What will Nintendo’s foray into the “Toys to Life” frontier do for the Wii U?
If you’ve been going to retail game stores in the last few years it is likely you’ve seen shelves lined with figurines for both Activision’s Skylanders series and the Disney Infinity games. These figurines are part of a recent development in gaming known as “Toys to Life”, where people purchase figurines of the characters they want, and place them on a device to make that character appear in the game via NFC (Near Field Communication). Although the concept has proven success and both the Skylanders and Disney Infinity games have been a hit, none of the big three console giants have attempted to have their own slice in this market. Until now.
This year at E3, Nintendo announced that they are joining the Toys to Life fray with their new range of figurines known as Amiibo. Confirmed for several Wii U games (and later 3DS via an NFC adapter), these figures won’t require a portal device for the Wii U; instead they’ll simply be placed on the gamepad to be used. Like Skylanders and Disney Infinity, Amiibo will feature a range of characters, this time from Nintendo’s famous library of all-stars, but unlike its counterparts, Amiibo will function differently for each game. Some information that will please gamers worried about the welfare of their wallets is that Amiibos are not used to unlock characters in games, meaning you won’t have to shell out a fortune to play as the entire roster of one of the compatible games.
So far the only game that we have confirmation on the role of Amiibos is Super Smash Bros for Wii U, and their role is quite unusual in deed. When an Amiibo is placed on the Wii U gamepad, the character represented by that figure will be summoned into the game. This character will be able to fight for you, against you, or against other Amiibos. The interesting feature that makes the Amiibo character different from a CPU is that it will adapt and evolve over time; fight it with the same approach often and it will learn to combat your fighting style. Amiibo characters can level up and become more powerful, and you can customise your Amiibo fighter to change his special moves and modify its stats. The data is stored within the figurine, so you can even take your Amiibo to a friend’s and summon it to battle on their game.
So what about the other games Amiibo is compatible with? What role could they possibly play? Senior Product Marketing Manager of Nintendo of America Bill Trinen confirmed at E3 that Mario Kart 8, Mario Party 10, Captain Toad’s Treasure Tracker, and Yoshi’s Woolly World would all be compatible, and the vastly different nature of these games makes speculation on their role all the more intriguing. Mario Kart 8 stands out for being an Amiibo-compatible game despite the fact that the game will be almost six months old by the time Amiibo is released on shelves. Given the competitive nature of the game, could Amiibo figures play a similar role to their role in Smash Bros; characters who adapt and learn strategies? This could open up all sorts of new challenges when racing, such as challenging smarter CPUs who regularly take short cuts or block incoming attacks with a well-fired Green Shell. Maybe Amiibos could also have the ability to store your time trial ghosts, so you can bring them over to a friend’s so they may challenge your best lap times. Mario Party 8 is also another completive title that Amiibos will play a role in. Their role is a little harder to guess, but it can be assumed that they would store data from your Mario Party stats. Maybe there are special minigames that you can only play with only using an Amiibo, or maybe like Smash they make the AI more aggressive. Bumper Balls could become real intense now!
Curiously, Amiibos are also planned to be used in non-competitive titles. The new upcoming Yoshi platformer Yoshi’s Woolly World, is one of these games. Since there appears to be no competitive mode in the title, what would Amiibos do? A CPU-controller second Yoshi could be summoned to help out in levels? Are there going to be special minigames like in previous Yoshi games, this time focusing on Amiibo? Even stranger a title to be compatible with is Captain Toad’s Treasure Tracker, a single-player game. Potential applications for Amiibos here could be storing your best course times to send over to a friend, or maybe create a rival Toad who you race to beat the course.
So far, Amiibo is shaping up to be an interesting and unique addition to the Toys to Life category of gaming. The great thing about them is that Nintendo seems implementing them in unique ways to enhance the experience; making them an optional feature, rather than being something you need to buy to have a complete game. Their role could prove to be a boon of success for the Wii U, and we’ll all find out whether this is true by the end of the year.