UK studio Rare has always had a habit of being ahead of the curve. The company - founded by Tim and Chris Stamper in the '80s - was one of the first western developers to work on the NES hardware, and in the '90s the firm would pioneer the use of CGI graphics in 2D games with the likes of Donkey Kong Country and Killer Instinct.
According to former Rare developer Chris Seavor - the man behind the N64 cult classic Conker's Bad Fur Day and (more recently) one half of Rusty Pup studio Gory Detail - Tim and Chris were also looking into using toys to create interactivity with games way before Skylanders, Disney Infinity and amiibo came along.
Seavor's memory was jogged by the following image, which related to an unreleased Rare title called Urchin:
When quizzed on the idea behind the figure, Seavor replied that it was merely a toy, but "T&C" - Tim and Chris - had grander plans a few years previously:
All of the modern "toys to life" figures are based on Near Field Communication (NFC for short) tech, which is quite a recent innovation and wouldn't have been available to the Stampers back in the N64 era. However, the talented siblings were used to mucking around with tech and it's not beyond the realms of possibility to assume they could have created an alternative system.
They reverse-engineered the Famicom in order to learn how to develop for it, and produced the arcade hardware that powered Killer Instinct. They also created a full-colour rival to the Game Boy which was abandoned when the partnership with Nintendo began to blossom.
Just imagine having Conker, Banjo, Kazooie and Joanna Dark figures back in the 1990s, each of which could unlock or interact with their respective games. Actually, it's probably for the best that this plan didn't come to pass - Nintendo's amiibo range has drained our bank balance to the extent that we're seriously considering living off cold beans for a month just to afford more.
If that kind of plastic temptation had existed in the '90s, certain members of the Nintendo Life team would probably have sold off several vital organs by now.