By Jorge Figueiredo - December 30th, 2014


‎When Skylanders arrived on the scene a few years ago the NFC-enabled toy craze well and truly began. Shortly after, Disney Infinity hit the market, bringing some competition to this emerging genre. Now, Nintendo has thrown its hat into the ring with amiibo. Each of these three lines are slightly different from one another, but they all compete for your hard-earned money in the form of collectible figures. What does amiibo bring to the table?

Each amiibo figure is a well-crafted likeness of the character that it is based on. ‎Fairly durable, these units are nicely finished, and have a little bit of flex, so fear not if you drop one by accident (at least a short way) – it should survive the fall. In the base of each figure is an NFC chip (with memory) that can be accessed via the Wii U’s GamePad. The function of amiibo varies from game to game. In Mario Kart 8, for instance, the Mario amiibo unlocks a costume that can be used with your Mii. In Hyrule Warriors, plopping your Link or Zelda amiibo onto the GamePad unlocks some additional firepower to use in battle. The most fun application so far, though, is when you use amiibo with Super Smash Bros. for Wii U.

When you “pair” your amiibo with Smash Bros., you can utilize it as a non-player character. While that may seem a little weird, it’s actually quite a lot of fun. Not only can you customize this character’s looks and moves (like you can with your Mii), you can also allow it to participate in fights – and it learns from all of its interactions. As you use your amiibo in battle, it gets better by paying attention to all of the fighters present – both human players and CPU stand-ins. This means that your amiibo will gain the effectiveness and timing of the CPU players and the unique strategies of each human player.

“Between a-you and a-me, I-a think she’s-a kinda hot!

I hung out with a friend of mine, and we both played Smash with the Samus amiibo. For the first few rounds, Samus wasn’t all that good – rarely did she manage to hold her own. However, as she started gaining levels, she started to do more damage. By learning how my friend and I played, she actually started to beat even us. Eventually, we started losing more regularly to Samus, which caused us to change our tactics (which Samus started adapting to alarmingly quickly). It is definitely a fun experience, and adds a neat dimension to the game that didn’t really exist before. What’s more, amiibo can be pitted against one another in battle. I can take my Mario amiibo over to my friend’s place and see just how tough he is compared to the now-practically-invunerable Samus, and all the while Mario will be picking up tips.

One of my concerns with amiibo is that only one game’s save data can be stored in each figure at a time. So, if I am using my amiibo for Smash Bros., and I want to save another game’s data on it, I’ll have to delete the Smash information from my amiibo. I’m not sure how this is going to make people feel when they put all kinds of hard work into their amiibo – but since the games themselves have save files, I suspect that game-play will suffer nothing more than a minor inconvenience as you “save” and “load” your information from the game itself to the amiibo. Thankfully, other games that don’t save to the amiibo (like Mario Kart 8 and Hyrule Warriors) do not cause any issues, as they merely read from the figure (rather than write to them).

Sadly, the Wii Fit Trainer doesn’t like Mario as much as he likes her – and she departs in style.

Nintendo has announced that amiibo will work with the 3DS one day; also, they have indicated that a number of games (that are either currently out or coming soon) will support amiibo. I’m interested to see what these games will do with this interesting technology. What’s nice is that while some amiibo are compatible with multiple games, none of them are required to actually finish any of the games. Sure, they provide some extra value-added content and functionality; but you won’t have to worry about being cut off from any main functionality.

The retail price of an amiibo figure is around $13, so they are not really cheap given what they currently do. Nintendo normally holds something up its sleeve, so while the value of these may not currently be apparent, I would think that Nintendo will reveal a lot more very soon – probably enough to justify people buying more than just a few. Hilariously enough, the current demand for certain figures has caused something of a shortage. I guess people don’t really need to know everything that they do to collect them.

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