This holiday period is arguably Nintendo’s most crucial since the Wii U launched back in late 2012. The company's banking on Super Smash Bros. for Wii U not only attracting a lot of sales but, more specifically, system sales from those yet to pick up the console. Moreover, Nintendo’s new range of NFC (near field communication) figurines, known as amiibo, are simultaneously launching with the software. These toys interact with specific Wii U software, serving as a means through which the player can access additional features and content; no doubt Nintendo hopes to sell them in droves and earn a nice wad of extra revenue on top.
Having amiibo launch alongside Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is certainly a smart move on Nintendo’s part. The crossover fighting series brings the company’s favourite characters together, resulting in a much broader appeal than a single IP could provide on its own. Releasing on alongside the game there will be 12 figurines available to purchase, with a further six arriving in a second wave.
We recently had the opportunity to check out the entire starting line-up of amiibo figurines, as well as how they work with Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, and have detailed our experience below. We’ve also included some close-up photos to allow you to have a detailed look at some of the range.
The first thing we noticed when handling the figurines themselves is that they’re a bit weightier and more substantial than we had expected. Nintendo has clearly designed them with young children in mind, meaning that they should be able to tolerate a fair bit of heavy-handedness before they break. However, this does come with a notable downside: certain figurines are propped up with very apparent plastic supports so as to increase their durability. Those looking to purchase amiibo for the primary purpose of displaying them may be disappointed by this rather clunky inclusion. Despite this, the designs and colours used are accurate, and none of the characters look odd or mis-proportioned.
As highlighted numerous times to date by Nintendo, amiibo is used with Super Smash Bros. for Wii U (and at some point next year the 3DS version too) to create “Figure Players”: CPU fighters that can level up beyond the standard max difficulty level and can be customised to suit your tastes. They learn as they go with you, other players and fellow Figure Players supposedly influencing their behaviour.
Registering and using an amiibo figurine with the game is relatively straightforward. You start the process by accessing the game’s amiibo menu in which you can give your Figure Player a name and costume colour. Post-registration, you’ll return here to feed equipment to your Figure Player, enabling you to boost attributes such as attack, defence and speed. It’s worth noting just how quickly the figurine connects to the system; it’s a couple of seconds at most. Once you’ve created your Figure Player you save the data back to the figurine by placing it on the GamePad again.
When using amiibo, you’ll typically need to place them on the GamePad fairly regularly, so it helps to have them to hand at all times when playing. Amiibo level up as you play, and once you quit out of a mode you’ll need touch the GamePad with them to save their newly improved stats.
You can use the figurines in standard Smash as well as the new 8-Player Smash mode; we were told that they couldn’t be used as cooperative buddies in Classic Mode or Events Mode, although that makes sense when it comes to the latter as the Figure Players aren’t intelligent enough to work towards reaching certain goals. Nevertheless, they’re well suited to 8-Player Smash, especially when you factor in that it’s not very often you’ll be able to get seven other people around a single screen with you. We had great fun teaming up with individual amiibos and also battling against them as a team of four.
Amiibo have a difficulty level cap of 50 — 41 levels higher than a standard CPU opponent — despite this, we didn’t really see any noticeable change in difficulty when facing off against even a level 50 Mario amiibo. In fact, we watched a match in which only Figure Players participated, and this same Mario — despite being nearly 40 levels higher than the rest of the group — didn’t even win. We must stress that we were playing a preview build of the game and, therefore, the final version may allow for more complex Figure Players. However, we weren’t blown away by the feature, nor does it seem like it will serve as adequate alternative to a human player. When it comes to our review, we should have the chance to play against a Figure Player in 1 vs 1 conditions, and it’s feasible that we may then see more of a difference.
Nintendo may be following a path with amiibo that has already been well travelled by Activision’s Skylanders and Disney Infinity, but it’s arguably aiming to take greater creative strides with them, as evidenced by how they interact with Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. The physical quality of the figurines is high, although the mandatory inclusion of previously unseen support struts mar the appearance of some of them. It’s not yet known how and which of these figurines will work with all upcoming software (although it has been revealed which of the launch line-up will interact with Mario Kart 8 and Hyrule Warriors), but it’s safe to assume that Nintendo has some clever and fun ideas up its sleeves.
The first batch of amiibo figurines will be available to purchase from 21st November in North America and 28th November in Europe; another six will be available on 19th December in Europe and in the same month in North America. All currently announced figurines are based on character designs from the Super Smash Bros. series.