Nintendo Airstream Tour 2014: Amiibo

By GamingNexus On 29 Oct, 2014 At 04:00 PM | Categorized As Gaming Industry News | With 0 Comment

Halloween is my favorite time of year. The leaves change, the weather is comfortably cool, the holiday is an excuse to eat candy and dress up in silly costumes, and the Nintendo Airstream makes its annual visit to Columbus, Ohio. It’s always fun to see what Nintendo has planned for the winter buying season, and their PR rep Gil Ruta is a pleasure to talk to.

I’ve talked with a lot of PR people over the years and while they all take their job seriously, to most of them it was just that: a job. To Gil it’s a lifelong passion; he’s been with Nintendo for over a decade and he’s a respectable gamer and game collector in his own right, so he always knows what he’s talking about. It’s refreshing to interact with a PR rep who not only knows his products inside and out, but also knows the background, history and context, especially where Nintendo fans are concerned because he is one.

Case in point, Gil was pretty jazzed to show off the new Amiibo figurines that Nintendo has been promoting since E3. I got my hands on four non-functioning prototypes—Mario, Donkey Kong, Princess Peach and Yoshi—and while I couldn’t scan them into Smash Bros yet, it was still awesome to turn them around in my hands. The sculpting is excellent, capturing each character in a signature pose. There’s tons of little details worked into the figures, liked the rippling on Mario’s fireball, DK’s shaggy fur or the embroidery on Peach’s dress. Each one is also mounted on a base proudly displaying the Smash Bros emblem; these are basically the collectable trophies that have been a series mainstay since Melee, made incarnate.

The paint apps are very well done, which is a relief because that’s usually where these kinds of products fall down. There wasn’t any bleeding or sloppy overspill and the colors are just right. I’m looking forward to getting the Samus figure and seeing how the metallic finish looks on her armor. Each figure weighs about the same as a Skylander of Disney Infinity figurine, and while both Disney and Activision have a head start on their lines you wouldn’t know it from the overall quality of the Amiibos.

I’ve said this before but up until now I’ve been pretty disinterested in the toy-to-game crossover. It’s been many years since I was a toy-crazy little kid and in any case, I have very little nostalgia invested in the relentlessly marketed Disney mascots and even less for the never-ending parade of new Skylanders. While I appreciate the passion that Toys for Bob and Vicarious Visions have for the Skylanders, the new Trap Team gimmick seems particularly greedy.

I fully admit to a strong bias towards Nintendo. I’ve loved these characters for a long time so I’m naturally more inclined to buy the figures. That said, there also seems to be a lot more value here. I don’t have to buy a glowy, plasticy portal that clutters up my already crowded entertainment center and makes my friends question my social maturity. Instead, I can just scan straight to the GamePad or, eventually, the New 3DS. Even better, the figures are fully compatible between software. Each new Skylanders or Disney Infinity game seems like little more than an excuse to sell more toys with new gimmicks, but that Yoshi figure will work just as well with Mario Kart 8 as it does with the new Smash Bros.

I have no illusions; I expect Nintendo to release exclusive figures for new games, and I shudder to think about how exploitative the inevitable Pokemon Amiibo will be. But for now, at least, it seems like they aren’t trying to break the bank, and at $12.99 each, the Amiibo are at least priced competitively. A final word of warning, however. Gil mentioned that current preorders suggest that Amiibo might be pretty scarce this holiday. If you want to get in on the ground floor, it might be a good idea to get those orders in now.


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