Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Nintendo's Latest amiibo Offering With Metroid: Samus Returns Is Downright Scummy

Nintendo's amiibo line has been a tremendous success for the company, bar the extremely overproduced Animal Crossing series that languished with great stock on store shelves before being severely reduced in price to clear stock. The original appeal of amiibo figures was not just to be able to collect cool Nintendo characters--many of which would never receive a figure of any type any other way--but it was also to add value in games with extra bonuses and features.

However, Nintendo's latest use of amiibo with next month's Metroid: Samus Returns on the Nintendo 3DS seems to be taking the concept of locking content behind amiibo and doing so in a really scummy way to a good portion of fans. Has Nintendo gone too far with amiibo? And if so, is it worth boycotting Metroid: Samus Returns because of it?

Amiibo debuted as a toy line as Nintendo's answer to other popular toys-to-life series like Activision's successful Skylanders and Disney's own Disney Infinity. However, while the toys from Activision and Disney's games were tied to one series of software, Nintendo's amiibo could be used for multiple games. While the usage of amiibo hasn't as of yet been as deep as Skylanders or Disney Infinity, it has done small benefits for games like the first amiibo inclusion with Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and Nintendo 3DS, where custom character data could be saved to individual amiibo. Really, though, the fascination there was being able to collect various Smash Bros. fighters in figure form more than anything else.

But then Nintendo moved on to cosmetic additions and small little bonuses. For instance, in Mario Kart 8 and later Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, specific amiibo could be used to unlock Mii costumes based off the character figures used. An issue that some had with this, and understandably so, was that while the costumes might be appealing to them, perhaps they didn't want to spend a $13 figure just for them, especially if they didn't care about collecting amiibo or displaying them at all. This was only further compounded by more games utilizing amiibo to unlock characters, bonuses, and other content. Why couldn't these additions just be DLC for people to purchase on the eShop, some wondered.

While small bonuses that don't contribute much to games that utilize amiibo or aren't as desirable weren't too much to think of, things got especially heated with the release of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild for Nintendo Switch and Wii U. Scarcity of popular and most wanted amiibo was already an issue, and this concept was further compounded with the bonuses unlocked by The Legend of Zelda-related amiibo. New tunics for Link from past Zelda series adventures, rare weapons, and such were locked behind amiibo, and not just any amiibo, extremely rare, costly, and hard-to-find amiibo.

Things have reached a boiling point for many with the news of the two Metroid: Samus Returns amiibo being required to unlock the most challenging difficulty in that game as well as content like playing as Samus Aran in the Fusion Suit. For old fogies like me (speaking in relation to how long I've been playing games and not so much how real world wisdom I have--which would be none), I remember when things like new modes and costumes were unlockables and rewards. Instead, now they're gated behind amiibo that will most likely be hard to find on store shelves. Man, I feel like busting out Archie and Edith Bunker's "Those Were the Days" right now, but with some modernization.

And that's the big problem here--Nintendo isn't just doing DLC its own way, it's doing DLC in a despicable way. One should not have to buy a $10+ toy just to unlock modes and other desirable content. It's fine for collectors, but what about those who just want the content? The figures are a poor justification for something that should already be included in the game. Heck, Star Fox Zero, as maligned as that game often is, did the amiibo right. Yes, you could use a Fox or Falco amiibo to immediately unlock a cool reward, but you could also play the game normally and unlock it that way. The latter would take longer, but you could still do it. Instead, Nintendo has moved away from that logical and defensible take on amiibo and doubled down on their shady practice. It's highly disconcerting and very disappointing.

Now, I'm harsh here on Nintendo's use of amiibo, but does that mean that one should boycott Metroid: Samus Returns and any future game that uses amiibo in an unflattering way? I don't think so. If the game appeals to you, and it seems like it's going to be a truly stellar title, then I think one should still buy it. Heck, buy it used if you're so willing to do so, but showing support for the Metroid series after so many years of absence from the franchise would be a good thing if you love the franchise. If you don't love the use of amiibo, don't support that--as in don't support the amiibo. Don't buy them; don't think about buying them. Metroid: Samus Returns will still be an enjoyable game without the bonus content included. Yes, it's really crappy that Nintendo went this direction with amiibo in Samus Aran's glorious return to gaming, but I don't believe denying yourself the ability to play the game and support a franchise you love is sending the right message to Nintendo quite like what avoiding buying the amiibo would instead.

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