Before coming into work today I swung by my local Toys ‘R’ Us to hunt for amiibo figures. They had plenty in stock — lots of Marios, Foxes, Kirbys — but not a single one of the ones I was looking for: Marth, Villager or Wii Fit Trainer.
I thought that, as a fan of the Fire Emblem series, I could ask my family to get me the Marth figure as an inexpensive stocking stuffer this Christmas. Now, that “cheap gift” would cost $65 if ordered from a third-party seller on Amazon.
According to a statement from Nintendo certain figures will be discontinued after their initial run. They didn’t name any characters specifically, but those three I’m after are the ones that most people are having trouble tracking down. Posts from online communities like NeoGAF indicate that a lot of people — like me — are now frantically trying to pre-order upcoming figures like Punch-Out’s Little Mac or Pokemon’s Lucario before they, too, are impossible to find.
And the thing is, their implementation in video games (one of the main reasons they even exist in the first place) hasn’t actually been very exciting so far. In fact, it’s been disappointing.
At the moment, I only have a Mario amiibo, which Nintendo sent me alongside a review copy of Super Smash Bros. for Wii U — the main game the figures work with. The figure itself is nice, on par with the quality of figures from Skylanders and Disney Infinity games, but I personally found the in-game functionality underwhelming. In Smash, the amiibo acts as an always-evolving AI player that gains experience points and levels (up to level 50) as you play. You can feed it equipment to boost its stats and change the way it looks in battle, but for the most part it’s something you barely interact with. Some people have done interesting things like enter an amiibo in a Smash Bros. tournament (or host full-fledged amiibo-only tournaments), but for the most part there’s not a lot to actually do with the figures.
This is even more true in the other Wii U games that currently support amiibo: Hyrule Warriors and Mario Kart 8. Both merely unlock items or in-game outfits when specific amiibo toys are scanned, making them no more special than a download code would be for any other form of in-game content.
Of course, the future could still be bright. After all, Nintendo plans to develop more games with amiibo functionality in mind, which could lead to something really awesome that blows us all away and makes owning a lot of figures worthwhile. In theory, the idea of having one set of figures that works across a large collection of games is very exciting. Heck, even something as simple as letting me play as Link in the next Mario Party game would probably make me happy (though a huge crossover game of some sort, Disney Infinity style, would be better).
But even then, Nintendo says that each figure can only hold data from one game at a time, meaning that if you want to save data to the figure in a future game, you will have to delete your level 50 Super Smash Bros. data that you worked hard on.
So if Nintendo’s first foray into the “toys-to-life” space has me so bummed out, why am I waking up early to see if Toys ‘R Us has these things in stock?
Some of it can be chalked up to me just being a Nintendo fanboy. I mean, I grew up watching (and enjoying) Captain N, and I can’t imagine a future where I don’t have a soft spot for many of these characters.
But it’s not hard to find toys based on Mario and Zelda, so it’s the element of rarity that has the collection-addict part of my brain on fire (the same part that had me collecting all those state quarters when they rolled out). It’s not like I can just stroll into Target and grab some Fire Emblem toys, so I’m upset that I may never own a Marth figure. I was only considering getting an amiibo of Animal Crossing’s Villager when the toys were announced, but now the idea of that figure being gone forever makes me desperate to get one.
To that end, maybe the limited availability of some figures is brilliant on Nintendo’s part. They’ve certainly got me more interested in collecting them all than I was last month, and word of the toys’ scarcity could create some holiday gift buzz. At the same time, if they really want to celebrate the likes of Pit from Kid Icarus, maybe they should make sure more than a handful of people actually get a chance at owning them.