When Nintendo introduced amiibo in 2014, the most commonly heard refrain was “Okay, but what do they actually do?” The little plastic figures with often strange design choices also have NFC chips in them, which can be read by the game controllers for functions in games. Some games used them sparingly, choosing to make the amiibo more like display items than have any core use. Other games used them for things that absolutely should have been in the game without needing to buy hard-to-find plastic DLC.
Over time, it largely seemed like the debate had been settled and low amiibo production levels combined with commensurate sales seemed to imply that Nintendo was done trying to guilt players into buying amiibo. That no longer appears to be the case with the introduction of the Skyward Sword amiibo, presented for the game’s remaster this summer.
The amiibo, Zelda and her blue Loftwing, offer functionality somewhat already in the game. Link can’t go to the sky or go to the land in Skyward Sword without visiting a totem or going to a cloud swirl respectively. At that point, he can fast travel around. The amiibo, however, allows players to scan it and essentially fast travel from anywhere.
To put it in Breath of the Wild terms, imagine that the game’s existing fast travel system is mostly there, but you could only warp to towers or shrines if you were already at a tower or a shrine. Or if the teleportation songs from Ocarina of Time only worked at the entrances of dungeons. Now imagine they fixed it, but only if you scan an amiibo.
It’s a weirdly good quality of life improvement for a remaster that is struggling to show improvements in its base game. For an extra (MSRP) $24.99, you get something that probably just should have been part of the game and a little statue. I’m all for the statue, I’m not keen on having features locked to it, which appears to have to be scanned every single time you want to use said feature.
There’s always the possibility that the feature is unlocked later in the game and Nintendo is, quite suspiciously, not communicating that well right now. In which case, it’s probably not great that they’re not clear about this upfront but are happy to let preorder sales go up.
This is one of those cases where it’s okay to acknowledge something makes business sense and also realize it kind of sucks.