Where does the line between toy and game lie? You get the sense that with Nintendo it's never mattered too much, as evidenced by the chunky playfulness of its hardware - the DS was built to withstand a tumble from a child's bicycle basket - as well as the exuberance of its software. When you're revelling in the joyous arc of one of Mario Kart 8's drifts, or in the tactile bound of Mario himself, the line is gleefully blurred.
In Tomodachi Life, the 3DS life simulator making a belated outing in the west after a couple of successful series releases in Japan, that line comes more sharply into focus. It's an odd game - quite aggressively so - yet its excessive eccentricity isn't really enough to excuse how little room it leaves the player, and how boring it all quickly becomes.
The oddness shouldn't come as much of a surprise, since Tomodachi Life has emerged from Nintendo's SPD Group 1, the team behind the anarchic WarioWare series and a studio that stars Metroid creator Yoshio Sakimoto. The lack of interactivity, though, should. WarioWare's always been about deconstructing what it is to be a game, while Tomodachi Life goes out of its way to avoid every really becoming one.
HBO's Last Week Tonight takes aim at Nintendo, bigotry.
Nintendo was recently under fire when it dismissively brushed aside criticisms that Tomodachi Life doesn't allow same-sex relationships. The Kyoto-based company later apologised for its initial response, but that hasn't stopped comedian and Community co-star John Oliver from envisioning a Nintendo multiverse where iconic characters can pursue gay relationships.
After two weeks with Nintendo's new life sim, is it any clearer what exactly it is?
Dirty realist Raymond Carver is working the afternoon shift at the hat-shop, though his sullen demeanour suggests he's none-too-pleased about it, while two-time F1 champion Fernando Alonso has been kicked out of bed by Princess Zelda and the perma-tanned Cary Grant has just asked me if he can have lasagne for tea. Tomodachi Life, the simulation title that made its western debut in such spectacular style a couple of weeks back, defies easy definition, but it's a game full of steady, often irregular surprises.
"I was like regular coffee but you made my life creamy."
"I was like a regular coffee but you made my life creamy," Zelda creator Eiji Aonuma tells Princess Z, sharing his true feelings as they sit opposite each other in a cafe. "Please go out with me." But he's unaware that behind him sits Nintendo's Shigeru Miyamoto, dressed as Link.
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