With a concept as ridiculous as amiibo battling, it’s baffling to an outsider just how there could be any sort of conflict amidst the amiibo training community. Much like any standard gaming community, the amiibo metagame has its own share of troubles. In this article, I will list and analyze a handful of problems the small community of amiibo trainers face.
“Pay to Play”
One of the main problems of an amiibo-focused metagame is that to even compete in it, you have to essentially buy your own ticket into the metagame via the Amiibo PowerSaves. As you may know, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS doesn’t support amiibo play online, making online amiibo tournaments seemingly impossible. This is where the Amiibo PowerSaves comes in – the PowerSaves is able to create a .bin file of your amiibo, which can then be sent to tournament operators to be entered into their competitions, thus creating “online amiibo tournaments”. (For more information on entering amiibo tourneys, head on over to this link.) Aside from creating .bin files, the PowerSaves also lets a trainer freely customize an amiibo’s stats, custom moves, equipment, and more, making it an extremely useful tool.
As great as it can be, it of course has a price; the PowerSaves cost ranges from $20 to $30 USD depending on where you look. As mentioned before, buying a PowerSaves is akin to buying a ticket into the metagame – for just $20, you get to enter all the amiibo tournaments you want, with an added benefit of free customization options. Think of it as a “Deluxe” option for the amiibo metagame. Many new amiibo trainers either cannot afford this Deluxe option or refuse to shill out the money to buy it. There is an alternative budget solution in the form of Amiiqo, a free Android app that only creates amiibo .bin files. However, trainers that do not have a PowerSaves may not have access to an Android with NFC connectivity (which is required for Amiiqo), and as such are isolated from the metagame. Thus, this problem has become what I like to call “Pay to Play” – you have to buy a PowerSaves or Android phone to even compete in a tournament.
The Amiibo Tier List
As there are over 50 unique amiibo available to use in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS, many amiibo trainers will have a certain amiibo or two that they hold dear to themselves. Whether the amiibo be that trainer’s main or favorite fighter, most of the time he or she will be partial towards said fighter. This heavily applies to newer amiibo trainers, as they are convinced that their amiibo, which may or may not rank average or below average, can be the next of its kind to “defy the tier list” and move their tier placement higher.
While it is fine and even encouraged to train an amiibo to be the best there is, the truth is that the current amiibo tier list for Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS is essentially complete and accurate, and needs little to no change at this point in time. The tier list has changed drastically in the three years that it had been established, with various trainers attempting to boost or maintain the placement of every single amiibo in the game. Some succeed with their ambitions, while most others flop in a spectacular fashion. Regardless of the outcome, the tier list changes to reward every effort ever made. For example, Donkey Kong was once considered to be a bottom of the barrel amiibo, but when a trainer discovered that his forward throw bypassed Improved escapability, the most common metagame bonus effect, Donkey Kong suddenly became a much more viable amiibo and shot up the tier list. Unless there’s some sort of undiscovered technique found with one of the current low-ranking amiibo that can raise its viability (which is highly unlikely), it’s safe to assume that changing up the amiibo tier list is unnecessary. Defying the tier list is very, very difficult nowadays. A Bowser amiibo almost always outperforms a R.O.B. amiibo, that much is certain.
Now, I’m not saying to abandon all your hopes in training a low-tier amiibo. Even if the tier list is absolutely correct, training a low-tier amiibo, in my opinion, is the most fun you may have in all of amiibo. Sure, training it can be painfully slow and tedious at times, but there’s something extremely satisfying about watching your favorite low-tier amiibo – one you poured hours of training into – win against that one Ganondorf amiibo in a tournament. In a way, that amiibo just defied the tier list. Many trainers love to see the one underdog amiibo that rises up and places high or even wins in a tournament.
Will your amiibo be that underdog?
Grounded vs. Aerial
This has been one of the oldest ongoing debates within the amiibo metagame, and it’s still going on to this day. Should amiibo be trained grounded, never to jump and use aerials? Or is there some merit to having an amiibo utilize them to catch an opponent off-guard? Statistically, a grounded amiibo performs much better against other grounded opponents in a tournament. If it were instead trained aerial, its aerials would have a greater chance of being countered by a smash attack. The opponent would perfect shield the aerial, and immediately respond with a smash attack against the helpless aerial amiibo. It is through this reasoning why grounded training is advocated over aerial training.
Essentially, through ground training, an amiibo only has access to roughly two-thirds of its full moveset. There had been a number of skilled amiibo trainers throughout the metagame attempting to salvage those aerials and implement them into their own ground-trained amiibo – for example, by teaching Marth or Lucina to space with their forward aerials, or Yoshi with its shield-breaking down aerial. The idea has some merit; a quick aerial from one of the aforementioned amiibo could possibly serve to catch an opponent off-guard. On the other hand, though, teaching an amiibo its aerials could have a disastrous domino effect on itself or its opponents. Almost every amiibo has a notorious reputation of easily becoming aerial no matter how ground trained it may be. It can possibly use and land just one aerial in one match, and then actually pass on that aerial-spamming nature to its opponent in a process dubbed by many trainers as “corruption”. Corruption eventually leads to both sides utilizing aerials in each consecutive match, much to the dismay of one or both trainers. Even with the risk of corruption, however, there are still ardent defenders of this type of training method, as they believe the use of some aerial moves could propel lower tier amiibo just a bit higher in terms of viability.
Tournaments that offer prizes to the first place finisher isn’t a bad idea by any means, as it gives every participant competing a motivation to win. However, while some amiibo tournaments over the years have offered a small prize to the winner or top-place finishers, such as Nintendo 3DS themes or Pokémon Trading Card Game Online card sets, it’s gotten way out of hand as of late. The prizes some of these newer amiibo tournaments offer are cash prizes, ranging from $5 to a whopping $50. While it’s certainly not a terrible reward to give for a trainer’s hard work, the problem is that everyone wants that money, and will do absolutely almost anything in their power to win the cash prize. Thus, those tournaments would usually be packed with top tier amiibo, such as Ganondorf and Lucina, since amiibo like those two listed statistically have a greater chance of winning each of their matches. Not only would cash prize tournaments possibly reduce the diversity of the different amiibo seen, it could also quite possibly bring out the worst in an amiibo trainer. Which brings us to our next point…
A Salty Result
No matter what kind of competitive scene it may be, there will always be salt. amiibo are not exempt from this rule – as a matter of fact, the salt generated can be justified in a way. Since trainers can only influence what an amiibo could do and not actually control it in a fight, there’s no telling what an amiibo could do in a tournament match. So if a trainer’s amiibo loses to, say, a Marth or Lucina amiibo that counters often, there could possibly be some anger and resentment coming from the losing trainer. Sure, the trainer will of course be salty, but more often than not he or she will strive to train his or her amiibo harder so that they could counter Little Mac better. Other times, however, the trainer will take his or her anger out on the community for allowing this character, this stat spread, this custom, and so on and so forth. Another way a trainer might react would be just to constantly enter the same top tier amiibo nonstop in the off-chance that amiibo might pull in a win. Not only do these two outbursts exasperate fellow trainers, it’s harmful to the community itself, as a salty amiibo trainer could stop training amiibo entirely and leave the community, or, far worse, become so toxic it causes a chain reaction that causes other trainers to leave. This is a clear and present danger to the already small amiibo training community, and one nobody wishes to see unfold.
A Stale Metagame
This is by far the most damaging conflict the amiibo metagame faces. Aside from the rare toxic amiibo trainer, the main reason why many trainers discontinue their amiibo training is that there’s nothing new and exciting to be discovered during a certain point in time. March of 2016 saw the release of Roy and Ryu’s amiibo, which attracted many fledgling trainers, but after the hype of training both amiibo died down several months later, many of the newer members left. From there, the “veteran” trainers and remaining newer trainers continued on with the developing metagame, with new discoveries being found for every amiibo along the way. However, that eventually started to fizzle out, as almost every aspect of amiibo had been discovered already – almost every amiibo toted around with the same bonus effects and training style (grounded), and for the ones that tried out new innovations, for lack of a better term, sucked. It would only be in July of 2017 that Cloud, Corrin, and Bayonetta’s amiibo were released, revitalizing the metagame with new amiibo to train, but for those long 16 months before their release, the metagame slowly deteriorated into the same cut-and-dry cycle: train, enter, rinse and repeat. Even now, with the final three amiibo released, the metagame has already settled them in and reverting back to the stale metagame it was before. There’s just nothing left to try out now.
While these are problems the amiibo training community currently faces, there’s a breath of fresh air approaching; Super Smash Bros. Ultimate will be released this December, and with it, amiibo compatibility returns. Sure, in the newer game there probably won’t be any less salt an amiibo trainer might face as compared to the previous installment, but there’s a hope that Ultimate addresses some of the other concerns shared here. For one, an online feature use of amiibo would fix all problems that were present in Wii U and 3DS, and would no longer require the use of “hacking” properties of an Amiibo PowerSaves. New amiibo trainers won’t be stuck having to buy a PowerSaves or Android smartphone just to show off their amiibo, and this would also make hosting online amiibo tournaments much, much easier. The amiibo tier list will be revamped, as new and returning amiibo will match up to secure their spot on the tier list – a previous low-tier amiibo in Wii U and 3DS could become a top tier amiibo, for example. Changes to amiibo AI would be a huge influence in the new tier list. Perhaps in Ultimate, grounded training won’t be the only accepted style of training – rather, with the new mechanics, amiibo can use utilize their aerials safely and with little risk, meaning that a mixed fighting style of aerial and grounded moves can be the key to victory. With the new amiibo metagame on the horizon, we can only hope that Ultimate maintains and even buffs amiibo, making amiibo matches all the more worthwhile to invest in and watch.