Nintendo's first game for iOS and Android doesn't star Zelda, Mario or any of the company's iconic characters. Rather it's you, or at least your Mii, who takes the spotlight in this hybrid video game and social network.
Miitomo is a condensed version of the 2014 3DS game Tomodachi Life. You'll use the surprisingly flexible Mii creator to make an avatar, who is promptly given an apartment and kicked out into the world to make new friends.
When you first boot up the app, it will offer to create your Mii for you using a selfie as a reference. Or you can create yourself from the ground up with custom options. I went for the custom option. Unfortunately, I found that the software had trouble replicating my hefty beard.
Next up, you develop your Mii's personality traits and select an appropriate tone of synthesized voice. That last one is particularly important, as you'll be hearing your Mii talk a lot. The game sometimes had trouble translating between English and Japanese vocalisations, but that'll be less of an issue when Miitomo comes out in the US, UK and Australia. The Japanese app already comes with eight languages, including English, so hopefully that means that an English-language release isn't too far off.
After creation, your Mii is let out into the world to socialise with your friends, which Miitomo finds by linking up with your Facebook and Twitter accounts. Other Miis will occasionally drop by to your apartment to chat "in person".
Conversation and socialising are where the real fun lies in Miitomo. Your Mii will ask you questions and make your answers available for your friends to see. They in turn have their own questions to answer, which you can see -- and "heart" if you feel so inclined.
These small interactions give a regular update into your friends' lives, while showing you a side of them that you may not usually see. You and your friends' answers are emoted with typical Nintendo charm, and with the help of vocalisation. Answering questions may sound like a chore on paper, but the questions posed by Miitomo itself are sometimes too thought-provoking and silly to resist.
Free games that give you the option to purchase in-game currency often ring alarm bells, but the app is fairly generous in doling out cash as long as you're prepared to answer or listen to a daily number of answers. On top of that, adding friends from your social networks earns stacks of coins. These in-game coins can be used to buy all manner of clothing and accessories with which to customise your Mii. Don't worry if you don't like the fashion options on display -- the game's store regularly rotates its stock.
You are also occasionally given a free game ticket to use on the app's minigames, which can net you some unique customisation options. There's not much to these minigames, though. At present they're no more than simplified marble-drop, Peggle-esque affairs.
Miitomo isn't attached to any of your beloved Nintendo characters, and that may be a disappointment to some. But the game still looks to be a great start for Nintendo's venture into mobile gaming, and it might even bring you and your friends closer together. Playing Miitomo, I sometimes felt like my Mii was more socially active than I was -- Nintendo is definitely on to something here.