The Amazing Amiibo

The amiibo is Nintendo‘s first entry into the toy to life platform. Unlike the Skylanders or Disney Infinity equivalents, the amiibo can receive data as well as send it, and functions outside of a solitary franchise. Nintendo‘s smart toy line can currently be used with Mario Kart 8, Hyrule Warriors, and Super Smash Bros for Wii U. Support is also slated for Super Smash Bros.for 3DS, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, Mario Party 10, Yoshi’s Wooly World, and Animal Crossing, with many more titles hinted at going forward, like Pikmin.

Currently the Smash amiibo are in the first wave of releases, with two more coming by February. The functionality with other games is simple, but our focus today is the amiibo support for Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. Quite frankly, it’s pretty amazing.

amiibo
Using the amiibo outside of Super Smash Bros. is far more limited, but still pretty neat cumulatively.

Nobody saw the amiibo being as good as it has turned out. Amiibo are uploaded as Figure Players that can be used in any mode in the Smash category, have a quick setup, and load with a quick touch to the game pad. Playing with them levels them up, and this happens quickly, only taking a few hours to max a FP’s level. As they level they adapt to their opponents and become more proficient at fighting them. They increase in stats, dealing more damage or having less delay after landings, as their levels progress. This gives them a huge advantage in combat before you even begin to customize stats through feeding them equipment. When you’re done playing with your amiibo buddy, just tap it to the game pad for a short two count and its new growth is recorded.

As a casual, non-tourney player I’ve really enjoyed the amiibo experience. When I first loaded my Link amiibo, affectionately named Bob, he was little more than a glorified punching bag. By level 37 he was starting to become a real competitor and even began to taunt me after kills. At 45 he claimed the first of many victories over me. I would be annoyed at a CPU beating me if I weren’t so proud that my little buddy was growing. By level 50 he was a virtually unstoppable force of destruction, even managing to 9-stock me in a 10-stock match.

amiibo
This little guy is the closest thing we have to terminators right now.

While a large part of the power comes from his much beefier stat bonuses, I can clearly see that Bob has taken on style of his own. He’s clearly not perfect, as after 8 hours I claimed my first victory since my little terminator hit level 50. I can fairly consistently take him to the wire now, even if victory is rare. That’s what I really like about the amiibo though, they train you as much as you train them.

The amiibo doesn’t stop growing when it hits level 50, all that means is a FPs stats stop growing through leveling. Even after hitting the level cap you can still alter stats by consuming equipment and amiibo can change their styles on the fly based on the opponent’s skills. This is great because what works on one player doesn’t necessarily work on another, or even a CPU for that matter. There’s no fear of having them pick up bad habits through exposure to weaker opponents and having to be reset.

This makes them great as co-op partners, but excellent as sparring partners. I began looking into advanced techniques in order to defeat Bob, such as Air Dodge Aerials and Reverse Aerial Rushes. I learned about combos, edgeguarding, and pursuing for spikes. I pushed myself really far to snatch victory from him and do you know what he did? He fought back harder. If I could do it so could he, and now I’m locked in an arms race with my little amiibo. Coincidentally, none of my human friends can touch me one on one. I’ve become much better as a player, and it’s only because Bob was able to keep up and punish my growing skills when my friends couldn’t.

I’m aware that being kicked in the virtual teeth for eight hours straight in order to become better at something isn’t exactly fun for the majority of people, that’s okay. The acts of raising or teaming up with an amiibo are just as satisfying as fighting them. As soon as people uncover all the tricks to raising them, it’s very possible that amiibo training could be the new Pokemon training. Hardcore Pokemon trainers number in the millions, with trainers meticulously planning their breeding for max IVs and targeting specific encounters for EV training.

amiibo
Figure Players, the digital form an amiibo takes in Super Smash Bros., can be customized to a high degree.

With Pokemon becoming such a serious hobby it’s not much of a stretch to imagine amiibo prizefighting being a thing. If you think people don’t want to watch computer opponents fight each other, then may I direct your attention to Salty Bet? People gather to bet imaginary money on streams of computer controlled M.U.G.E.N. fights. Combine recognizable Nintendo characters, the best selling fighting game series since its release, and customizable FPs that players can train as prize fighters and you have the formula for a smash hit (Bad pun, I know.) Several smaller Smash tournaments are already moving to have amiibo brackets and even doubles where a player teams with his or her amiibo to battle.

Overall the cross-platform applications of amiibo are limited, but growing in number, and their implementation in Smash is almost perfect. With an amiibo you get a virtual friend to raise, a sparring partner, a “person” to help fill an 8-man Smash match, and random bonuses to other and upcoming games. If you’re a fan of Nintendo it’s hard to justify not buying at least one amiibo.

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