There’s nothing quite like owning physical goods, but they can be expensive, and shelf space can come at a premium. Every Wednesday Hardcore Gamer picks a premium collectible from our cavernous swag vaults and tells you whether it’s worth a spot in your Collector’s Cabinet.
Activision has a good thing going with their Skylanders scam- sorry; scheme- SORRY; wholly legitimate, totally non-exploitative business model. Though the studio only puts out one game each year, kids can spend hundreds of dollars year-round collecting every figure tied to each entry in the franchise – all without any recognizable characters (apart from Spyro, who headlined the first game) to draw on. Disney leapt into the fray with Disney Infinity and achieved immediate success thanks to their stable of pop-culture icons, but the gameplay revolving around their figures is a little weak. If only there were some game developer out there with a reputation for polished gameplay and the pop-cultural cache to match the likes of Disney – they could really clean up.
I’ll stop being facetious now; you all know I’m talking about Nintendo’s new lineup of “Amiibo” figures. As part of the newest Smash Bros., Nintendo has released a line of RFID-equipped figurines representing the game’s fighting roster. These toys generate in-game AI characters that become more powerful as they fight, with their stats stored inside the Amiibos themselves. But unlike their competitors these figures aren’t limited to Smash – they can also be used in Mario Kart 8 and Hyrule Warriors to unlock extra content. The Amiibos’ gameplay potential is a subject for another day, though: I’ve got four lined up in front of me, and I’m here to evaluate them as collectibles.
Generally speaking the figures are of decent quality, at least considering their price point. At 15 dollars apiece you can’t really expect top-of-the-line craftsmanship, but Nintendo has done a pretty good job putting them together. Their poses are based on the trophies that you can earn in the game, which means that they’re dynamic but not particularly remarkable. The plastic they’re made from is pretty dense, but it has a lot of give to it on thinner extremities, and props like swords bend very easily. While bendy plastic isn’t ideal for a collectible, it does make for a more durable children’s toy. As a bonus, the softer material is customization-friendly. Each figure has visible seam lines from its plastic mold, and little effort has been made to disguise them, but they have been sanded down to the point that you won’t notice if you’re not looking. The paint work is more or less solid, although there’s a bit of bleed on details like eyes and buttons.
Now let’s look at the figures individually.
As Nintendo’s mascot and one of the single most popular characters in the world, Mario is naturally front and center in the Amiibo lineup. His figure is one of the most striking in the collection, wheeling around with a fireball in hand, an intense look on his face that suggests he’s ready for action. Though some of the detailing is a little messy, there are a few nice touches that make Mario stand out beyond the great pose. His overalls have a nice, rough texture to them that makes the figure feel distinctive – an important factor for something meant to be played with. The translucent fireball is, of course, one of the defining features of the figure, and the way it catches light as its trail curls around Mario is very appealing.
Samus is probably the best figure of the lot. Her pose is subtly powerful, and conveys the sense of cautious curiosity that drives Metroid as a series. You wouldn’t think that someone walking on the balls of their feet with their arms at their sides would be very interesting, but the unique lines of Samus’ iconic Varia suit make it look good from any angle. The metallic paint matches her look in the games perfectly, and it’s thankfully free of smudges that might otherwise ruin the effect. Little details on her armor like vents and lights help to bring it all together.
From the neck down Link looks pretty great. His lunging pose is very dynamic, his signature tunic is wonderfully detailed (you can even see the chain mail underneath it), and his gear (namely the master sword, its sheath, and the hylian shield) all looks authentic, if a little lo-fi. My only real complaint with the body of the figure is the big yellow translucent block that holds Link up. Obviously the stand is meant to be sturdy to accommodate for kids playing with it, but it looks garish, a far cry from the slender, transparent stands seen on the original Amiibo prototypes. From the neck up Link is a little worse for wear. His head is sculpted well-enough, but the paint job on his face makes him look like he has a lazy eye, and the tail on his cap juts out at an angle that doesn’t seem to follow the same motion as the rest of his body.
For Hardcore Fans Only
The limited Wii Fit Trainer figure is the weakest of all the Amiibos I picked up for this feature. That makes sense, since she’s intentionally designed to look as plain as possible, but even with low expectations the figure is a bit of a disappointment. Part of the problem is her yoga pose, which looks entirely flat from the front and back, meaning that she can only be displayed side-on. This is exacerbated by the large block of clear plastic around her foot, which distorts her otherwise appealingly slender silhouette and makes her right side (where it’s most visible) look quite ugly. This effectively means that she’s only viewable from one side, so if you do intend to pick her up (and I’d advise against it) you’re going to want to stick her against a wall.
Bargain Bin Buy