Are the new Tears of the Kingdom amiibo more than just collectibles?

I am no stranger to Nintendo’s amiibo line – as any diehard Animal Crossing player will tell you, no fairycore island is complete without the Sanrio amiibo card set. But, while the recently-announced Tears of the Kingdom amiibo figurines look absolutely stunning, they beg the question – what do they add to the gaming experience? 

Tears of the Kingdom amiibo
After finishing the Tears of the Dragon quest, I don’t think I could look at the Zelda figurine without crying.

Amiibo functionality varies a lot between titles. To me, they make the most sense for a series like Animal Crossing which, from its conception, has been a game about collecting and hoarding nice things, like any good Mayor does. The prettier it looks, the harder it is to get in-game – but some islanders and their furniture collections can only be accessed via amiibo. 

There is something magical about how just a swipe of a card can summon my beloved Étoile at will – even if it takes multiple attempts, and many frustrating minigames, to convince her to stay permanently. That’s the Animal Crossing experience in a nutshell: patience and stubbornness are required in equal measure to build the island of your dreams. 

I’d do most anything for that furniture set.

Things work a bit differently in Nintendo’s last two smash hits from the Zelda series – in both Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom, amiibo will prompt a collection of useful in-game items to fall from the sky like some sort of bizarre divine intervention. These drops can vary in content, being randomly generated each time an amiibo is scanned, requiring a few repeat attempts to get all the goods it has to offer.  

The Link Archer amiibo, for example, blesses you with an assortment of meat and fish, as well as a serotonin-inducing treasure chest, in both games. This checks out – the amiibo is an archer, gifting you the spoils of his hunt. It’s cute! In Tears of the Kingdom, amiibo can even produce paraglider fabrics, as well as clothing and weapons not found anywhere else in-game, providing some much-needed exclusivity. 

But why? What does this add to the tone and feel of the game itself? How can this mechanic be woven into the rich, thick and tangled lore of Zelda, if at all? 

Zelda amiibo
This isn’t even scratching the surface – there are 25 Zelda-themed amiibo in total.

The gifts from your Zelda-themed amiibo definitely tell you something salient about the characters they represent, as many found out to their amusement when it was discovered that Ganondorf has the occasional habit of dropping an exploding barrel on you. But then again – 8-Bit Link seems to do the same thing!

Drops appear to be far more random from amiibo from outside the Zelda series. The Sonic the Hedgehog amiibo has been seen to drop Sunshrooms and Hyrule Herbs – surely Swift Violets or Rushrooms would have been more fitting as regular rewards from Sega’s speedster? 

Don’t even get me started on what happens if you try to scan an Animal Crossing amiibo.  You certainly do not get a visit from one of your cute furry pals… at least not all in one piece. 

It’s a slightly confused feature in an otherwise impeccable experience; while amiibo are undoubtedly useful in the game’s often unforgiving approach to resource management, it seems overall to be a transactional, impersonal process that offers very little fanfare. 

TOTK Link amiibo
Looks great, but where’s Beedle?!

The New Horizons amiibo feature, by comparison, is closely tailored to the game’s mechanics and ethos. Your coveted islanders can be summoned with a phone call, either to take a load off at your campsite, or for a cute coffee date at Brewsters. They can provide you with much-needed DIY recipes and, if you have the Happy Home Designer DLC, you can even give their house a makeover. Amiibo functionality fits seamlessly and diegetically into the Animal Crossing experience – it feels like a tangible part of the world, like you really are calling up an old friend to visit. 

Of course, you can still summon Epona with the Super Smash Bros Link amiibo in Tears of the Kingdom, as you could in Breath of the Wild, though you cannot customise her appearance or upgrade her stats. Neither can you access Wolf Link, a travelling companion that fights by your side and locates items targeted by your Sheikah Sensor, as you could in the first game. 

This is quite a shame, especially given the sequel’s new Sage mechanics – what if you could summon a Guardian, or poor forgotten Revali, for a one-time assist? Sure, it wouldn’t make sense story-wise, but that’s never held the series back before – and at least you’d be able to see your favourite characters come to life in-game. 

Too good for the towing harness, are we?

So, if you’re new to the world of amiibo and you’re wondering whether they will radically enhance your Tears of the Kingdom playthrough, the answer is that it ultimately depends on your playstyle. If you’re a completionist type who would like to have all possible armour sets, fabrics and weapons at your disposal, amiibo very well may be for you – alternatively, if you’re not the biggest fan of hunting and gathering, the item drops can spare you from the grind and provide easy access to rare-ish consumables. But when all is said and done, they are not essential for the core Zelda experience. 

None of this takes away from the fact that amiibo are beautifully made collectibles in their own right, mind you, and they’re available at very reasonable prices –  NFC functionality is an added bonus and I’m grateful for it. Regardless, I’m looking forward to seeing where Nintendo takes amiibo integration next. 

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