Following on from the successes of Skylanders and Disney Infinity, amiibo is the name for the latest product range to capitalise on the fact that children love toys as well as video games. What makes amiibo stand out is just how powerfully the system works across multiple games and platforms. The toys interact in fun and innovative ways in games such as Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros., on the New 3DS and 3DS XL and the Wii U.
The way it works is simple, just tap the toy to the touch point on your game machine while it’s running a compatible game and new features will be unlocked, whether its new playable characters, weapons or game modes. The interaction can be two way as well, with games helping to level up the toy to make it more effective in that game and elsewhere. It’s the perfect match of collect-ability, and customisation.
For example, Super Smash Bros. on the 3DS and Wii U allows you to train an amiibo up as either an ally to fight alongside you, or the ultimate foe if you’re looking for a new challenge. The more you use a figure, the more experience it gains, with Nintendo even boasting the figures are capable of learning tactics from the opponents they fight!
Customise Your Game
The two way interaction also allows for a whole new level of customisation, with new themed costumes being opened by using your amiibo with the correct games. These costumes are not only usable in game, they can also be transferred over to your Mii.
However, for many gamers the real appeal of amiibos is going to be the new game content it unlocks. Many games now are shifting over to a model of bringing their existing customers back for more with DLC, but amiibo makes the same trick seem fresh by adding collectible figurines into the mix.
For example, steampunk strategy game Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. allows you to use amiibos to bring in Fire Emblem characters from the Super Smash Bros. collection. The key here is that each new character is more than just a cosmetic redress of the existing gameplay mechanics. When a character is wielding Marth’s sacred sword, Falchion, or the blessed blade Ragnell it will have a real impact on how the game is played.
The latest round of amiibo characters has had mixed press so far, less to do with the actual characters than with how Nintendo has been bringing them to market. Orders have been cancelled, release dates changed, and retailers have been struggling to keep figures in stock (some particularly creative gamers have even written a song about the troubles of amiibo fans). To add insult to injury, several of the characters, Lucario, Shulk, Rosalina & Luma, and Meta Knight, have only been available through specific retailers, forcing many to queue from early morning outside the right stores or to hunt for them on eBay.
A Range With Character
But ignoring the delivery method, the products themselves are a solid addition to the series. As well as the exclusives, the new wave of amiibos include Toon Link, a cartoon-ish version of the Zelda character, Fire Emblem’s Ike, King Dedede from Kirby, Sheik, again from Zelda, and characters like Sonic, Mega Man and Bowser who need no introduction.
Some of these came out not long ago but recent news tells us about Jiggypuff, Dr Mario, Charizard, Zero Suit Samus and many more… so keep an eye out (hint I’d say around September).