avatar game with a plenty of quirks and charms, some pointed to the somewhat tedious and repeated aspect of avatar interactions and mini-games as potential shortcomings.
Same-Sex Relationship Controversy
On April 26th, 2014, Vimeo user Tye Marini uploaded a video titled “#Miiquality” urging viewers to tell Nintendo to add same-sex relationships to the upcoming international release of the Nintendo 3DS game Tomodachi Life (shown below).
On May 7th, Nintendo responded with a statement to the Associated Press, which defended the exclusion of same-sex relationships in the game:
“Nintendo never intended to make any form of social commentary with the launch of Tomodachi Life. The relationship options in the game represent a playful alternate world rather than a real-life simulation. We hope that all of our fans will see that ‘Tomodachi Life’ was intended to be a whimsical and quirky game, and that we were absolutely not trying to provide social commentary.
The ability for same-sex relationships to occur in the game was not part of the original game that launched in Japan, and that game is made up of the same code that was used to localize it for other regions outside of Japan."
Nintendo maintains an official English-language website for Tomodach Life, where players can download a selection of Amerian celebrity Miis via QR code, and an official Facebook page. In addition, a number of walkthrough guides and supplemental data are available on IGN, GameFAQs and Wikia.
All Hail the Virtual Boy
On April 10th, 2014, Nintendo released a promotional video for the upcoming North American release of Tomodachi Life, which featured a montage of sequences from the game including a group of Mii avatars dancing around the 1995 Virtual Boy table-top video game console (shown below).
On the same day, the /r/allhailthevirtualboy subreddit was launched for discussions regarding Tomodachi Life and the Virtual Boy console. Also on April 10th, the video game news blog Kotaku published a compilation of animated GIFs from the Tomodachi Life promo video, including the “All hail the virtual boy” scene (shown below). On the following day, Redditor ajs880 submitted the GIF to the /r/gaming subreddit, where it gathered over 1,000 up votes and 60 comments in the first week.
On April 11th, a photograph of Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime hunched over a Virtual Boy console with a speech bubble reading “All hail the Virtual Boy” was posted on the official Nintendo Facebook and Twitter pages (shown below). In five days, the posts received upwards of 57,700 likes and 720 retweets.