So, since I live in Japan, and Japan got wave 2 figures before the rest of the world, I decided the time was right to review Amiibo as DLC in their current form. To note: the Amiibo used in this article are all retail versions I paid for. None of them are review copies or provided for by outside sources/funds.
While I could do an article on the quality and collectability of Amiibo, I think my lazy-eyed Link speaks for itself. While some figures are awesome when they’re defective, it’s not always true. I admit I was a bit of a toy collector in my teens, and I do have to control my inner pokemon master by reminding him that we don’t need to always catch’em all. My sensibility about past Nintendo products luckily has me on guard about these products. I mean, I waited a long time for the 64DD which never made it outside Japan, Don’t forget the Wii Speak, Gamecube Broadband adapter, Gameboy Printer… oh hell, if you really have forgotten, here’s a good list of Nintendo’s abandoned peripherals. As much as I love the company, it does make a lot of crap that truly is niche and ends up costing more than it’s worth. However, as soon as I heard about Amiibos, I worried this could be the worst offender.
While Shacknews has a great article comparing Amiibos to it’s competitors, the bottom line is that Nintendo, from many people’s perspective, is cashing in on a toy/game combo-craze. While the other toys work with only a single game, they’re much more involved in that game. They’re also more expensive. Amiibos are cheaper, but currently, the functionality is just a small addition to various games. In that sense, I mostly see them as downloadable content in toy form.
Now, looking at Nintendo’s past, I felt someone really needed to look at what we’re getting in terms of DLC for Amiibo as they currently stand, which is just in 3 games: Mario Kart 8, Hyrule Warriors, and Smash Bros for Wii U. Yes, if you look at this chart of the wave 1 figures, there are plans for other games (Note: Kirby and the Rainbow Curse will also use Amiibo), but there’s nothing specific on their functionality. That’s why I feel that, unless someone is a hardcore collector or fan of a certain character, we need to be cautious about investing in these figures.
Before that though, we need to address one last issue: writeablity. Amiibos are pretty much storage devices. Some games simply read information, while others write information. The Amiibo FAQ currently notes that the figures only have enough room to store data for one game. This is another point I worry about because, to me, it seems both short sighted and indicative that we won’t be seeing Amiibo used for too much in the future. However, if I’m wrong about the latter, the former is quite a problem since it means you’ll have to delete your Smash Bros data from your Amiibo to utilize it for other games. I’ve reached out to Nintendo about this issue, among others, but as you can probably guess, they have nothing new to reveal at this time. That being said, let’s see what your money gets you with the current games.
Let’s be clear: I’m a bit biased here. I love this game, so I expected a lot. The Link figure, unlike any other Amiibo, unlocks an additional weapon, the spinner. While the Zelda figure was announced to also unlock a weapon, it ended up being a generic weapon, not something new. The Spinner itself is fun enough, but Link already has a lot of weapons and almost every element. In fact, if you play the game (or check this wiki), you know that he’s starting to get repeat elements. All this does is offer different styles of gameplay should you dislike one of his other weapons. It’s not bad, but not great. The spinner, being one of these doubles, is a bit of a let down, but I must admit I would have paid for it just to try it out.
As DLC, I’d probably pay $5-$10 for the spinner just because I assume that’s what other companies would charge me. However, I think it’s worth it, even if I would have preferred it to be a different element. The spinner’s fun and certainly different from the guantlets that are of the same type. In some ways, I may prefer the spinner due to it’s tighter control and what feels like faster animations, which really matter on adventure mode maps. The animations are stylish without me feeling quite as open to attacks, though I must admit that the maps I used this on weren’t the hardest (I only have a rank 3, three star spinner as my best one, so I can’t push the hardest content with it yet, but will update this if I feel I made a drastically poor decision in my description here). The fact that he also gives you free random weapons (like Zelda) every day after that is a small bonus.
However, the other Amiibos are not nearly as useful, with random gifts ranging not only from weapons, but materials and even rubies, the latter of which can sometimes result in receiving only a single ruby. From this perspective, the Amiibos seem more like random goodies sold by a lot of free to play games. You’re paying for a very minor convenience that gameplay would normally give you. I never pay for this sort of item gambling, so determine that value yourself. For me, it’s not worth buying any non-Link amiibo just for Hyrule Warriors. It should only be a small perk for something you’d buy anyway, but the fact that the game gives it any support isn’t insignificant.
The other big thing to point out here is this is the first third party game to support Amiibo. Yes, the new Ace Combat has video of it’s Amiibo content, but the same happened to Mother 3 on the 64DD. “Don’t get me anything for my birthday, Mom!” I’d said. “Just buy me Mother 3 when it comes out!” My father must love the money he saved on that gift-that-never-came. Fool me once, shame on me, Nintendo. However, getting some third party support, especially as something better than a skin, it at least encouraging, which is why, assuming you have this game and Smash Bros Wii U, I’d feel comfortable telling Link fans to guiltlessly purchase a Link Amiibo. For the price, even if you don’t like the figure, it feels worth it (more on that in the next two sections). Other figures are simply a token gesture of utilization, and I worry that this could be something we see a lot of if we are lucky. We’ll have to wait and see though.
Mario Kart 8
This is, perhaps, one area that really shines in some ways for me, since I live in Japan. English speakers went crazy seeing the Mii of my brother racing around as Captain Falcon. I’ll admit, it was fun to show off, and this is probably one of the very few skins I kind of like. I love Link, but hate the suit he unlocks. While there are some others I like, such as Samus’ suit, I’d probably once again expect to pay $5-$10 for this kind of thing, though I’d personally not pay more than $7 (remember, these things add up!). I’m sure Ace Combat’s skins are similar, but again, it’s nothing Nintendo’s talking about too much, though at least we’ve seen it, just no world on when/if we’ll be getting that Amiibo reader for the not-new 3DS systems.
As cool as it was for me to run around as a special Falcon-styled snowflake, I don’t think it was worth the price of admission. I chose to buy Falcon for 2 reasons. First, I don’t think he’ll be seeing any new games. I expect his usefulness to be limited to what we have now, and any other use he sees will be generic, like he is in Hyrule Warriors. The other reason is that I’m not a Captain Falcon Smasher. I’m not so good with him, so this is pretty much just for the skin. How do I feel about that? I’ve got a bit of buyer’s remorse. Once again, if you’re buying an Amiibo just for the DLC, you’re going to feel ripped off at this point.
Smash Bros for Wii U
This is the big one. Amiibo were originally announced for this game, so I expect the most from them here. I’ve already covered a lot of their function in my Smash Bros Wii U review, but let me do a quick recap. First, the figures only work in Smash mode, and only offline. If you wanted to play Smash Tours with your Amiibo, you’re out of luck. Next, Amiibo can learn a bit from you as they level up (my “Ravio”/Link Amiibo still won’t hold still to block simple projectiles with his shield, which I’ve done when playing against him several times), but it feels like their AI just improves in general as they level up, in addition to getting boosted stats. Add to that being able to “feed” Amiibo so they get even higher stats, and the figures feel like slightly smarter but stat-bloated NPCs. If you’re hardcore about training in Smash Bros, these figures could really help you become the best, especially since one did quite well in a small tournament.
Since that article though, I’ve grabbed Zelda, Falcon, and the Villager. I know many people are probably grabbing Mario, but as things stand, with the current state of games, Villager is just as useful as Mario, except that Mario is easier to find a store shelf and supposedly is getting content soon. The same can be said about Yoshi and Kirby though. It’s strange to think that Link, not Mario, is currently the most useful Amiibo.
Now, once I had more Amiibos, I decided to try something different. I tried having them learn how to fight from other Amiibos. I had them train against CPUs. Only my “Ravio” was trained by me. He’s also the only one really fed. and I made him balanced. Zelda is strength/defense fed, Falcon’s about power and speed, and I’ve starved the Villager. Oddly enough, despite her lack of training, she usually ends up beating them all at level 50. Zelda still rarely reflects projectiles, even though I’ve tried training her for it.
I won’t lie, the Amiibo have made me a bit of a better Smash player, but I’m also not a hardcore Smasher. If it wasn’t for the opportunity I saw in writing this article, I would have stopped buying Amiibo specifically for Smash Wii U after I tried my Link. While it is fun to watch my Amiibo fight each other and earn me free rewards, I just don’t feel like I spent my money wisely. While I’m happier with them than I am with getting the random gifts from non-Zelda Amiibo in Hyrule Warriors, the fact is that I’m just not feeling the value of Amiibo yet. This being the core game they’re associated with scares me, and I’m really hoping Nintendo will find many ways to utilize Amiibo in fun ways that make them feel worth it without them being required, like any good DLC should do. Until then, if you have at least Smash and want to try out an Amiibo but don’t know which one to get, I say buy Link. He’s currently the most useful and, especially if you own Hyrule Warriors, offers the most visceral rewards.
In closing, I have to say that, unless you already are a collector or are purchasing a figure of a character you like, I highly advice against investing in Amiibo. I won’t lie, I’ll probably still buy Sheik when that Amiibo is released. As an Earthbound fan, I’d love to buy a Ness Amiibo, and since I love Mega Man, you’d better believe I’ll grab a blue bomber amiibo. However, as you can tell, these are characters I like and I’m honestly buying them because merchandise of them is generally limited (except for you, Mega *swoon*). Those looking to invest in Amiibo should certainly pick up Link, and Mario seems like a safe bet as well. Yoshi and Kirby will most likely be reasonable investments as they have games coming out that support Amiibo, and Animal Crossing was mentioned by name, so the Villager could be a longer term investment. Personally though, I’d caution against it, especially when Nintendo may already discontinuing some figures only weeks after launching them.
As DLC, Amiibo currently aren’t worth the price and can be safely avoided by most consumers. If you like the figure, they do add a little something, but for everyone else, until you see something you need announced, it may be best to wait and see if Nintendo ends up making cheaper amiibos or amiibo alternatives, as they’ve hinted at.