Activision’s Skylanders became quite a surprise hit with kids a few years ago, combining a video game title, with action figures that can interact with it. It became so popular that competitors were bound to show up. Disney was the first major contender with its own game, and collectible action figures. Looking for additional business to supplement its console business, Nintendo has entered the fray. But does this toy line have the chops?
PROS: Toys work with more than one game. Detailed. Durable.
CONS: No articulation. Some figures may go out of print quickly.
HOLY CRAP: Error figures have gone for thousands in online auctions.
Amiibo isn’t simply a Skylanders clone. It is a toy line that interacts with gaming, but that’s about as far as the similarity goes. The biggest difference is that the toys aren’t locked into usage with only one game. Nintendo’s toys work with the NFC (Near Field Communication) tech in the Wii U’s game pad as well as the tech in the latest version of the 3DS. Each toy has an NFC chipset inside, along with digital storage. Many titles are supposed to take advantage of the toys. Three of the biggest ones are actually available now. Hyrule Warriors, Mario Kart 8, and of course Super Smash Bros Wii U. Obviously the biggest of these is the latter. In Super Smash Bros,., the toys can be used as sparring partners. Over time the characters will take on new patterns, and styles. Eventually levelling up their stats. Because the toys can store data, Players can then take their leveled up partners to friends’, and relatives’ houses. There, the Amiibos can be pitted against each other, or against said, friends or relatives. In Mario Kart 8 certain figurines can be used to unlock themed costumes for your Mii racer. Hyrule Warriors has bonuses that the toys are tied to.
With other games coming out that will have compatibility with the toys, it makes the toys into peripherals. Future games like Captain Toad Treasure Tracker, Yoshi Wooly World, and Mario Party 10 will have features dependent on these toys too. As for the toys themselves, they are visually pleasing. The sculpts are dead on with a lot of little details, and great paint apps. For the purpose of this article, I’ll be displaying the Mario figurine.
Not everyone who buys these toys are going to be using them for the video game functionality. Many people are going to be picking these up as collectibles. With that in mind everything, even the packaging is going to be important. Because toy collectors often look at more than the toy itself. Most toy collectors collect MOC (Mint On Card). For those uninitiated with the hobby, opening the toy will immediately reduce the resale value. Many go as far as sending in their toys to be graded, much like comic books. So they’ll want solid packaging to be able to still display their collection without devaluing it.
Amiibo figures actually have a really nice blister card packaging. You can see the character art which is really designed well. In this case you can see the Super Smash Bros logo in the left corner, the character name (for the five people who don’t know who Mario is.), and the recommended age of the user in the opposite corner. The character art is pretty cool looking, with a giant, imposing Mario who looks like he’s ready to lay the smack down. The bubble on the figures is a nice cube shape, leaving plenty of room for viewers to see the entire figurine inside.
The back of the card shows off the same generic image along the top for every toy in the line. Interestingly the Mario figurine in that image is a much different pose, which leads to speculation as to whether or not they may have alternate versions of characters in the future. Each toy gets a specific graphic on the back as well pertaining to that character. In this case, it’s a fight between Mario, and the villager from Animal Crossing. Collectors will probably like this design a lot. Because one can either stand the box on their bookshelves, or use the peg hole in the top of the card to hang it on their wall for displaying.
For those of you who plan on using these with games, or who plan on displaying them loose, you’ll be pleased with these toys. The details in the sculpts are awesome. Mario has wrinkles in his overalls. You can see the stitching job on them as well. There are little dips throughout the overalls to simulate a nice denim look. The knuckles on his gloves are raised up as they are in the many illustrations we’ve seen over the years. The details on his face are spot on, from the pout on his lips, to the moustache sculpt to the detail on his ears. The other figurines go to the same lengths. You’ll also notice that his base is the same as the bases on the trophies in the Super Smash Bros. games. It’s just an all around great sculpt job on these things.
If I have any problems with these, I would have to say that some of the painted on sections worry me. For instance the eyes on Mario, and the M on his hat seem to be done in a different paint that could possibly flake off over time if constantly handled. This probably won’t concern you if you’re displaying them loose, or you hold the figurine by the base when you use it. But if you have children who are going to be playing with them, that might concern you. Speaking of children playing with them, I think they’ll love these things. Aside from the minor paint nitpick, they’re pretty sturdy, and I don’t see them breaking unless they’re really thrown hard against a wall or pavement. Kids can play with them inside or outside of the video games. However, these do NOT have any real articulation to speak of. You can’t really alter the poses, tilt heads, or anything of the sort. If you’re the type who wants to set up poses for your displays you should focus on Jakks Pacific’s line of World Of Nintendo toys instead.
One final concern some may have is availability of certain characters. As of late, there has been a lot of discussion about some of the less mainstream characters going out of production faster than anticipated. Marth, the villager from Animal Crossing, and the Wii Fit Trainer are making headlines due to the rarity in stores. This is driving up the aftermarket prices as die-hard fans, and scalpers scoop up secondary characters. So if you do decide to buy one for use with a game or two, or you’re a completionist collector bear that in mind. Nintendo has said they always want to have their most popular characters around, but that due to retail space, some aren’t always going to make the cut.
In conclusion, Amiibo looks like it will be a pretty cool toy line. If functionality continues to improve in future games (IE: different characters yield different results) they’ll only become more sought after as peripherals. As a collectible toy line, they’re already on a great start. The sculpts are great, the character selection seems like it will have a lot of variety. Minor paint nitpicks, and lack of articulation are about the only sticking points. Just remember secondary characters sell out fast. So if you see a figurine from a less popular franchise you enjoy you should probably pick it up.
Final Score: 8 out of 10