Thursday, November 10, 2011

Why I love Miis

It isn’t my intention to turn this blog into a general observation about everything, but with the end of the Nintendo Wii looming on the horizon, set to make way for the grand arrival of its successor, the Wii U, I thought I might as well take note of one of my favourite aspects introduced by the Wii.

These are Miis. By now, you should be well aware of what one is. They are, effectively, an avatar of yourself (or someone else, should you be so inclined), and at a base level, they make for an easy way to identify a player. When you’re starting up a save file for a new game, you assign your Mii to its profile, and boom, everyone knows whose file it is.

Beyond that, however, the Miis have had various other roles. At times, in a playable capacity, giving the player an on-screen self-representation to follow. Other times, the Miis litter themselves throughout a gaming experience, background players who are interchangeable.

And it is this latter aspect that I love so dearly. It’s an odd fascination that I have, but if you bear with me for a moment, I’ll impart a few reasons that, hopefully, might make you feel the same. At least, a little bit.

First of all, one of the major things you’ll do when you’re making your Miis is to recreate a few of your closest friends. Whether they take charge of forming their own likeness, or you painstakingly construct your friends yourself, you’ll have the same end result; an army of Miis who at least vaguely resemble your friends and family.

The most immediate use of the Miis is, obviously, as a player avatar; you play a game as yourself. This is most apparent in the ‘Wii’ series of games (Wii Sports, Wii Play, Wii Fit, etc.), since the series was meant as a way of introducing gamers to the functions of the Wii remote.

What the Wii series does, however, is quite forgettable in most eyes, but novel in mine. It will randomly assign other Miis to non-playable roles. In Wii Fit’s soccer game, the other Miis will kick soccer balls towards you. In Wii Music, your Miis will dot the audience, watching and applauding your performance.

At a base level, this probably won’t make much difference. However, it’s because you’ve assigned each of these Miis a real-life persona, that their presence is welcoming, at times, even hilarious.

Take the tightrope-walking game in Wii Fit, for example. You’re tasked with walking from one building to another, calmly stepping forward while keeping your balance. Miis will populate various windows, and a couple will be waiting on the roof at your destination, cheering you on. These aren’t just random characters like Mario or Donkey Kong, these are your friends! And they’re there to lend their support!

One of the games that best implements Miis is Mario Kart Wii. First off, Miis are playable, and their weight class is influenced by how tall and heavy you made your Mii. Each Mii is even assigned their own voice, and although each weight class/gender combination only has about three different possibilities, the fact that two similar Miis can sound different is a nice touch.

Then, you’ll notice that the Miis will appear throughout the game, in various capacities. A large Mario statue will suddenly have the head of your friend from school. Your cousin will feature on a poster in a shopping mall and, quite amusingly, your father-in-law could be driving his car aimlessly back and forth, threatening to block your path and ruin your race.

Just earlier today, I giggled with amusement as a bust of Luigi and Daisy had transformed into Eben, a friend from theatre, and Tara, a friend I had met in New York. These two have never met each other, but the Miis will so casually be assigned that any combination is credible and acceptable.

You might never understand my fascination with the random, pointless appearances that my friends and family make in the games I’m playing, but I for one applaud Miis, and I was happy to see their continued use on the 3DS and the Wii U.

The Miis proved so popular, that shortly afterwards, Microsoft introduced avatars for the Xbox 360; complete with heavily customizable costumes and animations. And though it’s nifty to watch my Xbox avatar chase after Hornswoggle or operate a flying vehicle from Halo, the Miis are still the ones who catch my fancy. There’s just something about having a character identified as you, who in theory at least vaguely resembles you, in there, battling, racing, leaping and questing like Nintendo’s greatest heroes.

I hope that the Miis will continue to be a presence in Nintendo’s future endeavours, in all-new capacities. I would love for Miis to be customizable fighters in the upcoming Smash Bros games, with similar functions to Sonic Battle’s Emerl; choose your own statistics and techniques, with each assigned a number of ‘stars’ based on their use, and a cap to the maximum number of overall stars.

I’d be ecstatic for more personalized statistics to be tallied like with the 360’s avatars: for you to be able to select a Mii, and see their KO totals on Smash Bros, their fastest times in Mario Kart, their completion status on Zelda, that sort of thing.

But hey, I’d even be happy just for things to continue as they are; for my Tony King Mii to fulfill a challenge, with a team including my fiancée, my best friend, and a random guy I went to uni with, there by my side.

Because like I said, Miis don’t play favourites. Although I have noticed a disturbing trend in my father-in-law turning up in my games...