The Changing Face of Amiibo: Looking at Nintendo Direct’s Amiibo Update

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By Laguna Levine – 2nd April 2015
The Changing Face of Amiibo: Looking at Nintendo Direct’s Amiibo Update

Today’s Nintendo Direct gave us something I didn’t expect to hear about until E3: an Amiibo update. Hearing about the cards and a pairing with Animal Crossing wasn’t surprising, but a new spin-off game, yarn-Yoshi, and other reveals completely caught me off guard. Join me after the break for more details!

Let’s first calm ourselves with information that’s easy to digest: new figures. Dark Pit and Palutena are set to be released in July. Olimar, Zero-Suit Samus, Ganondorf, Bowser Junior, and Dr. Mario are set for September. All those dates are much earlier for Japan though, and more spread out, probably since the figures aren’t quite as rare here as in the states.

Next, new racing suits for Mario Kart 8 from the Mega Man, Pac Man, Sonic, Toad, Wario, Villager, Rosalina, Bowser, and Olimar amiibos. This would be nice if it wasn’t for the fact that several of those amiibo are pretty rare and haven’t received a stateside rerelease annoucement, unlike Japan. At least I was right to think that Toad might have an MK8 racing suit. Still, I’ve felt the suits are mostly a crap-shoot. Only the Captain Falcon one’s really impressed me so far, and having suits of characters already in the game seems… odd. I think I’d prefer all out costumes (like an ape suit from Donkey Kong or Toad hat from Toad), or even actually unlocking the character. I mean, Pac-Man’s already been in three arcade exclusive Mario Kart games, Sonic has his own racer for Wii U, and Captain Falcon is already a race car driver. Just unlocking them makes more sense to me and would be much more exciting.

amiibo cards

Now, the next reveals are a bit hotter. It seems the previous rumor about Splatoon amiibos proved correct. The figures are set to come out the same day as Splatoon, including a inkling boy, inkling girl, and inkling squid, which each unlock special missions to unlock new parts and weapons. It’s difficult to gauge how big of a deal this is at this point in time. New missions do sound more interesting than just unlocking random weapons, but if the unlockable content is also unique without being unbalancing, it could be a big step in the right direction for amiibos as DLC. The game and the amiibos are coming out May 29 to all regions.

Details on Nintendo’s use of amiibos for unlocking demos surfaced as a new, free “app” for the Wii U: Amiibo Tap: Nintendo’s Greatest Bits. At first, it sounds reasonably standard. Tap an amiibo to unlock a short demo of a game. To keep things fresh, each amiibo will unlock several different demos from the same game. The catch? The game you unlock isn’t based on the character IP. That is, one person’s Mario amiibo may unlock a Kirby game demo, while another person’s Mario may unlock a Zelda game demo. I’ve reached out to Nintendo to see if they’ve got this thing figured out, and will update this post as details arrive.

We’ve mentioned the hints about Animal Crossing and new amiibo cards before, but I didn’t expect them so soon. I especially didn’t expect them with an Animal Crossing spinoff titled Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer. The game has you designing homes for various villagers, and using amiibo cards at the least will unlock new villagers you can design for and invite over to people’s homes. I’m waiting on Nintendo to return queries about the cards’ use with other games and this game’s use of current amiibo and will update this if I hear anything. As is, I’m slightly worried that amiibo are becoming the new Nintendo e-reader: collectible for people into physical collectors, but low in terms of game content, a image I’m still waiting for Nintendo to really shake off. That doesn’t help when combined with the fact that the NFC amiibo reader won’t be released until this game is, sometime this fall. 

yarn yoshi

From out of no where comes Yarn Yoshi. I’m completely confused by these. Aside from being cute enough to turn my stone-cold heart to mush, using it in Yoshi’s Woolly World will grant you a second Yoshi of the same color that can be used to attack enemies, jump chasms, etc. The idea of the amiibo as a companion is good, but I’ll wait to see how well this is executed once the game is released this fall, along with the amiibos.

I’m conflicted by the update. On the one hand, there’s a lot more amiibo being made, and especially in terms of DLC, I seriously question the need for it. If each new amiibo also were in Smash Bros or Mario Kart, I might feel more at ease, but that’s not the case. The figures we do have don’t have rarely have significant content on them, something I’ve been concerned with from the start. However, depending on how things are being handled, the Greatest Bits and new Animal Crossing spinoff could be adding interesting new uses for the figures. Revisiting the MK8 racing suits isn’t ground breaking, but it’s nice to see Nintendo still supporting both current amiibo and the game. As much as I want to criticize the current state of amiibos, Nintendo’s release today does make me feel they realize some of the issues. Mostly, I’m concerned about whether they can move fast enough and improve the quality of their use before moving on to making a new product that makes us question its value.