Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Top 10 NEXT Worst Amiibo

It's been a whole year, and Amiibos are STILL a gigantic mess!

Amiibos. The little hunks of plastic that could.

About six months ago, I posted a Top 10 list that talked about the very worst aspects of Amiibo and how Nintendo needed to fix their Toys-To-Life product line as fast as humanly possible. Pretty much all of my entries talked about a few specific points; limited stock, retailer exclusivity, shady pre-orders, scalpers, and horrible release schedules. Well, it's been a full year later, and it's time that we take another look back at the Amiibo craze and why it's still broken, but for completely NEW reasons!

I will be the first to say though that Nintendo has made monumental progress if fixing the biggest flaws that Amiibos have been plagued with since the beginning. Amiibos now have much more stock for lesser known characters, so you could go to a major gaming store and see Amiibos that were released fairly recently still on store shelves. They've also restocked Amiibos that were unicorns, like Villager, Marth, and Little Mac, so it put a dent in the scalper's profits. Apparently retailer exclusivity is timed, since Lucarios, which were exclusive to Toys R Us, have started to appear at Best Buys (I personally haven't seen this, but many of my friends have confirmed this), and release schedules are now known months in advance with little delay. Scalpers are still present, but they'll always be there at this point.

No, Amiibos are still a broken in my eyes because of how Nintendo have shifted all blame onto themselves now for Amiibos! Before, they could say that "they didn't expect the demand" or "port strikes caused a shortage", but now, there's no hiding the fact that they're responsible for the current Amiibo climate. So any shortcomings now fall directly on them and no one else.

With that in mind, I debated whether or not I should actually do another "Worst Amiibo" list. I mean, half of the Amiibos on this list aren't even released yet! But after watching the recent Nintendo Direct and seeing how Amiibos had weaseled their way into nearly every announcement, it gave such a sour taste in my mouth that I could not be silenced anymore. So here we are.

I won't put on any Amiibos from my previous list, so let's just buckle up and see why Amiibos are the latest, shadiest, drug on the market.

#10: Dark Pit
Nintendo just couldn't shake a few of its old habits when it came to Dark Pit. Generally, I've warmed up to the idea of retailer exclusive Amiibos, because at least they're being handled better now. Palutena was an Amazon exclusive Amiibo in July, and she was given plenty of advance, customers were emailed when she would be released, they let us know just how much stock they would be getting, that it would be one purchase per customer, and that she would be up for most likely a few hours and not sold out in seconds. They informed us perfectly what was going to happen, and it made buying her one of the best experiences I've had with the little plastic figures.

Dark Pit didn't get the memo.

He was a Best Buy exclusive and didn't have an official release date until about two weeks before he came out, and the best part was that he could not be preordered. Everyone had a fair chance with Dark Pit, like it or not. In theory, I'm all for this. Amiibo purchases can easily be regulated in store and everyone would have a fair chance at getting him. However, Best Buy is a brick and mortar store. They have the ability to give out preorders and not force their consumers to line up around the store an hour before opening for a single figure. Yes, people did that for Wave 4, but that had at least eight new amiibos released, so camping out made some sense. Here, it's camp out for one character that people didn't even like when he was announced. At least have the decency to give consumers a chance to preorder him instead of fighting scalpers and crazed fans when he releases.

#9: Shadow Mewtwo Card
But Dark Pit was an embodiment of all of the old methods why people hated the Amiibo craze. Let's get into the new, saucy ones! The reasons that most people don't acknowledge, but really should. Case in point: Shadow Mewtwo.

Shadow Mewtwo is an Amiibo card (more on those later), that is going to be released with the upcoming fighter, Pokken Tournament. In the fist print of the games, they'll include the Shadow Mewtwo Amiibo card for free to use in the game. Essentially, the card will unlock Shadow Mewtwo as a playable character, even those you can unlock him normally by playing through the game.

On the surface, it amounts to little more than a preorder bonus, but just think about how insidious it sounds. You're going to preorder a game to get an exclusive figure or card that most likely will not be available anywhere else. Not only that, but it pretty much forces people that might have been iffy about the game to buy it because of the exclusive Amiibo. Let's rephrase the whole scenario without any of the fluff: the only way to get this Amiibo is to preorder this game that you may or may not like.

Now, the reason why this is so low on the list is because 1: The card isn't necessary to fully enjoy the game. It unlocks a character early, not block a specific mode of the game, and 2: Pokken Tournament actually looks like a semi-decent fighter. It won't replace Smash Bros, but it may be a good hit for a few months. But for lesser games, I wouldn't be surprised if they got "exclusive" Amiibos for preorders. How would you feel if Metroid Prime: Federation Force had an exclusive Golden Samus Amiibo that unlocked her skin as a costume in game? It's a slippery slope, and I'm very wary of the precedent Shadow Mewtwo sets.

#8: 30th Anniversary Modern Color Mario
Long title aside (it should be ranked just for its name), Modern Mario is an ridiculous Amiibo to me.

So, while I was studying in the UK, I saw several stores that stocked this Amiibo. It wasn't exactly a common, but I could walk into a GAME store and expect to see maybe one or two of these guys around. But when I checked out of curiosity what it was like back in America, I saw one of the most ludicrous offers I've ever seen.

You see, the only way to buy this Amiibo is to buy a Wii U bundle. As in, $300+ for the system, Super Mario Maker, and this Amiibo.

Now, for a new consumer, this is harmless. It's a rather savvy bundle that offers a lot of content for a bargain. But Amiibros are savage completionists. If you wanted this Amiibo, you had to do one of three things. You could either spend $300+ on the bundle, go to scalpers to buy one, or wait patiently for it to maybe get a release on its own. And keep in mind, this is for the sixth Mario variant released in a year! Now for those people that say "Well only crazy lunatics would buy the console bundle just for the little hunk of plastic, I'll wait until it gets released on its own". To that I say, you're a sensible man, so that's why you're going to regret your decision.

The 30th Anniversary Super Modern Super Mario Pixel Amiibo is going to to get a standalone release... but there's a catch. Two actually. It's a Walmart exclusive, which is frankly unsettling because Walmart has never had an exclusive before of this magnitude, so who knows how it'll turn out, and it's going to be released on Black Friday. Black. Friday. As in the ugliest day for consumerism in the history of modern society. Now there's no telling how Amiibos will play out this year, but having an exclusive Amiibo to a large retailer with limited stock is not a very good idea any day of the week.

But you can still get that bundle, right?

#7: Duck Hunt
So... Amiibo 3-packs are now a thing.

Back in August, there were rumblings that Gamestop would be the exclusive retailers for the Duck Hunt, R.O.B, and Game & Watch Amiibos and that they would be released in a 3-pack sometime in September. They had a preorder event for them that actually had a steady supply of stock, but the biggest issue were the three Amiibos that were selected.

Very few people actively use those three characters as their default fighters in Smash Bros, but that isn't the issue, and that isn't the issue as to why Duck Hunt is on this list and not the entire 3-pack. R.O.B. is eventually going to have a separate North American release where it's just him and no other figures. Game & Watch might be a figure that isn't getting a separate release, but I'm relatively okay with that because each figure has 4 little plastic slips to change Game 7 Watch's pose, so kudos to Nintendo for giving him some effort. Duck Hunt though? Exclusive to the 3-pack, not being released by himself any time soon, and all for the great cost of $35. Plus you have to get the others, even if you only just want Duck Hunt.

3-packs are now a dangerous precipice because of how expensive they are and what they'll allow for their games. I was fine with the Splatoon 3-pack, which had the Inkling Boy and Girl as well as a Squid, because it was for only one game and had actual worth and merit in the game. You got legitimate content from those Amiibos. In the case of the "Retro 3-Pack", they're only compatible in Smash Bros at the moment and are so unknown that they probably won't be heavily featured in upcoming games. But if you want even one figure, you need to shell out $35 or else lose the whole thing. I know some people prefer to buy in bulk and get them all out of the way, but if the packs run out, then what?

#6: Mii Fighter 3-Pack
Okay, this one just confuses me on multiple levels. First off, retailer exclusive. Because of course it is. Second, it's for figures that, despite them being Miis, are most likely going to be Smash exclusive because of how specific they are.

But the biggest issue is just that these figures have been made completely useless in the game. You can share your Mii fighters with other players.

The very point of Amiibos, at least for the Smash line, is to make a fighter, train it, then have it fight against your opponent. You can customize its moves, its items, and its stats in order to make the best version of your character. Well, that's what the Mii Fighters do in the game anyway! You create a Mii Fighter, then build it up and make its own stats, then use it against your opponents. Sure you can't use it online, but you can't use Amiibos online either. So here's a bundle for $35 of characters that you can customize however you like of characters that are supposed to be customized however you like. A bit paradoxical, no?

I am aware that most Smash characters can be altered and edited to a person's liking anyway, but one of the secondary factors about Amiibos are that you can have little figurines of you favorite Nintendo characters. Everyone wants to have a little Mario, Marth, Zelda, or Jigglypuff on their shelf to display. There is no one that I've met that wants to display a Mii Fighter, and even if they did, the Mii Fighter represented in the figure isn't the Mii Fighter that the player designed. Visual customization is important in Smash Bros for Mii Fighters and unless you're a really good modder that can make the Mii Fighters look exactly like their game character, it just seems pointless to me.

Also, $35 for a bundle that will sell out quickly and all of its Amiibos are not sold separately if you're in America. Just... fantastic.

#5: Famicom R.O.B.
So I put Duck Hunt on this list earlier on, but you may have noticed I gave a fair pass to R.O.B. Well fret not, because R.O.B. is a really interesting Amiibo to discuss, if only for how frustrating his existence is.

So when R.O.B. was announced, he was announced into two variants; an NES color scheme, and a Famicom color scheme. Each variant would be region exclusive for a limited time, with the NES version in the West and included in the "Retro 3-Pack", and the Famicom version in the East. Now, Famicom R.O.B. will come over to the West in January, but stop and think about his release for a moment. A second variant is going to be released of a character that not many people care about, when his previous version was already readily available for the price of $35 in a bundle that most collectors purchased.

Enter Nintendo's next Amiibo problems; variants. Now, I'm all for a nice little variant of an Amiibo every now and then, but the variant has to be worth the release. Gold/Silver Mario were not good variants in my eyes because they were the exact same as the other Mario releases with the only difference being the color the figures are painted. Now, the Yoshi Woolly World Amiibos I'm all for. They completely overhauled the visual style of them, changed the material, the size, and made them little plushies that look like they're actually worth the price of purchase. But Famicom R.O.B. is just a color swap for a character that not many people care about.

When talking about the next worst Amiibos, I'm struggling to figure out what I should be critiquing these Amiibo on. Should I look at them from a collector's point of view who is insane enough to collect all of them, or should I look at them from an average consumer's point of view that just wants to collect the ones they like? It's a tricky question, so I weigh both questions down when looking at the new Amiibos. Famicom R.O.B. is bad for collectors, who want to get every version of a character, even if it's one they don't want, but more importantly, he's bad for consumers as well, Forcing them to get only the variant version and no other version. Plus, while stock allocation has yet to be determined for any of the figures in pre-release, you can almost guarentee that him and Lucas are going to get the short end of the stick in favor for the newer and more popular lines. Joy to the world.

#4: Gold Megaman/Wolf Link

These two games were the biggest motivators for making this list. As soon as I saw these games and their Amiibos, it sprung up this well of passion to write another list about Amiibos and about how angry the line makes me, even though I love it to death.

If I'm being upfront, while I do think the other entries so far have annoyed me, I admit that most of them I'm not too affected by. I'm not going out to buy half of those Amiibo, and several of them are in pre-release anyway. But it's these two Amiibo that hit the right note of being completely unnecessary and having little to no point in their existence.

Both of the games that these two Amiibo are bundled with are remasters of previous games. The Gold Megaman Amiibo will come packaged with Megaman: Legacy Collection, a collection of the first six NES games with challenge modes, and Wolf Link will be with Twilight Princess HD, a remaster of, well, Twilight Princess. Now, you can argue the legitimacy of remastering and rereleasing these games, but that's not the major issue here. The major issue is that both of these bundles have no right to exist, let alone hawk exclusive Amiibos to the masses.

Gold Megaman is just a variant of a character that's just uncommon at this point. He unlocks a few exclusive challenges in Legacy Collection, but so does the original Megaman Amiibo. Now, keep in mind that these are six NES games that have been released dozens of times over the past decade, being rereleased again, for $50. You can get the game without the Amiibo for $30, but the bundle is just for the little variant of Megaman. These are games that nearly everyone owns or has played in some way, shape, or form, but to entice collectors and the public, here's a special bundle with a gold Amiibo for $20 more than the actual game is.

But what about Twilight Princess HD you may ask? Well, that game is actually a lot less shady about its pricing and bundle. It's the game, the figure, and a soundtrack for $60. So I thought it was a good deal. I even preordered the bundle myself. And as soon as I preordered it, they all sold out. Sold out on Amazon, Best Buy, and Gamestop isn't looking too good either. So this exclusive bundle, with an exclusive Amiibo, has already sold out at most retailers not even a week since it was first announced. Hell, most of the preorders sold out two days after the bundle was announced.

That's not what a preorder is meant to do, and Nintendo has been dropping the ball on bundles over the past year, and this is just the next logical progression for them. The announce a bundle, the bundle sells out instantly because it has something that people want, and it never gets restocked again. If you did not buy the bundle in the first few minutes of its announcement, you're screwed. Then when you add in an Amiibo to the mix that looks legitimately awesome (I have no interest in the Wolf Link Amiibo and will probably give it away to a friend), it's sold out just as fast as a unicorn. Yay for progress.

So here are two bundles that are either over priced or with very limited stock that are enticing the general populous with exclusive Amiibos to sell them. Gold Megaman is used to push a collector's edition that just has the Amiibo, while Wolf Link is to entice people to buy a game they were going to buy, sell out, then make people angry that they missed their chance to preorder. Hooray for a year's worth of progress!

#3: Mega Yarn Yoshi
It's $40.

Forty. Dollars. For a variant of a character that already has five previous versions. $40. And he's retailer exclusive. And he sold out within a day. And scalpers are now selling him for upwards of $90. For a plush Yoshi that was originally $40.

$40. For an Amiibo. An Amiibo you already have most likely.

$40 for a Yoshi that unlocks features that most people already have access to in the spectacular Woolly World Amiibos.

$40. For a Giant Yoshi. That's almost as expensive as the damned game he's supposed to be used for.


#2: Amiibo Cards 
Oh boy, me and my math skills.

So, Amiibo Cards are now a thing. And I'm mixed on them at the moment. Don't get me wrong, I think that Amiibo Cards are much more practical than hunting for figurines and cards can be kept in a relatively good stock for years to come. Saves on production, saves on space, and just saves a lot of time hunting when you can go to any card or game store and buy a pack. But as of right now, specifically in their implementation in Animal Crossing: Happy Home Desginer, they kinda turned me off from the cards for a while.

In Happy Home Designer, you tap an Animal Crossing card onto the New 3DS or Amiibo base if you have an older 3DS, and then you get that character to appear in the game and you can design a home for them. So your longevity with the game is strictly determined by how many cards you get. You get a lot of cards, you'll get a lot of game. The less cards, the less you can do. Keep in mind that the base game is $40 and will come with a card. Now, you can decorate some character's homes without the need of an Amiibo card, but you can't control whose house you get to decorate and when. It's random. Plus several of the more popular Animal Crossing characters are exclusive to the card packs, so if you want to design everyone's homes, then you'll need to pick up the cards.

Each pack contains 6 cards, 5 commons, 1 rare, and retails for about $6. With 15 rares that means, if you're extreely lucky and get no rare repeats, you'll need $90 to get all of the rares. But you won't have all of the commons, so you'll need to get more packs regardless. The probability of getting all of the rares like that is astronomocal, so that method is done. You could just randomly buy packs hoping you get everything, but that's going to kill your wallet. You can also buy each card individually, which will be several hundred dollars no matter what.

So, in case you haven't been following the math, you're spending $40 for the game, then, at a minimum, $90 for the cards, but because you won't spend $90 to complete the cards, you'll spend more likely anywhere between $230 and $282 for the complete set of cards, putting you in several hundreds of dollars in debt moreso than any actual figure based Amiibo and wow this has become even more of a money sink than before! And I though unicorns were bad. This is just perfectly organized to drain every last cent out of players.

If you're interested in more of the math, I picked up my numbers from Dr. Clayton Edwards, who is a much better Mathemetician than I. I'm just a critic. Not a number wizard. You should check out his site over here for the full breakdown.

#1: The Animal Crossing Line
I am all for an Amiibo focused game. I want Nintendo to make a game similar to Skylanders where you can place any and all Amiibo you've collected into the game and use them as playable characters. Just think of how cool it would be to go on an action adventure with Lucina or Dr. Mario, saving the world with each character having a different moveset and stats. It would be amazing! Personally, I would love an Amiibo RPG where you can tap an Amiibo onto the Gamepad, summon them into your party, and make a dream team of Amiibo to save the world.

Instead, we get Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival and the Animal Crossing line.

This is Nintendo at its most shameless to sell Amiibos. Amiibo Festival is a bare bones game that has literally EVERY WRONG PRACTICE Nintendo could have ever taken with the game and the entire Amiibo line. First off, you need Amiibo to play the game, but instead of making a game that can be played with previous Amiibo, like in an optional mode in Mario Party 10, it's an entirely new line that is not compatible with any other game as of this writing. It comes packaged with two exclusive Amiibo that are not sold anywhere else and are exclusive to the bundle of the game.

Not enough bull for you? Don't worry! Because it's a party game, you'll need at least four Amiibo to properly play the game, making your actual purchase more like $85-$90, and that's providing that everyone wouldn't mind having only just four characters to play with. Oh, and let's also release a 3-pack with the game that has an exclusive Amiibo inside of it as well, and let's charge $35 for it too. Plus we're going to have 15 Amiibo total for this line (as of right now), so if you want to collect them all, you better get at it, cause some of them are also retailer exclusive!

But we can do better than ALL of that! Not only can we have 15 Amiibos to play this one game, not only can we make some of them exclusive to bundles, 3-Packs, and retailers, but we can also include the Amiibo Cards in order to play locked minigames! If you want to play an optional mode in the game, you'll need to use the Amiibo Cards to unlock it, and you'll need at least three to even start the game! And don't worry about replayability, you can use every single card you purchased to play the exact same game with little variations. But you can't use your cards for the main game. That would be cheating. Instead, you'll need to buy figurines in order to actually play the game. You have a Tom Nook card? Well too bad! Buy a Tom Nook figure instead! What, you don't want the figure? Well I guess you'll never play as Tom Nook in the game then! Too bad!

Look, I love collecting Amiibo. I'm almost done with the Smash Bros line, which should have me covered for any other games featuring Amiibos for years to come. But the Animal Crossing line is dedicated just to take money from consumers that like Animal Crossing. Sure, these figures might become useful if Animal Crossing Wii U is announced, but as of this moment, they can only be used in this one crappy party game. I love Nintendo, and it's because I love them that I'm making this list. Amiibos have gotten to the point where the problems can't be simply diverted to outside issues. This was a design decision that Nintendo approved. They made the line, and they're selling the game for profit. It's not even that early reviews for the game are pretty negative, but it's how shameless of a cash grab the game is to get people to buy Amiibos.

I hope I don't have to make another list next year, but if I do, then it'll go to show how broken the Amiibo line really is. I'm almost done with my collection, and I'll pick up the occasional Amiibo if it interests me or looks really cool, but Nintendo seriously needs to fix it's marketing and design decisions regarding Amiibo.

Let me get value out of the figures that I already have, not force me to buy new figures and neglect the old ones.


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