When they were announced at E3, Nintendo’s amiibo generated a lot of buzz. When could we expect them? How would they look and feel in person? What does amiibo even mean?
Fortunately, the day has come.
Nintendo’s first wave of amiibo hit shelves on November 21st.
Let’s answer those questions, starting with the origins of the name. While you could make the argument that it could be an offshoot of “amoeba” (given that these are little pocket versions of our favourite Nintendo characters,) the meaning actually has to do with friendship. Let Nintendo’s Senior Research Developer Genyo Takeda explain in an excerpt from an interview earlier this year:
The first example of our active utilization of Nintendo’s character IP is going to be the character figures called “amiibo.” We named them “amiibo” after“ami,” a word that means “friend.”
There you have it. In a nutshell, amiibo could be compared to Skylanders or Disney Infinity, in that they’re chipped little personal characters that can be added or removed from the games they support. There are a few differences however.
Firstly, there is no starter kit, or portal required. If you own a WiiU, you’re already set to go. The WiiU Pro Gamepad is set up with a Near Field Communication device right under the left side. It’s that little double window looking icon on the bottom left half of the controller. Also unlike Skylanders and Disney Infinity, it’s not proprietary to a single game or franchise exclusively. Nintendo’s amiibo was visualized as a fun transitioning bridge piece of hardware between various games in the Nintendo universe, starting with Super Smash Bros for Nintendo WiiU, which also comes out November 21st. You’ll be able to do various things in present and future Nintendo games with your amiibos, and it won’t just be a WiiU thing either. The new Nintendo 3DS system that launches next year will have NFC support available on it, and an adapter will be out for the old Nintendo 3DS that will allow you to use it for supported titles.
I’d mentioned that the amiibo line wasn’t proprietary to just one franchise or game. That’s true technically, but let me explain. Right now, the only game in which you can store data to the amiibo is Super Smash Bros. Other games will have some support pieces and other features available. For example, the recent patch for Mario Kart 8 unlocks new costumes for in-game characters by touching the amiibo when prompted. You’ll also see support on games like Yoshi’s Woolly World and Kirby and the Rainbow Curse next year, and should see support patched in for Hyrule Warriors soon to unlock weapons or in-game bonuses. The next amiibo-ready game is just around the corner. Captain Toad’s Treasure Tracker will have support for it, though the capacity right now isn’t known, and it’s going to be patched in at some point in the months after release.
Let’s talk about the amiibo themselves. I’m going to be showing off a couple of them here, including my personal favorite Yoshi which you saw in the preview picture and will see again below. As you can see, they’re extremely pocket sized, and smaller than their Skylander and Infinity contemporaries. At the price point, I was kind of expecting a fairly stock standard plastic feeling figure that was detailed only by the quality of the paint job or resin coloring. To be honest with you, visually, I’m blown away from the care and detail put into this. If you were to place these on your shelf, to the naked eye, they would just seem like a series of collectible figurines, tied together with the Smash Bros logo piece they sit on.
Each figure has its own charm, but certain figures will definitely stick out more than others as they come out. Mario, for example, was probably my favourite amiibo (even though Yoshi’s one of my favourite Smash Bros characters, so I’ve always been a bit partial to him) simply because of the level of care and detail put into the mould itself. When you think about the mass production that is going into these figurines, you think that manufacturers would go with the easiest route to making something. Not this figurine. Mario’s jeans have textures to them, and the fireball in his hand is absolutely stunning, with numerous colors and an intricate design.
The functionality of your amiibo is interesting. You can battle enable them (with a chosen nickname as well in case you end up buying multiples of the same character) and level them up through battle as NPCs (non playable characters.) As they continue to fight and hit different moves and gain damage XP, they will continue to level up to a maximum of 50. Like an RPG, it isn’t tough to get the first few levels to at least bring the character into a legitimate state. In fact, my Yoshi was up to level 20 in just 3 battles, and had already lapped me in terms of skill (which isn’t difficult to begin with, but you get the point.) Continued efforts with your amiibo can also result in unlocked moves and powerups for you to build and customize your character. You can have up to 4 amiibo rocking out at the same time, and once done, you can even use your amiibo to battle alongside in team battles. Keep in mind that your amiibo will start very weak and have to work its way up, so having multiples on screen fighting each other while you play as well will be a very quick way to help with the grind so that you don’t have to do it all the time. Just keep in mind that at the moment, you’re not able to play as your amiibo – Just against them or in a team game.
Something that really stuck out to me with inputting the amiibo itself was how quickly they reacted to the NFC device. There was hardly any lag time between putting the amiibo onto the NFC and its recognition on the screen. Save times are quick too.
The first line of amiibo include staple characters like Mario, Luigi and Pikachu. As time goes on, you’ll continue to see more characters from Smash Bros (including Rosalina, who I’m guessing is just going to be released as a paperweight) with the intent to have all the Smash Bros characters out at some point. In addition, Nintendo says there are plans to possibly release more series specific amiibo out there as well. If this true, here’s my hopeful suggestion to Nintendo: Future Animal Crossing amiibo of the villagers you want in your town with the ability to get them back through the amiibo if they leave. Sign me up for Jeremiah, Kid Cat and Wolfgang. Losing the latter two basically stopped me from playing New Leaf that game. You get attached to those guys!
The collectability factor will be interesting too. Everybody starts on the same page right now, but I’m wondering if we’ll see PAX, SDCC, or E3 or Gamescom exclusives in the future. I was telling a friend that I’d kill for a wireframe Mike Tyson’s Punch Out version of Little Mac, or an old school 8 bit looking Mario and Luigi. We’ll see what happens over the next few months and years, as the possibilities are endless, and a lot of fun too.
The first wave of amiibo for your Nintendo systems are out now, with more to come in December and February and make the perfect accessories for all of your Holiday smashing and beyond.