Remember that time I ranted a bit on how the use of amiibos constitutes cheating? Well it turns out I was more right about that than I had originally thought.
To build hype for the upcoming release of their Metriod II remake, Metroid: Samus Returns, Nintendo has been releasing details of the kind of functionality their amiibo toys will unlock in the game. And these teases, so far, have made their fans rather worried.
On Nintendo's 3DS & 2DS Facebook page, they posted the following photos, along with descriptions of what these amiibo unlock for toy-wielding players.
Reserve energy tanks
Both Smash Bros Samus amiibo provide the save gameplay boost, with differing bonus content.
Aeion reserve tank
I'm guess that's the same art gallery bonus that the Smash Bros Samus amiibo unlocks?
Metroid Marker &
Fusion Mode is this game's "Hard mode".
So what are people getting upset about? Well, the biggest hubbub is surrounding the game's hard mode (called "Fusion Mode") apparently being locked behind the squishy Metroid amiibo's NFC tag. Why should dedicated Metroid veterans be required to buy an additional plastic toy in order to select the difficulty level of a game they've already paid for? As many have pointed out, this is essentially the worst kind of DLC.
I agree that that's both a poor design choice and a borderline insult to hardcore players. However, as Mark Brown of Game Maker's Toolkit tweeted, it really not the biggest problem with these amiibo.
The worst part of this scenario is that these amiibo grant more health, more weapons, and in-game hints—but only to players who've bought the toys. As Brown rightly points out, that kind assistance is of little interest to hardcore gamers, but kids or new players might want (or actually need) the extra help. Unfortunately these amiibo perks essentially are cheat codes behind a plastic paywall. And that's a problem.
Personally, I think it's fine if Nintendo wants to lock superficial game assets behind amiibo: stuff like alternate costumes, art galleries, and music collections. To be fair, I would still call that poorly designed DLC, and going that route would only make Nintendo look incompetent. It's a much bigger deal when core gameplay boosts and basic functionality (like difficulty selection) become something players must pay extra for—and they've already paid for a complete game, mind you—then we're in trouble.
Look, these pieces of amiibo-locked content would be bad design even if the amiibo came packaged with game itself. There's just no good reason to require a separate physical object in order to play the entirety of your game. But amiibo don't come packaged with the base game. And they are certainly not free. These basic features are now pay-to-play. And again, this a full game you've already bought, so it's pay-MORE-to-play.
That's the turning point. That's where Nintendo's perceived incompetence shape-shifts into its true form: greed. That's where the Big N puts a nickel-and-dime profit strategy above good, accessible game design. For a company that's been extraordinarily resistant to enter a mobile game market saturated with similarly predator payment structures, I honestly expected more of them.
But hey, maybe with the fan backlash here, Nintendo will see the error of their ways. Maybe they won't follow this kind of amiibo content strategy with their next game. Perhaps they'll realize this stuff isn't likely to attract new players to their game. (I mean seriously, do they think that newcomers are not only going to give the game a chance, but also buy all the amiibo ephemera in order to get the extra health, weapons, etc.? The whole thing sounds rather repellent to novices, though I guess I could be wrong.) Maybe this was a just misstep and they'll course correct on the next go-around.
But I doubt it. Seems more likely that amiibo are the new cheat codes, except now you have to buy them. Pay up, kid!