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What is Miitomo? Nintendo's first smartphone app explained - hands on review and release date

Katharine Byrne
29 Mar 2016
Miitomo
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We go hands on with Miitomo, Nintendo's very first smartphone app, to find out what it's all about

When Nintendo first announced it was going to be making smartphone apps last March, almost everyone assumed that Mario and co would be the first set of characters making the move to mobile. However, Nintendo's first app, Miitomo, which is due to hit UK smartphones on the 31st March, actually has more in common with its bizarre, 3DS life-sim Tomodachi Life than the adventures of the Mushroom Kingdom.

It's the first of five smartphone apps Nintendo's planning to launch between now and March 2017, and this light social-sim is all about answering fun, random questions to find out more about your closest friends. 

Nintendo Miitomo introduction screenshot

Anyone who's played Tomodachi Life will be instantly familiar with the setup, as you start by creating your very own Mii character, whose voice, appearance and personality you can tinker with to create your very own app avatar. You can also use an existing Mii from your 3DS or Wii U using a QR code from your respective device, or use its super-fast face-capture recognition software to automatically generate a new one based on your own features.

Of course, without having any friends to share your answers with, or show off your latest Mii outfits to, Miitomo probably won't have much appeal. Fortunately, Nintendo's made it very easy to add friends from your existing social networks, and it's also included some safeguards to make sure you're not befriending total strangers.

Nintendo Miitomo home screenshot

^ The main home screen gives you a glimpse into your Mii's apartment, but a menu bar along the bottom of the screen lets you access all your recent answers, friends, the Miitomo shop and the main menu settings

On Facebook, for instance, you'll be shown a preview of their profile picture and their real name, while on Twitter you'll both need to be following each other before you can add them to your friends list. Alternatively, you can add people who are standing right next to you. All you need to do is pair your phones by pressing matching symbols on the screen, and they'll automatically be added to your ever-growing list.

Miitomo isn't simply a condensed version of Tomodachi Life, however, as Nintendo's added over 9,000 different trigger animations to its various dialogue options to give your Miis a lot more character. If your character talks about money, for instance, a shower of coins will suddenly rain down from on high, while talking about a nightmare might make them shiver with fear. Likewise, you can like and comment on your friends' answers with your own responses to create a thread of responses. Doing so will earn you Mii coins to spend on more clothes and accessories.

Nintendo Miitomo Shop screenshot

^ The Miitomo Shop has new stock every day, giving you plenty of choice when it comes to personalising your Mii's wardrobe

The app itself is completely free, but in-app purchases will be available to let you buy more Mii coins. However, Nintendo was keen to stress that you don't need to spend any money in order to get the full Miitomo experience, with will come as welcome news to anxious parents.

You also don't have to answer every question your Mii throws at you. Likewise, your answers are only shared with your friends, so you needn't worry about sharing your deepest secrets with the internet at large. However, you can still share individual answers to your own social networks, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, email (or iMessage if you're using an iOS device), as the app will generate a sharable image which you can post.

Nintendo Miitomo Drop screenshot

^ Miitomo Drop is a fun little mini-game, but you'll need to have enough coins to keep playing multiple rounds

If you're wondering where the 'game' element is in Miitomo, then you'll find it in Miitomo Drop. This pachinko/pinball-style mini-game sees you drop one of your friends' Miis down a table of bumpers and pins in the hope of landing on a special prize item. You'll need to spend coins or game tickets to play, though, so don't go blowing all your cash on fancy dinosaur outfits or a new pair of heels.

There's also Mii Foto, which gives you free reign to create wacky snaps of your Mii characters in real-life settings from your phone's camera roll or on pre-rendered backgrounds. It's essentially an enhanced version of Tomodachi Life's Photo Gallery, as Miis can now be resized and rotated in hundreds of different poses using your phone's touchscreen, and you can add all manner of stamps and speech bubbles to give your pictures a little bit of flavour. On our preview unit, the iPod Touch's tiny screen did make it a little difficult at times to resize certain objects, but otherwise its touch-interface is very intuitive and well designed.

Nintendo Miitomo Mii Foto screenshot

^ Mii Foto is great fun and works brilliantly on a touchscreen provided it's not too small

What's more, all pictures are saved and stored on Nintendo's servers, so you can create as many as you like without taking up any space on your phone. You can still save and download local copies, though, especially if you want to share them with your preferred social networks at a later date.

Miitomo will also debut alongside Nintendo's brand-new My Nintendo reward scheme. You can only pre-register for a My Nintendo account right now, but once you've linked this to Miitomo, you can start earning special platinum points which can then be used across all sorts of different Nintendo products.

Nintendo Miitomo question screenshot

^ If your Mii is thinking about one of your friends, you can listen to one of their answers and then like or comment on it with your own take

In Miitomo, this will include special costumes, such as a limited edition Mario costume, but you'll also be spend your points on other rewards via the My Nintendo website, which will be going live sometime in the early afternoon on the 31st. Platinum points will be earned by interacting with Nintendo apps and services, but you'll also be able to accumulate gold points by purchasing downloadable games from the official Nintendo website or the Nintendo eShop on the Wii U or 3DS. Both gold and platinum points can then be used to get rewards like games, downloadable content, in-app items or eShop discounts. 

What's more, if you sign up for a My Nintendo account before the end of April, you'll also be able to download Flipnote Studio 3D to your 3DS for free. To do this, you'll need to link your My Nintendo account with your 3DS's Nintendo Network ID and access the download option on Nintendo's official Flipnote Studio 3D's home page between the 31st March and the 30th April. 

Of course, if Tomodachi Life wasn't quite your cup of tea, then Miitomo probably isn't going to change your mind, as its entire central premise of the app is pretty much based solely around its question and answer shtick. However, it's definitely a promising start from Nintendo's app development team and the game's fun, quirky sense of humour is well worth a download when there's no price of entry. If anything, it's better seen as a gateway into what Tomodachi Life has to offer than anything else, and its focus on sharing silly photos with your friends is arguably a much better fit for mobile than it ever was on the 3DS.

Whether the rest of Nintendo's planned smartphone apps will follow this kind of taster template remains to be seen, but if they're anywhere near the same kind of quality as Miitomo, then they'll definitely be worth looking out for when they launch later this year. To see Miitomo in action, watch the launch trailer below: